(EnergyAsia, January 31 2013, Thursday) — One of Japan’s largest oil companies, Idemitsu Kosan, has become the latest member of a crowded bandwagon proposing to build a liquefied natural gas project in western Canada for export to Asia.

Japan’s third largest refiner will form an equal joint venture with Calgary, Alberta-based pipeline operator AltaGas to look into exporting two million tons of LNG a year from 2017.

The AltaGas Idemitsu Joint Venture Limited Partnership expects to complete the project’s feasibility study a year from now that will also include plans to export 700,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) a year from 2016.

AltaGas owns the existing pipeline network that could be expanded to deliver natural gas from the fields of western Canada to the proposed terminals to be located in either ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert on the coast of British Columbia. Its pipeline subsidiary Pacific Northern Gas Ltd is expected to support plans by separate consortia led by Shell, Chevron, Petronas and BC LNG Export Co-Operative to build export-oriented LNG projects in both ports.

Idemitsu, which has no experience in the LNG business, said it has begun talks with Japanese power companies and utilities, which are among the world’s largest consumers of natural gas.

David Cornhill, AltaGas’s chairman and CEO, said:

“We are excited to partner with Idemitsu, a global leader in the supply of energy, petroleum, lubricants and petrochemical products and services to the people of Japan. As we move forward, we will continue in our commitment to engage and work effectively with governments, First Nations and other stakeholders.”

Kazuhisa Nakano, Idemitsu’s President, said:

“Canada, one of the world’s most resource-rich countries, has proven to be a very promising new supplier of gas to Japan. As a leading energy infrastructure company in Canada, AltaGas has enjoyed rapid and sustainable growth in its natural gas infrastructure, power generation and natural gas distribution businesses. The partnership with AltaGas is a natural fit with Idemitsu’s gas and power business.”