Why Japan's Desperately Seeking U.S. LNG

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The Fukushima nuclear disaster has had a dramatic impact on the country's nuclear industry - and that's opened the door for major developments for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

You see, two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, only a few of its more than 50 nuclear power plants have been restarted.

Before the nuclear disaster, Japan had relied on nuclear energy for 30% of the country's electrical power and had planned to increase that to 40%.

Now, the lack of nuclear power has left a big gap between demand for energy and supply.

That's why Japan has sharply increased its imports of liquefied natural gas. In fact, it's now the world's largest buyer of LNG.

In 2012, Japan imported a record 87.31 million tons of LNG, an increase of 11.2% from 2011. It imported LNG from sources including Qatar, Russia, Australia and Indonesia.

The LNG industry has reaped huge gains from Japan's surge in LNG use - and the industry stands to gain much more in coming years.

The U.S. Shale Gas Revolution

The Japanese are well aware of the U.S. shale revolution and the country's government already has announced roughly $11 billion in credit guarantees to fund direct investments by Japanese companies in U.S. shale gas.

And it came as no surprise when new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met U.S. President Barack Obama last month and called on the president to permit exports of abundant U.S. LNG to Japan.

Several major Japanese firms, including Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), Chubu Electric Power Co. Inc. and Sumitomo all have agreements to buy LNG from the U.S.

Sumitomo's head of energy, Bob Takai, told the Financial Times that one of the top priorities of Japanese firms is to cut the LNG price.

Japan is also pushing to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, designed to enhance trade and investment among the partner countries while promoting innovation, economic growth and development.

If Japan succeeds in becoming part of the partnership, it will make it easier for U.S. companies to export LNG to Japan because the two countries will then have a free-trade agreement, making exports to Japan exempt from a U.S. Department of Energy review.

Natural Gas Companies That Stand to Benefit

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