Japan's Mitsui expects final investment decision on Mozambique LNG project in April-June 2018

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan’s Mitsui & Co expects a final investment decision on a U.S. Anadarko-led offshore liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique in April-June 2018, four months later than expected.

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“We had hoped to have finalised the negotiations with (the) Mozambican government by December,” Hirotatsu Fujiwara, Mitsui’s Executive Managing Officer, told Reuters on the sidelines of a gas conference in Chiba, Japan. “We are four months behind.”

The two-train 12 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) project is expected to start operations in 2022-2023, after construction of about four years, he said.

The partners - including operator Anadarko Petroleum, Mitsui, ONGC Videsh Ltd, Bharat PetroResources Ltd, Oil India Ltd and PTT Exploration & Production Plc - are in talks with Japanese power and gas utilities, aiming to finalize binding long-term offtake agreements within a year, Fujiwara said.

The project has secured more than 8 mtpa of non-binding long-term commitments. It needs to secure binding commitments to account for about 80 percent of the total 12 mtpa capacity to get the necessary funding for a final investment decision, he said.

He added that the project was ready to offer buyers various price benchmarks.

Fujiwara said Qatar’s decision to restart development of the world’s largest natural gas field, North Field, was a surprise but would not likely have a significant impact on the Mozambique project because it had already taken into account a substantial growth in demand beyond 2025.

Mitsui would consider taking part in other projects if the economics were good, he said, including the expansion of the Cameron LNG project in the United States, which should start commercial production in July 2018.

But he said “now is probably not the time to decide on Cameron’s expansion because 2019, 2020 and 2021 are when various new projects are set to come online, and we do not see demand rising to catch up with supplies. We will be looking at developing new supplies targeting beyond 2025.”

The LNG market is undergoing huge changes as the biggest ever flood of new supply is hitting the market, with volumes coming mainly from the United States and Australia.

Japanese trading firms, known as sogo shosha, used to be able to rely on domestic demand for LNG, but are now faced with falling demand and a deregulated power and gas market that’s stimulating greater competition.

“The buyers in Japan have been buying LNG in different conditions now than in the past due to the liberalization of power and gas markets,” he said. “We would like to supply the volumes that match their requirements, and we see many opportunities emerging in Japan in the next five years.”

Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Mark Tay; editing by Susan Thomas