A major developer of natural resources Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. (JAPEX) said Monday it has agreed with Malaysian state-owned Petronas to take part in a shale gas development and liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Canada\'s British Colombia. Under the preliminary agreement, JAPEX will buy a 10 percent stake in Petronas\' shale gas field in the North Montney area in British Columbia, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. It will also acquire a 10 percent stake in the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal project in the port of Prince Rupert in the same province. The LNG plant, which is expected to start production in 2018, will have an annual capacity of 12 million tons, with JAPEX planning to buy 1.2 million tons a year. Japan is the world\'s largest LNG importer by volume. The country\'s utilities have boosted imports of LNG for thermal power generation following the radiation accident in March 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Currently, only two of the nation\'s 50 workable nuclear reactors are online in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.