(EnergyAsia, April 11 2013, Thursday) — Japanese trading house Sumitomo Corp said it has signed two 20-year deals to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Cove Point project in the US to two major utilities in Japan.

Subject to approval from the US government, Tokyo Gas Co, Japan’s biggest city gas supplier, will import 1.4 million tonnes a year while Kansai Electric Power Co, the country’s second largest regional power utility, will lift 800,000 tonnes a year from the Maryland state terminal owned and operated by US Dominion Resources.

Without a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), the US cannot export LNG to Japan, and Dominion must seek US Department of Energy approval for the deal.

While the two governments pursue an FTA, Sumitomo’s wholly owned Pacific Summit Energy has agreed with Dominion to convert the Cove Point’s existing import facility to handle exports from the second half of 2017.

In February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested US President Barack Obama for Japan to be allowed to acquire American shale gas assets reserves and import LNG linked to Henry Hub prices that are much lower than Asian prices.