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Japanese sell out of Australian LNG import project

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has taken over full control of a A$250 million ($176 million) gas import terminal in New South Wales, buying out stakes held by Japan’s JERA and Marubeni Corp 8002.T in a push to speed up the project.

Squadron Energy, privately owned by mining magnate Forrest, said on Tuesday it acquired 30.1% of Australian Industrial Energy (AIE) from trading house Marubeni and 19.9% from JERA for an undisclosed price.

The deal sees Squadron take full control of the Port Kembla Gas Terminal project that AIE is developing.

“Squadron Energy is committed to the expedited development of the gas import terminal with the objective of having the capacity to supply 70% of NSW’s gas needs by late 2022,” Squadron said.

JERA, owned by Tokyo Electric Power 9501.T and Chubu Electric Power 9502.T, said the liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal made sense for a region that faced tight gas supply.

“However in our process of selecting and concentrating on business investment projects, we decided to withdraw as a result of a comprehensive internal review,” JERA said in an emailed comment.

The company last week set out plans to achieve net zero emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050 to tackle climate change.

Marubeni declined to comment.

In the Squadron statement, Chairman Michael Masterman said JERA, the world’s biggest LNG buyer, and Marubeni have indicated they would be open to working with AIE in the future, including lining up LNG supplies and building an associated gas-fired power station.

AIE has been pushing to reach a final investment decision on the Port Kembla project this year, in order to start importing LNG by 2022, with construction expected to take 14 to 16 months.

The project is one of five aiming to import LNG into southeast Australia to fill a looming shortage expected from 2024 as gas supply from the Bass Strait fields off the coast of Victoria rapidly declines.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Stephen Coates)

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