Monday heralded the first of a series of meetings between Gov. Bill Walker and Japanese officials regarding Alaska’s liquefied natural gas (LNG).


Walker and his team met with representatives of trade company Itochu Corporation, two major utilities – Tokyo Electric Power Company and Tokyo Gas — and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, an agency that provides financing for Japanese companies “interested in natural gas exploration,” according to a statement from Walker’s office.


“I want our trade partners and customers to know Alaska is serious about taking our rich natural gas reserves to market,” Walker said in a statement. “Alaska has vast untapped natural resources available to meet in-state demand, as well as the needs of Japan.”


Alaska has provided Japan with LNG since 1969, according to Walker’s office. Once the sole source of LNG for the country, Alaska now provides less than 1 percent.


“I’m here in Tokyo this week to change that, and to continue the mutually beneficial relationship,” Walker said, noting that Japan’s need for LNG has grown since the destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.


“In Prudhoe Bay and Point Thomson lie 33 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—and those are just the proven reserves,” said Marty Rutherford, Deputy Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, who accompanied Walker in Japan.


The meetings in Japan are the latest efforts by the Walker administration to promote the governor’s LNG pipeline project. A State Legislative Joint Resources committee meeting Wednesday included a proposal to increase the size of the pipeline from 42-inches to 48-inches.


“Upsizing the pipeline from 42 to 48 inches lowers the overall operating costs and increases deliverability for our customers,” Rutherford explained.


Walker says the $45 to $65 billion project will benefit both Alaska and Japan when completed. Rep. Mike Hawker has criticized the trip, calling it “premature” with many details of the project yet to be worked out, but others in the Legislature have shown support for the move.


“I’m actually applauding him for keeping us at the forefront of Asian minds as far as where they can get gas,” said Sen. Cathy Geissel, chair of the Natural Resources Committee.


On Tuesday, Walker will meet with the Energy and Metals Group of Marubeni Corporation, according to his office. He will also deliver a keynote speech at the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.