TOKYO Aug 7 Japanese partners in the Cameron liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the U.S. state of Louisiana said on Thursday the project has received final investment approval and lined up $7.4 billion in financing.
The move brings Japan a step closer to importing significant amounts of LNG from the United States, which government officials and buyers believe will reduce costs for electricity generation in Japan, which have surged with the country's nuclear power industry idled after the Fukushima disaster.
Cameron, Sabine Pass and more than two dozen other projects are in a race to sell relatively cheap, abundant U.S. shale gas to foreign countries where it can fetch higher prices.
LNG on the spot market in Asia LNG-AS trades at about $10.50 per mmBtu, while in the U.S. benchmark gas prices are trading at just under $4 per mmBtu, though that price doesn't take into account liquefaction and shipping costs.
Cameron LNG is controlled by U.S.-based Sempra, which has a 50.2 percent, while Japan's Mitsui & Co has a 16.6 percent stake. Mitsubishi Corp and Nippon Yusen KK together hold another 16.6 percent, with GDF Suez SA holding the remainder.
The $7.4 billion financing will be obtained from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance and a group of commercial banks, Mitsui said in a statement.
The $10 billion project received the green light in June from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct and operate three-train gas liquefaction facilities with total capacity of 12 million tonnes per annum.
The project has obtained the U.S. Department of Energy's conditional approval to export LNG to countries with which the United States does not have free trade agreements, like India and Japan. Final approval is expected later this year.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Michael Perry)