TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Monday it had reached a basic agreement with an undisclosed number of suppliers to buy 1.2 million tonnes per year of lean liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it accelerates a shift in Asia away from oil-linked pricing.
It did not give details of which sellers are supplying from which projects, citing confidentiality agreements. That is in addition to 800,000 tonnes per year of lean LNG that it has all but secured from Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Corp in February.
LNG is expensive in Asia at more than $15 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) as it is linked to oil, while a boom in U.S. shale gas output has pushed down prices there to just over $4 per mmBtu. The U.S. gas prices do not take into account the cost of liquefying the gas and shipping it overseas.
Japan, which consumes about a third of the global LNG demand, has seen its imports soar after the devastating Fukushima crisis in 2011 crippled its nuclear power sector. It paid a record 6 trillion yen ($63.82 billion) for overseas purchases of the fuel last year, up 25.4 percent from 2011.
Tepco said in November it plans to eventually import 10 million tonnes of LNG by tapping lean natural gas supplies, including U.S. shale gas. That is nearly half the company's consumption of a record 23.7 million tonnes in the year ended on March 31.
Tokyo Electric, Japan's biggest user of the supercooled gas in liquid form, burned a record amount of natural gas last year to compensate for the shutdown of all of its nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.
Japan accounts for about a third of the global market in LNG, which is shipped on tankers, before being returned to a gaseous state for use in power stations.
The company also said it would seek to cut costs by a total 100 billion yen ($1.06 billion) per year in 2013/14 and 2014/15 on top of the planned 337 billion yen per year target, deriving half of it from savings related to fuel purchases.
The company also said it plans to try burning 100,000-200,000 kilolitres (1,700-3,400 barrels per day) of new crude oil supplies in the year started on Monday, up from several tens of thousand kl a year earlier.
The company also plans to consume low-calorie thermal coal equivalent to about 10 percent of its annual consumption volumes in 2013/14, compared with 18,000 tonnes introduced at its Hitachinaka power plant a year earlier. ($1 = 94.0200 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Shinichi Saoshiro) Keywords: TEPCO BUSINESSPLAN/POLICY
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