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TOKYO: The Japanese government will provide support through public financial institutions to help utilities secure liquefied natural gas (LNG) amid a surge in prices, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday.

The state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) will provide low-interest loans to electric power utilities and city gas companies to buy the super-chilled fuel from the spot market, the paper said, without citing sources.

The move is aimed at avoiding an energy crunch by offering financial support before winter, when heating demand is expected to increase.

Spot LNG prices remain at high levels amid a risk of supply disruption from Russia given its war with Ukraine.

Philippines sees 3 LNG import terminals starting operations in early 2023

Japanese industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura will announce the lending support at the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference 2022 to be held later on Thursday, the Nikkei said.

Japanese utilities buy the bulk of their LNG through long-term contracts, but about 20% comes from the spot market.

Asian spot LNG prices have skyrocketed this year, hitting a record high in August, though they since have eased because of high inventory levels and governments’ efforts to curb demand in Europe.

There are, however, market fears that a cold winter in Europe could see prices return to record levels.

Japan imports about 10% of its LNG from Russia, mainly from Sakhalin-2.

It would cost Japan more than 1 trillion yen ($6.9 billion) to buy 6 million tonnes of LNG a year from the spot market if shipments from Russia were stopped completely, the Nikkei said.

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