Mitsubishi Corporation

vol.5 Brunei LNG(2/3)

Our Endeavors - The stories behind our business

vol05 Brunei LNG Japan's First Large-Scale LNG Project

The project was so large that some believed it could determine MC's fate: "If the project fails, it is enough to bring down the entire company three times." The project team diligently went over the details of the project, time after time. MC finally decided to invest 125 million dollars, which far exceeded MC's total capital at the time. Knowing what was at stake, Chujiro Fujino, then president of MC, signed the joint venture contract with trembling hands.
In August 1969, MC and Shell established Coldgas Trading, an LNG marketing company, in Bermuda as a 50-50 joint venture; then in December 1969, Brunei LNG, an LNG production company, was established in Brunei with Shell and MC each taking a 45% stake and the Bruneian government taking a 10% stake. MC opened up a new chapter in the history of its LNG business.
MC proceeded to play an active role in negotiations as an intermediary between Shell and buyers in Japan—namely Tokyo Electric, Tokyo Gas and Osaka Gas. Then, in June 1970, an agreement on a long-term contract for LNG supply of 3.65 mmtpa over a period of 20 years was concluded with the three utility companies.
In December 1972, the first LNG cargo from Brunei was delivered by SS Gadinia to Senboku Terminal of Osaka Gas. It was the moment when the drive and determination of the project team had at last come to fruition.

Consequences of Unexpected Circumstances—the 1st Oil Crisis

One year later, a situation developed that shook the entire world economy. Prices for crude oil skyrocketed, rising as much as four times, after the Yon Kippur War (4th Arab Israeli War) broke out in October 1973, culminating in what is now known as the 1st Oil Crisis. The turmoil surrounding the Oil Crisis also affected price negotiations of Brunei LNG as LNG prices surged in response to soaring crude oil prices. Buyers were suddenly saddled with rapidly increasing costs.
MC found itself in a difficult position—while participating in the project as an LNG supplier, MC was also serving as the buyers' agent and therefore had to provide full support to the buyers. MC sought to bridge the gap between the seller and the buyers by actively engaging both parties in discussion. The agreement on price was finally reached in August 1976.

Around this time, another situation began to develop as prices for crude oil continued to soar. The Bruneian government asserted that the LNG produced by the project was a national resource, and therefore, profits gained from this resource belonged to Brunei. This sparked an intense round of back-and-forth negotiations over the division of profits, which began in March 1976. The negotiations appeared to reach an impasse on numerous occasions, and at times, it seemed that the negotiations were in danger of breaking down. However, a compromise was finally reached after roughly a year and half of tenacious negotiations, and the parties agreed on a basic agreement that would increase the Bruneian government's share of the profits through the revision of its investment ratio.
Coldgas Trading was disbanded and in its place, Brunei Coldgas was established, with the Bruneian government, Shell and MC each taking a one-third stake. The new company was established in Brunei, thereby bringing it under Brunei's tax jurisdiction. Likewise, the Bruneian government's stake in Brunei LNG was increased to a third of the company's stock.
Negotiations regarding the agreement between the Bruneian government and Shell/MC were held again in 1986, and as a result, the government's stake in both Brunei Coldgas and Brunei LNG was raised to 50%, with Shell and MC each retaining a 25% share in both ventures. Brunei Coldgas was later absorbed by Brunei LNG in a merger in January 1996. Since then, there have been no further changes to the stake ratio to date.