Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is planning to visit Japan “soon” to discuss with officials there natural gas exports and the state of Japan’s nuclear market.

Her spokesman Robert Dillon would not say when she was planning to go to Japan, citing “security reasons.” He noted, however, that the senator would have a “pen and pad” session with reporters on Jan. 23 to discuss it further.

As the top Republican on the committee, Murkowski has seized every opportunity to promote exports of Alaska’s 35 Tcf of gas to Asian markets. Murkowski raised the issue earlier in May 2012 with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and, separately, with members of Japan’s Parliament.

Japan is seeking an energy resource to replace the nuclear power generation the country shut down after 2011’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Japan is the world’s largest importer of natural gas, followed by South Korea.

The U.S. has previously supplied liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan for 40 years from ConocoPhillips’ Kenai plant in Alaska. ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BP plc and TransCanada are considering a massive project to bring gas from Alaska’s North Slope to its southern coast for transport via Asian markets, with a particular emphasis on Japan (see Daily GPI, Oct. 5).

Murkowski pitched to the ambassadors to the U.S. from Japan and South Korea on the benefits of importing natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope during a dinner last May at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC (see Daily GPI, May 24, 2012).

Both Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki of Japan and Ambassador Choi Young-jin of South Korea expressed interest in a potential Alaska natural gas pipeline and LNG project to deliver energy to Asian markets, she said.

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