Japanese lawmakers push for Russia-Japan natural gas pipeline

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 12:41am

Japanese lawmakers are renewing the push for a 600 billion yen (HK$45 billion) natural gas pipeline from Russia, which last week signed a supply deal with China, in a bid to cut energy costs after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A group of 33 lawmakers is backing the 1,350km pipeline between Russia's Sakhalin Island and Japan's Ibaraki prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, Naokazu Takemoto, the group's secretary general, said. He plans to propose the project to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as next month so it's on the agenda when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits in autumn.

The shutdown of Japan's nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima disaster has spurred renewed interest in the Russia-Japan pipeline link, which has been discussed for more than a decade, Takemoto said. The effort also highlights Russia's expanding role as an energy supplier to Asia after the country signed a US$400 billion deal last week to sell China 38 billion cubic metres of gas annually for 30 years.

Japan spent a record 7 trillion yen last year on liquefied natural gas imports, according to the Ministry of Finance. The country could lower its energy bill by getting gas directly by pipeline rather than more-expensive LNG, which is shipped by tankers, Takemoto said.