[ 福岛核电站事故后，日本的核电停止，政府虽决定大力导入可再生能源，但开发耗时，导致对LNG、煤炭、石油的依存度变高。尽管如此，由于依然坚持实现碳中和的方针，所以对二氧化碳排放量相对较小的LNG的依存度不断走高。另外，2016年开始的电力、燃气的市场自由化，加速了供给的不稳定。 ]
Since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict at the end of February, Western countries have imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia, forcing many large Western companies to consider withdrawing from their long-running, lucrative investment projects in Russia, including the two major oil and gas projects “Sakhalin 1” and “Sakhalin 2”.
On August 5, Russia announced that another operator would take over the “Sakhalin 2” oil and gas project, giving the original foreign shareholders of the project one month to apply for whether to retain their shares. Shell Group, the major shareholder of the original operator, decided to withdraw. Two Japanese companies, Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corporation, have applied to Russia and were allowed to retain a total of more than 20% of the shares at the strong request of the Japanese government.
On October 13, the Russian government announced the establishment of a new company to take over the “Sakhalin No. 1” oil and gas development project. Foreign investors need to re-submit the application for access within one month after the establishment of the new company, and the Russian side will decide whether to agree or not. join in. This is also the second time that Russia has taken tough measures on energy after nationalizing the “Sakhalin 2”.
Regarding the “Sakhalin 2” project, although the two Japanese companies have applied for and were allowed to retain the corresponding shares, the Japanese stakeholders are very concerned about who the 27.5% of the shares held by Shell was sold to in the past.
The latest news shows that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Novak said on October 15 that a new participant to replace Shell to join the “Sakhalin 2” project will be determined before the end of this year to take over the shares left by Shell.
Who are the alternative suppliers of Russian gas
In addition to the established route of strongly inviting Mitsui and Mitsubishi, the Japanese government is also working hard to find countries that can ensure natural gas transportation to replace Russia. Japan’s 2019 natural gas import source data shows that Australia is 39.2%, Qatar is 13%, Malaysia is 11.2%, and Russia is 8.2%. It can be seen that Japan is very dependent on Australia’s exports.
Japan’s share of natural gas imports from Australia was 12.5% in 2009 and more than tripled a decade later. The reason is that Indonesia, which imported the most from Japan at the time, experienced a downturn in natural gas exports from 2010 to 2020 due to various reasons, and Japan became more and more dependent on Australia, which could supply stable supplies.
However, Australia’s confirmed gas reserves account for less than 1.6% of the world‘s total and remain unstable in the long run. In addition, in late August, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission advised the Australian government to discuss measures related to liquefied natural gas (LNG) export controls. The reason is that the supply of natural gas for domestic use in Australia in 2023 will fall by 10% compared with its demand, so there is a fear of insufficient natural gas supply. Affected by this trend, Japanese government officials are not only afraid of liquefied natural gas prices rising again, but also their fears that natural gas cannot be supplied steadily.
In addition to unconventional natural gas such as shale gas, the countries with more confirmed reserves of conventional natural gas are Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Turkmenistan. Among these countries, only Qatar is expected to receive stable supply from Japan. Although the relationship between Japan and Iran is not bad, the so-called stable supply is also not stable if the tension between Europe and the United States and Iran is taken into account. Because Turkmenistan is not close to the sea, it is almost impossible for Japan to rely on its LNG exports.
Japan has also invested in Russia’s Arctic Circle development project, the Arctic LNG2 project advancing on the Gda Peninsula in Russia’s Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. The investment ratio of Mitsui & Co.’s subsidiaries is 10%. About 80% of the liquefied natural gas produced by the project is expected to be exported to Asian countries in the winter using icebreakers, bypassing the Arctic Ocean route eastward. The estimated annual output of the project is 5.76 million tons, of which 10% can be exported to Japan. Although the total amount is not large, the development and production sites of natural gas are limited worldwide, and the project was originally expected to be officially delivered to Japan in 2023.
