* Japan firms sign deal for 4.4 tonnes LNG imports/yr from
Freeport LNG project
* Deal pending U.S. govt approval for LNG exports
* Japan stepped up LNG purchases after Fukushima crisis
TOKYO, July 31 Japan's Osaka Gas Co and
Chubu Electric Power Co said on Tuesday they signed a
contract with Texas-based Freeport LNG Development L.P. to each
import 2.2 million tonnes a year of liquefied natural gas (LNG)
from the U.S. mainland.
Japan is the world's biggest LNG buyer and expects to import
15 million tonnes of LNG from North America per year from as
early as 2016 once the United States lifts export restrictions.
Record North American natural gas production is prompting
companies to consider export plans.
The Freeport LNG project has filed for regulatory approval
to export LNG, Osaka Gas said.
If the deal goes through, the Japanese firms will buy the
output of one of three facilities that can chill gas to liquid
form for shipping which Freeport is planning to build and which
will each have an LNG output capacity of 4.4 million tonnes per
annum (mtpa) by 2017, Osaka Gas said.
Stakeholders in the Freeport LNG Development are Freeport
LNG Investments (20 percent), Zachry Hastings (55 percent), Dow
Chemical (15 percent) and Osaka Gas (10 percent), Osaka Gas
Japan has increased LNG purchases by almost 18 percent to a
record 83.2 million tonnes in the year ended March 31, as it
tries to compensate for the idling of all but two of its 50
nuclear reactors amid public safety concerns after last year's
Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Trading house Sumitomo Corp and Tokyo Gas Co Ltd
signed a preliminary agreement with Dominion Resources
in April, giving them the right to buy LNG produced at a
5-million-tonne-per-year gas liquefaction facility to be built
by in Maryland.