* New Taoyuan terminal could start operations in early 2023
* Eyes new gas supplies from Russia Sakhalin, U.S. Alaska
By Florence Tan
HOUSTON, March 12 (Reuters) - Taiwan's state energy firm CPC could start building its third liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal by the middle of this year once it obtains all the required permits, a senior company official said on Tuesday.
The proposed terminal, at Taoyuan, northwestern Taiwan, could start operations in early 2023 with an initial capacity of 1 million tonnes per year (tpy), Jane Liao, chief executive of CPC's LNG business said on the sidelines of the CERAWeek conference in Houston.
The project's first phase of 3 million tpy will be used by state utility Taipower, she said.
Taiwan is the world's fifth largest LNG importer with an import volume of 16.8 million tpy in 2018. The island is boosting its LNG imports as it phases out nuclear and coal to generate electricity in the next decade.
Taiwan aims to have LNG import capability of 10 million tpy each in the country's north, central and south by 2027, Liao said, adding that CPC will continue to expand existing terminals at Taichung and Yung-An in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.
CPC is currently the only LNG importer in Taiwan and has long-term supplies from Australia, Qatar, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. To diversify supplies, the company will start receiving LNG from the United States in 2021 after CPC inked a 25-year deal with Cheniere Energy last year.
The company prefers long-term contracts, although spot cargoes accounted for about 15 percent of its annual imports, Liao said.
CPC is also eyeing new supplies from Russia's Sakhalin island in the Pacific, or the U.S. state of Alaska and may seek joint purchases with other buyers from Japan and South Korea, Liao said.
"We've been waiting for Sakhalin," Liao said, adding that the project would be ideal to supply north Asian buyers because of its proximity, while LNG shipments from Alaska to Taiwan will avoid potential congestion at the Panama Canal. (Reporting by Florence Tan Editing by Marguerita Choy)