Japan approves JERA plan to keep surplus LNG in winter

Japan's industry ministry has approved a plan by the country's top power generator JERA to hold a surplus of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the winter as a strategic reserve in case of supply disruptions, its minister said on Friday.

Japan, the world's biggest LNG importer in 2022, has decided to build a so-called "strategic buffer LNG (SBL)" during the peak winter demand season to ensure stable supply of the super-chilled fuel after last year's energy crunch.

"LNG plays an important role in the supply of electricity and gas in Japan, and with the tightening global gas supply, we are strategically securing surplus LNG in case of temporary supply disruptions," Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference.

Japan has strategic oil reserves but not LNG.

Under the new plan, JERA -- which is already Japan's biggest LNG buyer -- will buy and store the equivalent of at least one additional tanker a month from December to February, when heating demand typically increases. The company will provide the emergency supply to domestic companies if and when requested by the ministry.

A specialized tanker can carry about 70,000 metric tons of LNG.

LNG inventories held by major Japanese power companies, a key indicator of national stock levels, were at 2.49 million metric tons as of Nov. 19, above a five-year average of 2.12 million tons for end-November, METI data shows.

"As an authorized SBL supplier, we aim to make utmost efforts to secure stable fuel supply and contribute to Japan's energy security," said a JERA spokesperson.

JERA, a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power, is Japan's biggest buyer of LNG.

Many governments worldwide are formulating strategic natural gas reserve policies, building new terminals and storage tanks as buffers against supply disruptions following last year's energy crunch that sent global prices soaring to record highs.

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