(adds details, analyst comment)
BEIJING, Jan 12 (Reuters) - China's natural gas imports soared to a record high in December to battle a winter supply crunch, while crude oil imports eased sharply from November, customs data showed on Friday.
December gas imports, including pipeline imports and tanker shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), came in at 7.89 million tonnes, 20 percent above November's previous record of 6.55 million tonnes, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Imports for the whole of 2017 jumped 27 percent over 2016 to a record of 68.57 million tonnes.
A massive government push to heat millions of homes and power thousands of factories with natural gas in northern China has led to demand for the fuel outpacing supplys, while delivery infrastructure has found it hard to cope.
"LNG imports last month reached new highs according to our cargo monitoring and pipeline imports from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also ramped from previous month," said Diao Zhouwei, analyst of IHS Markit.
Record imports by state energy firms and higher Chinese production have pushed down domestic wholesale LNG prices in north China. Prices were around 5,500 yuan ($848.44) per tonne this week, off 45 percent from peaks seen in late December.
December's crude oil imports hit 33.7 million tonnes, or about 7.94 million barrels per day (bpd). That compared to November's 9.01 million bpd, the second-highest level on record.
Buying eased in December as refiners and fuel distributors drew on inventories after hefty stockpiling in the previous month, said Seng-Yick Tee, analyst with SIA Energy.
Imports throughout 2017 were up 10.1 percent over the previous year at a record 419.6 million tonnes, or 8.39 million bpd, up 770,000 bpd, according to Reuters calculations.
(tonne=7.3 barrels of crude oil) ($1 = 6.4825 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Chen Aizhu; editing by Richard Pullin)