NEW DELHI, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged Asian buyers of imported liquefied natural gas to unite to demand fair pricing.
LNG prices in Asia are higher than those in Europe and North America because the cost in Asia is linked to crude oil prices under long-term contracts.
Speaking at the dedication of Petronet's Kochi LNG terminal in Kerala Saturday, Singh said Asia "has been the driver of the global LNG demand in recent times. It is therefore important that major buyers of LNG in Asia come together to demand a fair pricing mechanism for gas being imported from outside of Asia."
"I hope to see India contribute towards an effort of this kind in the future," the prime minister added.
Gas buyers from India, China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan met in December to discuss how they could use their collective purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for LNG, with a follow-up meeting scheduled for next month.
The five Asian countries collectively purchase nearly 70 percent of the world's LNG, says the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2012 report.
India is the fifth-largest importer of LNG after Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Spain. India's minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M. Veerappa Moily has said he expects the country's LNG demand to grow at 2 percent to 6 percent a year until 2020 and 2 percent to 3 percent thereafter.
Noting India has less than 1 percent of the world's known natural gas reserves, Prime Minister Singh at the Petronet Kochi terminal dedication said it is therefore necessary to augment "the supply of natural gas in our energy mix ... either by setting up LNG terminals or through transnational pipelines" for imported stocks.
Operations at the Kochi terminal began last August with the first shipment of about 123,000 cubic meters of LNG from Rasgas in Qatar.
Singh said the terminal would put Kochi "on the world LNG map."
But Kochi currently operates at just 8 percent of its total capacity of 5 million tons of LNG because pipelines to take gas to customers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are not ready, Press Trust of India reports.
"Considering its vast potential, it is imperative that the terminal should be utilized to its fullest capacity," Singh said. "I would urge the concerned agencies to do everything possible to ensure this."
At least 70 percent of Kochi's total capacity, or 3.5 million tons per year, is required for the terminal to function at minimum optimum efficiency, Press Trust reports.
"Import of natural gas and pricing the imported gas constitute challenges that we must meet successfully," the prime minister said.