European oil major Total has signed a ten-year agreement to supply 500,000 tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China’s privately-run ENN Group annually, Rigzone reported. The supplies of the super-chilled natural gas will start in 2018 upon completion of ENN’s planned receiving facility near the eastern coastal city of Zhoushan, according to a statement on company’s website.

Beijing is freeing up the nation’s LNG trade as part of broad reforms that allow private companies to invest in oil and gas exploration as well as pipelines and tank farms, and to engage in importing and exporting. The aim is to help secure supplies while boosting competition and efficiency in an energy sector long dominated by state firms.

Total is a world leader in LNG, with solid and diversified positions along the entire value chain and LNG production of 10.2m tons in 2015, Marinelink informed.

In related news, China’s intake of LNG fell 1.1% in 2015, marking the first year-on-year decline since imports began in 2006, according to a report by the US Energy Information Administration, wrote Platts. LNG imports peaked in 2014 at 2.7bcf/d, making China the third-largest LNG importer in the world after Japan and South Korea, however, in 2015 imports declined to 2.6bcf/d, reflecting in part a slowdown in the growth of the Chinese economy and lower prices of competing fuels, EIA said.