Japan, other LNG consumer states call for price reviews

Japan and other countries consuming liquefied natural gas on Tuesday called for a price review so they can procure the natural resource at lower levels.

Speaking at the second LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo, Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said mounting LNG importing costs following the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident have become a burden on the Japanese economy and that the country will tie up with India and others in studying measures to procure LNG at lower prices.

LNG prices in Asia are higher than those in Europe and North America as the cost in Asia is linked to crude oil prices under long-term contracts.

Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, supported reviewing prices, saying flexible and transparent pricing should be introduced, although it cannot be achieved overnight.

In the session, which brought together some 1,000 government and private-sector officials from 50 economies, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M. Veerappa Moily complained that Asian consumer countries have been charged unreasonable prices.

Mohamed Sada, the energy minister of Qatar, the largest LNG producer, said producer countries cannot accept the risks of price fluctuations.

Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant, said Japanese utilities are importing an unprecedented amount of LNG as most of the nuclear power plants in the country have been halted, and said that no discounts have been applied to imports despite its quantity.

Japan is the largest LNG importer in the world.

Delegates to the conference also discussed changes in the LNG market sparked by a U.S. decision in May to allow shale gas exports to countries including Japan.

During the first meeting in September last year, Japan advocated creating a futures trading market for LNG.

LNG, made by cooling natural gas, has drawn attention as an important energy source in Japan in relation to the discussion on ending nuclear power generation.