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TOKYO, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Record investments of $50 billion have turned 2019 into a banner year for liquefied natural gas, with Canada and the United States being the main drivers, the chief of the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.
The industrial sector is Asia's biggest driver of LNG, with China expected to overtake Japan as the world's top importer of the fuel in five years, said Fatih Birol, the agency's executive director.
"This year, 2019 already broke the highest amount of (final investment decisions) for the first time ever, $50 billion," he told the annual LNG Producer-Consumer conference in Tokyo.
"The biggest growth is coming from China," Birol added. "In the next five years, about one-third of global LNG demand will come from China alone."
While growth of LNG imports by Japan, the world's top buyer of the super-chilled fuel, and Korea are expected to stay important, slowing growth there means the biggest contribution will be from China, Birol said.
Other Asian nations, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Thailand are also importing more LNG.
European LNG imports will also increase as domestic gas production declines and nations diversify supply, Birol said.
The United States will make up two-thirds of global growth in LNG exports, which could turn pricing dynamics in Asia towards more gas-linked, rather than oil-linked LNG contracts, he said.
About 70 percent of LNG contracts are oil-indexed, with the rest geared to gas. That could soon change to a 50-50 pricing mix, Birol added. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)