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A liquefied natural gas tanker passes through the Panama Canal’s Agua Clara Locks, carrying LNG loaded from Cheniere's Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish.

TOKYO — A top U.S. energy official said Monday that Asia is the center of growth in energy demand and offers a great opportunity to expand American liquefied natural gas exports — much of it already flowing out of Louisiana to foreign markets.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette told reporters in Tokyo that the U.S. is working with Japan and others to build facilities for U.S. LNG exports and improve their energy security. Japan is the world's biggest importer of LNG.

"The world is right here in Asia," Brouillette said. "Demand for LNG is very, very high here. There is an enormous amount of opportunities not only for U.S. businesses but also for Japanese businesses as well as other Asian businesses."

A wave of LNG projects are in various stages of construction and development in Louisiana, including Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, a nearly $20 billion facility on the Louisiana-Texas border, and Cameron LNG's $10 billion project in Hackberry. Cheniere's facility in 2016 became the first in the U.S. to export LNG. Cameron LNG is under construction and could send shipments next year.

In all, projects that are under construction or have been approved total $40.5 billion, according to Louisiana Economic Development. Another $52 billion in projects have been announced but not yet approved. More than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs are promised from the planned projects.

At least two of those have approval and are awaiting construction: Lake Charles LNG, a $9 billion project by Shell and Energy Transfer; and Magnolia LNG, a $3.5 billion facility from Australia-based Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd.

Countries trying to move away from fossil fuel and coal are turning to LNG as a cleaner option. Brouillette said he is not concerned about the impact of the U.S. trade dispute with China on the American LNG business given the sharp increase of Chinese demand in recent years.

Brouillette was in Japan to attend an international LNG conference and meet industry and government officials.

The U.S. doesn't require what are known as destination charges, which creates an economic opportunity to buy the gas at lower costs and sell it on the open market, Brouillette said.

Japan is the world's biggest importer of LNG, consuming one-third of global production. Its LNG consumption soared after nuclear plants were closed following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, speaking at the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Nagoya, in central Japan, promised to expand Japan's support for projects jointly sponsored by private enterprise and the government to supply LNG and build infrastructure in Asia. He said Japan is seeking to create a 50 million ton LNG market in the region and is already cooperating with the U.S.

An increase in American LNG exports to Japan and other Asian countries is expected to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. That could also promote Japan's exports of LNG infrastructure, experts say.