Qatargas announced on 16 April it would send an additional 60 liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes to disaster stricken Japan to be used for power generation to make up for the shortfall caused by the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor.

The cargoes amount to about 4 million tonnes of LNG, sufficient to produce electricity for 5 million Japanese households for a year, according to Qatargas.

“These additional cargoes of LNG will be supplied to a number of our long-term customers over the next 12 months. The first of these cargoes was discharged while I was still in Japan and I anticipate further sales,” said Khalid bin Khalifa al-Thani, chief executive of Qatargas, who visited Japan in the second week of April.

Japan is still struggling to contain the damage inflicted on the Fukushima nuclear power plant by an earthquake and tsunami in March. Last week, the government raised the security level to the maximum seven, putting the disaster on a par with the Chernobyl meltdown in 1989, and expanded the no-go zone around the reactor.

Experts say that the need for additional gas-fired power generation depends on the government response. Demand for additional LNG would be less if the government decided to adapt the grid to allow for power transfer from the 60Hz grid to the 50Hz grid in the affected northeast of the country.

Qatar is the world’s largest producer of LNG, hitting a combined production capacity of 77 million tonnes a year (t/y) by the end of 2010. Qatargas’ annual production stands at 42 million (t/y).