Inpex to conduct drilling survey, aiming to launch Japan’s first gas project in decades

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Inpex Corp. will conduct an exploratory drilling survey off Japan’s western coast from March to July, hoping to achieve natural gas production from around 2032 if sufficient reserves are discovered, the firm said Monday.

The project would be Japan’s first full-fledged natural gas production in some 20 years and the first in an offshore field in about 30 years.

In 2019, the nation’s natural gas imports totaled around 76.5 million tons — accounting for 97.8% of domestic consumption — while gas production at home came to about 1.73 million tons, or 2.2%.

The potential gas field off the coast of Shimane and Yamaguchi prefectures is hoped to produce over 900,000 tons per year, pushing up the proportion of domestically supplied natural gas to 3.4%.

The exploratory drilling survey will take place at a depth of approximately 240 meters, some 130 kilometers to the northwest of the Shimane city of Hamada and some 150 kilometers to the north of the Yamaguchi city of Hagi.

The survey has been designated as a mining project of government-backed Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp., or JOGMEC. Inpex and JOGMEC will equally split the survey costs of roughly ¥33 billion.

Amid accelerating moves toward decarbonization around the world, hopes for natural gas are growing as it emits less carbon dioxide when burned than coal. In Europe, natural gas futures hit a new record high in 2021.

Securing a stable supply of natural gas is a key challenge for Japan, which now targets raising its independent development rate for oil and gas from 34.7% in fiscal 2019 to 50% or higher in 2030 and 60% or higher in 2040.

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