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Japan's Hokuriku Electric signs first LNG purchase agreement

TOKYO, May 7 (Reuters) - Japanese regional utility Hokuriku Electric Power Co said on Thursday it had signed its first agreement to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it prepares for a move into the fuel for electricity generation.

While a relatively small contract, at 380,000 tonnes a year from Malaysia, the agreement adds to surging demand for LNG from Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 led to the eventual shutdown of all the country's reactors for checks.

Imports hit a record for a fifth year in a row last year at 88.51 million tonnes. Japan takes in about a third of global LNG shipments.

Hokuriku Electric signed an agreement with Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd to start receiving the gas for 10 years from the fiscal year beginning in April 2018, it said in a statement.

The shipments of superchilled fuel will be regasified for use in Hokuriku Electric's first gas-fired plant, a 424.7-megawatt unit being built at its Toyama Shinko station west of Tokyo, which is scheduled to start operations from November 2018, a company spokesman said, confirming it was also the first LNG agreement.

Malaysia LNG is 90-percent controlled by state-owned Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), with Malaysia's Sarawak State Government and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp holding 5 percent each. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)