Mr. Maeda said Japan is also looking at importing gas from the United States, but is keener to forge an energy partnership with Canada.
LNG transportation costs from Canada’s West Coast are lower because of its proximity to Asia and Japan believes LNG exports are more likely to move ahead from Canada than from the West Coast of the United States.
The Japanese government’s planned investment in Canada could take many forms, Mr. Maeda said. It could involve a consortium of Japanese energy companies benefitting from government loan guarantees or it could involve direct government investment. It could also mean financing for standalone pipelines and liquefaction plants that are not backed by supplies of natural gas.
Japanese companies are already participating in the nascent LNG industry in Western Canada. Six LNG export terminals are being planned for the northern British Columbia Coast. Japan’s Mitsubishi is a partner in the LNG Canada project led by Royal Dutch Shell PLC. Japan’s Inpex is a partner in a project planned by China’s CNOOC Ltd., which last year acquired Nexen Inc.
But the Japanese government wants to play a direct role because Japanese companies’ interests are not always aligned with those of the government, he said. For example, companies are free to sell the LNG to many markets, while Japan wants to be able to count on as much Canadian supplies as possible.
The LNG strategy is separate from Thursday’s stimulus announcement by the Bank of Japan, Mr. Maeda said.
Japan is not worried that direct government investment will trigger a backlash in Canada similar to that stirred by the takeover of oil and gas producer Nexen by CNOOC because it doesn’t involve state-owned enterprises, he said.