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Felix Shipkevich April 1, 2013

Japan plans to launch the world’s first futures contract for liquefied natural gas, also known as LNG. This marks the country’s latest step toward creating a global market for fuel.

As the U.S. increases its exports of fuel, the global market demand for LNG —a chilled and exportable form of natural gas—is set to increase, according to analysts.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG, and pays nearly $18 per million British thermal units, versus $4 for the product in gaseous form in the United States. Japan’s imports of LNG significantly increased after the March 2011 Fukushima disaster  most of the country’s nuclear reactors. A futures contract would allow LNG producers and consumers to determine gas prices independently from oil, and provide a way to protect themselves against price swings.

The price of natural gas varies, because consumers tend to buy from suppliers in their own region. Eric Bickel, commodity analyst with Schneider Electric, told The Wall Street Journal, “Japan definitely has an interest in something more in line with a global price of LNG to offset their price with regions that have weaker demand.”

Parties behind the new push for the contract, aim to list the dollar-denominated futures on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange by March 2015. The contract includes electricity and gas utilities, trading futures, traders and government officials.