Inpex sees Japan playing pivitol role in future LNG exports from Australia


PERTH, Australia -- Japan will play a "pivotal" role in Australian LNG exports over the next five years, an executive of Inpex Corp. said on Wednesday.

"Even though it is expected that China and India will become significant buyers of Australian LNG during the next decade I think I should remind you that Japan will continue to be the pivotal influence on LNG development in this country," said Hitoshi Okawa, Inpex corporate communications director for Australia.

However, Japan's long-term imported liquefied natural gas demand can't be specified until it determines a preferred energy mix, Mr. Okawa said in a speech to an industry conference in Darwin. That will be known before the end of the year, he said.

"Short-term LNG demand in Japan is subject to the restart of nuclear power reactors and the growth of other energy sources such as renewables and coal," Mr. Okawa added.

Japan's demand for imported LNG -- which ballooned after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster -- eased in the first half of the year and may fall further if the government's call for the restarting of dozens of reactors is approved.

Last year Australia shipped about 24 million metric tons of LNG -- most to Japan. Australian exports are forecast to more than triple in the next five years as new projects come on stream. It has more than a dozen projects either under construction or on the drawing board. Seven terminals currently being built should allow Australia to leapfrog Qatar as the world's biggest LNG exporter by 2018.

Inpex is building and will run the $34 billion Ichthys LNG Project in Australia's Northern Territory. It is expected to start production by the end of 2016 and reach an output of 8.4 million tpy at its peak. It will send the gas to Japan via its new Naoetsu LNG receiving terminal. Stakeholders include Total of France, Tokyo Gas Co., Osaka Gas Co. and Toho Gas.

Dow Jones Newswires

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