Talisman Energy Inc. has embarked on a partnership with Mitsubishi Corp. to develop natural gas properties in Papua New Guinea, the second recent move by the Japanese company to secure gas assets from a Canadian producer.   

Calgary-based Talisman said Wednesday that Mitsubishi will pay about $280 million US to form a joint venture on nine licences in the country. Talisman will hold about a 40 per cent stake in the licences, while Mitsubishi will hold 20 per cent.   

Last week, the giant Japanese industrial, trading and energy company inked a nearly $3 billion deal with Canadian natural gas giant Encana to acquire a stake in a major B.C. gasfield.   

Demand for gas is soaring in Japan after the country shut down most of its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster after an earthquake and tsunami last March.   

Japanese demand for liquified natural gas (LNG) jumped 12 per cent to a record 78.5 million tonnes in 2011.   

Papua New Guinea has huge gas deposits in its western provinces and the island country off  the north coast of Australia is being explored by Canadian, Australian and global companies.   

Along with South Korea, Japan uses the most liquefied natural gas in the world and there are many projects underway close to the country.   

For example, Australia's massive Gorgon venture is being built with most of its gas destined for China.   

Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japanese power producers have been actively locking in additional LNG multiyear contracts to fuel their future electricity production in case the nuclear industry never recovers in that country.   

In the Talisman deal, the companies are looking to export about three million tonnes a year of liquefied natural gas.

LNG could bring global pricing for gas   

Mitsubishi "brings extensive experience in LNG development and marketing and I am confident they will be a key success factor in helping us unlock the value of our Papua New Guinea assets," Talisman vice-president Paul Blakeley said in a statement.   

LNG is seen as a way to globalize the natural gas market, as the crude oil market has been for decades. By contrast, natural gas trade has been limited to markets that can be served by pipelines, such as North America and Europe.   

Besides Talisman and Encana, global companies involved in major LNG projects include  Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell, in fact, already began diverting global LNG shipments to Japan last year to meet rising demand.   

Last week, Mitsubishi bought a 40 per cent interest in the Cutbank Ridge Partnership from Calgary-based Encana for $2.9 billion.   

The deal reflects a growing belief in Asia that Canada could eventually become a major LNG supplier if it builds terminals on the West Coast to liquefy huge new supplies of shale gas from northeastern B.C. and the Far North.   

The partnership holds about 409,000 net acres of Encana's undeveloped Montney-formation natural gas lands in northeastern B.C. with proved undeveloped reserves of approximately 900 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent.   

Mitsubishi, an integrated Japanese global business enterprise, is looking to capitalize on Asia's hunger for cheap energy sources and high demand in Japan after its nuclear crisis shut down nearly all the nation's reactors for tougher checks, sending fuel imports surging.   

In Wednesday trading on the TSX, Talisman shares closed up 41 cents, or three per cent, at $14.26.