TOKYO, March 24 Japan's Chubu Electric Power
said on Monday it has signed a deal with India's GAIL
to consider cooperation in joint procurement of
liquefied natural gas (LNG), as Asian buyers look for stable and
lower prices of the fuel.
Rising demand for LNG in Asia, already the top destination
for the fuel, has helped push its price to near-record levels
and now buyers such as India, Japan and South Korea are trying
to find ways to cut their soaring gas import bills.
The two firms had been considering a preliminary deal on
joint purchases since January. India, Japan and other Asian
countries that together import 70 percent of the world's LNG met
in December to discuss forming a buyers' club to get a better
deal from suppliers.
State-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) and a Japanese
company bought natural gas jointly on Monday and such
cooperative purchases will become more common, the head of
state-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) said.
Asian prices LNG-AS are at least three times the cost of
natural gas in the United States, where a boom in shale oil and
gas has sharply reduced prices.
Asian importers say they are charged an excessive premium
over other regions because of a practice of linking LNG
contracts to oil prices. They also want more flexibility in
contracts over ship destinations to free up the market.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Muralikumar