.VANCOUVER • Japan is prepared to invest billions directly in natural gas infrastructure in Western Canada as part of a plan to secure massive supplies of liquefied natural gas to replace nuclear power, a top government advisor said Thursday.
.The plan, a new model for Japan, could intensify the race by Asian countries to lock down Western Canada’s energy resources and infrastructure, which so far has been led by China.
Tokyo-based Tadashi Maeda, managing executive officer of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, said Japan is ready to start discussions with private and government entities in Canada to support construction of pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals to serve the Japanese market exclusively.
“The Japanese government is [prepared to make] a strategic investment for the purpose of developing a commodity market for natural gas, a more transparent and flexible market,” Mr. Maeda said on the sidelines of the Pacific Energy Summit, the platform picked by Japan to announce the plan. “So we are going to make some strategic investments to fill the gap of the infrastructure needs.
“The pipelines and export terminals are imperative. Therefore if it is needed, we are going to bring some capital to cover the cost of the infrastructure.”
While the plan is just now being rolled out, Japan hopes to nail it down “relatively quickly” so it can start importing Canadian LNG by 2020.
Japan found itself short of energy after the earthquake and nuclear disaster two years ago caused the country to back away from nuclear power because of safety concerns.
Mr. Maeda said only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear plants are still in operation. The energy gap has been filled by stringent energy conservation and a large increase in LNG imports.
But that’s resulted in a huge energy price tag because Asian LNG prices are linked to oil prices, making them expensive relative to North American natural gas prices, which have been depressed since the discovery of large shale depositsJapan is now trying to ramp up an integrated natural gas industry based on North American gas prices that involves securing supplies in North America, building infrastructure and marketing gas to customers.
Mr. Maeda was one of dozens of industry, government and thought leaders from Asia and North America meeting in Canada for the first time to build an integrated energy industry linking North American energy supplies and Asian markets, where energy demand is increasing. China, Japan and Korea have been dependent on imports from the Middle East and Russia and are keen to forge energy relationships with Canada and the United States that also offer new energy technology and market-based prices.