However, due to the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in February 2022, the development of the project has almost stalled in the final stage. In this regard, the then Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda made it clear on March 31 that he would not withdraw. The reason is that it is difficult to guarantee an alternative.
In the process of decarbonization by the Japanese government and energy-related companies, it is foreseeable that the demand for natural gas will decline in the future. For example, JERA, the thermal power and fuel joint venture between TEPCO and Chubu Power, did not renew its long-term LNG sales contract with Qatar for 5.5 million tons per year when the contract expired at the end of 2021.
Liquefied natural gas mainly liquefies the gas of the gas, and exporting from Qatar will lead to higher prices. Therefore, the Japanese government and related companies saw the stable production of the Sakhalin oil and gas fields, and planned to lay natural gas pipelines (Vladivostok-Niigata, Sakhalin-Hokkaido, etc.) between Japan and Russia. In particular, the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima in 2011 stopped all nuclear power, and Japan was plunged into a profound energy crisis. After the then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in 2012, Japan-Russia relations have improved, and the above concept has also made some progress. However, Japan’s domestic political circles still have a strong sense of threat to Russia, and they still have a strong sense of evasion from Russia’s energy dependence, and the concept has not become a reality.
Unsolved ternary simultaneous equations of Japanese energy
After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan faced three problems: first, the handling of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and the reconstruction of TEPCO; second, the redefinition of nuclear power; and third, the liberalization of electricity and gas markets. Authorities call this “unsolved ternary simultaneous equations”. The handling of the nuclear power accident still shows no signs of ending, and the situation that TEPCO relied on state guarantees has not changed.
After suffering from the oil crisis in the 1970s, Japan implemented the general policy of “energy mixing” not to rely too much on a single energy source. Before the earthquake in 2010, nuclear power and LNG accounted for 29%, coal was about 25%, and oil and water were the rest. However, after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, Japan’s nuclear power was stopped, and although the government decided to vigorously introduce renewable energy, development was time-consuming, resulting in a high dependence on LNG, coal, and oil. Nevertheless, the reliance on LNG, which emits relatively small carbon dioxide emissions, has continued to increase due to its adherence to the goal of achieving carbon neutrality. In addition, the market liberalization of electricity and gas that began in 2016 has accelerated supply instability. Liberalization can only be effective when there is sufficient supply. In the current situation of insufficient supply and high costs, it will only increase supply instability.
Therefore, Prime Minister Kishida requested at the GX (Green Transformation) promotion meeting on August 24 to gather the forces of relevant parties supporting the restart of nuclear power, and under the premise of ensuring safety, by extending the operation time, etc., the maximum Utilize existing nuclear power to the greatest extent possible and develop and construct the next generation of innovative nuclear reactors that include new safety mechanisms. However, due to the nuclear power accident, Japan has a strong aversion to restarting nuclear power, and it is not easy to gain understanding from the surrounding areas of the power plant. Assuming that even if the restart of existing nuclear power is promoted, there is no final disposal site for nuclear waste, and the waste can only be kept in the power plant, which will be full within 5 to 15 years.
In addition, it may take more than 20 years to build new next-generation nuclear power facilities, including the choice of construction sites. In terms of private enterprises, a group of companies centered on the International Petroleum Development Corporation has developed the Ichthys LNG project and spent 20 years developing gas fields off the coast of Western Australia. The project was put into production in 2018 and now has an annual production capacity of about 6 million tons of LNG.
However, developing new oil fields will take a certain amount of time. Under the trend of decarbonization, there are also cautious voices in Japan as to whether to continue investing in the development of new oil fields that will not be operational for decades.
(The author is a researcher at the Japan Economic Research Center, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics) Return to Sohu, see more
Disclaimer: The opinions of this article only represent the author himself, Sohu is an information publishing platform, and Sohu only provides information storage space services.