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As Japan's LNG demand grows so do export opportunities for Alaska

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
Aaron Jansen illustration

After the 2011 tsunami that devastated nuclear power plants in Fukui and Aomori prefectures, Japan has turned to LNG imports from the U.S. and other countries to supplement its energy sources. As one of the leading exporter of LNG in the U.S., Alaska has a promising future with the increase, according to the Tokyo McClatchy-Tribune (via Equities).

Japan saw an 18 percent increase, about 83.2 million metric tons, in LNG imports during the 2011 fiscal year and, for the 2012 fiscal year, which ends in March, LNG imports are expected to grow to 90 million metric tons. Japan imported LNG from 17 countries, but imports from Alaska only accounted for 7 percent of 2011’s inventory. However, that number is likely to grow in the years to come.

Kojiro Abe, a trade representative for Alaska’s Japanese office said, "Alaskan LNG has many advantages for Japan, starting with cost. Not only is the gas cheap, but so is transportation. It only takes about a week for the tankers to arrive in Japan.” Kojiro added, “America's political stability compared to some other LNG suppliers, and the safety of the sea lane from Alaska to Japan is a huge advantage as well."

A Japanese consortium has already opened an office in Alaska with members including Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Idemitsu Kosan Co., Nippon Oil and Energy Corp., Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. and Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Corp.

Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski advocated for Alaska LNG export in an April letter to President Obama. Sen. Murkowski wrote, "Alaska's natural gas would provide a comparatively clean, sustainable, and entirely reliable energy source to our friends in Japan. Alaska's natural gas resources do not present the concerns and controversies surrounding natural gas exports from the Lower 48.”

Japan received eight shipments of LNG from Alaska in 2011, a total of 15.26 billion cu. feet. The shipments were sent to utilities in Tokyo and other regions. Read more.