(Corrects rationing rate in 6th paragraph to "per month" not "per day")
BEIJING, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The major industrial Chinese city of Wuhan on Friday loosened restrictions on residential gas use as freezing temperatures bite and heavy snow falls, local media reported.
Frigid weather in northern parts of the country have stoked worries over a crunch in gas supply as the government pushes millions of households and industrial plants to switch to the cleaner fuel for heating from coal.
But, Chen Zhu, managing director with Beijing-based consultancy SIA Energy, said the move by the central city of Wuhan reflected improving supplies from dominant state energy firms in recent weeks, although she noted that the overall supply shortage remained.
"The heavy snow boosted the demand for heating ... but improving supplies give the state firms more space to coordinate supplies between consumers," said Chen.
"This still comes at the expense of curbs to industrial firms and gas-fired power plants."
Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, is allowing households to purchase a maximum 220 cubic metres of natural gas per month, up from 150 cubic metres previously, local media reported on Friday.
Improving gas supplies, partially due to record imports of both pipeline gas and tanker shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), have led to a 40-percent fall in domestic LNG prices over the past 10 days or so, giving some respite to industries grappling with record fuel costs. (Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Joseph Radford)