* Ninth train of Bintulu complex started Jan. 1
* Train has a production capacity of 3.6 mln tpy (Adds detail, background)
TOKYO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp said its venture with Malaysian state oil firm Petronas has started commercial operations at the ninth liquefaction train at the Petronas LNG complex in Bintulu, Sarawak.
The train, with a production capacity of 3.6 million tonnes of LNG per year, started on Jan. 1.
The launch of the ninth train comes at a time when U.S. LNG exporters are sending tankers to Asia to fill a gap in the region’s demand as markets have tightened more-than-expected on surging consumption in China and Pakistan, and because of Australia’s struggles to ramp up production.
But still, the LNG market remains well supplied, with available LNG capacity standing 45 percent above demand last year, according to Reuters Eikon data.
JX Nippon Oil, a unit of Japan’s biggest oil refiner JX Holdings, last June bought a 10 percent equity stake in a Petronas subsidiary that was developing the ninth train in Malaysia’s Sarawak state.
With the launch of the ninth train, the Petronas LNG complex now has the capacity to produce about 30 million tonnes per year, JX said in a statement.
Malaysian shipper MISC took delivery of its latest 150,200 cubic metre LNG gas tanker, Seri Cenderawasih, last Friday. The ship, built by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries , is on long term charter to Petronas to transport LNG from Bintulu.
The ship, the second in a series of five similar vessels built as part MISC’s long-term fleet expansion programme to support the energy transportation needs of Petronas, is due to arrive at Bintulu on Jan. 27 to load its first cargo, ship tracking data on the Reuters Eikon terminal showed on Monday.
Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Keith Wallis in Singapore; Editing by Joseph Radford