(Corrects to show Toshiba has signed a tolling agreement, not
an agreement to buy gas)
NEW YORK, Sept 9 Japan's Toshiba Corp
has signed a liquefied natural gas tolling agreement with the
proposed Freeport LNG export plant in Texas, acting for Japanese
utilities as more global companies seek to import some of
America's growing fuel supplies.
Under the 20-year agreement, Toshiba will secure the right
to liquefy 2.2 million tonnes of LNG each year from the Freeport
plant's third production unit, known as a train, from late 2018,
Freeport said in a statement.
Toshiba acts as a go-between for Japanese utilities that
purchase U.S. gas and want it liquefied at Freeport's plant so
it can be shipped to Japan.
Output from Freeport's first two trains, which are expected
to start in early 2018 pending regulatory approvals, has already
been sold to Britain's BP and Japanese utilities Osaka
Gas and Chubu Electric.
Companies across the world are queueing up to import U.S.
natural gas, supplies of which are at record highs thanks to
horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have unlocked
vast reserves of the fuel from shale rock formations, pushing
U.S. prices far below global levels.
Meanwhile in Asia, LNG prices have risen since the Fukushima
disaster in March 2011 closed most of Japan's large fleet of
nuclear power stations and left the country scrambling for
substitute fuel for power generation.
Cheap U.S. gas has attracted other Japanese companies, as
well as firms in India and Europe, that have agreed to buy LNG
from other proposed export plants in the United States.
So far, only three of the nearly 20 plants seeking to export
LNG in the United States have approval to export to countries
without a free trade agreement with the United States, and only
one - Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass in Louisiana - has a
Freeport has full export approval from the Department of
Energy but is awaiting a construction permit from the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission, which Freeport expects will be
granted in the first three months of 2014.
(Reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Bernadette Baum)