(Corrects final paragraph to show total volumes are 1.5 millon tonnes)
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, March 1 (Reuters) - Chinese gas distributor ENN will have the first phase of the country’s first privately owned liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal ready by the middle of this year, a company official said on Thursday.
Construction of the 3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) Zhoushan terminal in China’s eastern Zhejiang region is more than 90 percent complete, with commissioning expected in the middle of 2018, said Ma Shenyuan, vice president of ENN Energy Holdings.
The company is also considering expanding the terminal by adding 15 mtpa in phases two and three, he said at an LNG conference in Singapore.
ENN is also planning to set up a purchasing and trading office in Singapore over the next few weeks, he added.
With China’s LNG demand expected to grow by more than 10 percent on average over the next three years, Ma expects the country’s LNG imports to easily hit 50 million tonnes by 2020 from last year’s 38 million tonnes.
“New LNG contracts are needed to meet demand,” he said.
China last year overtook South Korea to become the world’s second-biggest importer of LNG behind Japan, driven by a government gasification programme that switched millions of households to using natural gas rather than coal for household heating.
ENN has signed long-term deals including sales and purchase agreements with Chevron Corp and Australia’s Origin Energy and also has an agreement to buy LNG from Total . The deals total about 1.5 million tonnes a year of LNG.
Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan Editing by David Goodman