(Bloomberg) -- The Japanese government plans to buy liquefied natural gas in the event companies can’t secure cargoes, as the resource-scant nation steps up efforts to compete over the scarce fuel. 

The nation’s cabinet approved changes to a law that will allow for the trade minister to order state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. to procure gas when private firms can’t, trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday. The framework will also allow the minister to order large-scale gas consumers to restrict usage when supplies are tight.

The move comes as global competition over LNG intensifies, with Europe seeking to replace Russian pipeline supplies that have been cut off in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. That’s putting pressure on big importers like China, Japan and South Korea as they brace for the upcoming winter. Japan earlier this week asked Malaysia to replace LNG shipments lost from a pipe leak disruption at Petroliam Nasional Bhd.’s plant. 

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The new framework, which has been made to ensure stable supply of LNG to Japan, does not have restrictive clauses that prevent JOGMEC from purchasing gas at certain prices, said Taichi Noda, the director of electricity infrastructure division at the trade ministry.

JOGMEC already had the authority to purchase fuel for electricity-generating utilities, he said. The new approval makes it clear it can do so for gas firms as well.  

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