* LNG plant could be complete by 2017
* Partners expect feasibility studies complete in 2014
* One of several LNG projects on Canada's Pacific Coast
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 29 Idemitsu Kosan Co , Japan's No. 3 oil refiner, said on Tuesday it will form a partnership with Canada's AltaGas Ltd to export liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas to Asia, starting as early as 2017.
Idemitsu and AltaGas will have equal stakes in the partnership, Idemitsu said in a statement. The companies will start feasibility studies for the construction and development of a gas liquefaction facility in Canada and they expect them to be completed by 2014.
The project is the latest of several LNG-export plants planned for Canada's Pacific Coast. They will be fed by natural gas from British Columbia's massive shale-gas fields.
"We're a company that has a lot of experience in working with producers in the (region)" said Debbie Stein, AltaGas's chief financial officer. "We'll be looking to work with producers to provide gas supply" for the plant.
Backers of rival projects include Royal Dutch Shell Plc , Malaysia's Petronas, BG Group Plc and Chevron Corp among others. The number of projects in the works makes British Columbia a rival to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where nine projects have been announced and one, Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass project, is already under construction.
Idemitsu and AltaGas said in a release that if they decide to proceed, exports to the Japanese market could begin by 2017.
Idemitsu has been focusing on overseas opportunities to make up for a gradual fall in oil demand as its domestic market matures.
While AltaGas, a mid-sized energy-infrastructure company, does not have gas reserves to feed the project, it does have an existing pipeline that takes gas from northeastern British Columbia to Kitimat and Prince Rupert, the two ports where most Canadian LNG facilities are expect to be built.
AltaGas shares were up 38 Canadian cents at C$35.24 late on Tuesday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange, while Idemitsu rose 160 Japanese yen to 7,940 yen in Tokyo.
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