Japan, the world’s largest importer of natural gas, is testing its clout while trying to rewrite the rules of a saturated market. Japanese buyers are chafing at the premiums they have long paid for liquefied natural gas. The nation’s giant utilities are renegotiating contracts, questioning practices such as linking LNG and crude-oil prices, and pushing back on restrictions that prevent them from reselling surplus cargoes. The moves are part of government-backed efforts to crack open an opaque, rigid market in which Asian buyers pay higher prices, and to establish Japan as an LNG trading hub so the island nation has more influence over a key source of fuel. Japanese buyers and policy makers see an opening now as excess supply is driving prices sharply lower. “Now is our chance, and we have a window of three or four years to act,” before the balance of supply and demand might […]