Japan refiners target power business as profits evaporate
* Refiners eye coal- and gas-fired plants to offset oil business
* Power market reform, eased regulation spur power plant boom
* Refiners also eye petrochemical units amid falling oil demand
By Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, May 15 (Reuters) - Japanese refiners are accelerating plans to invest billions of dollars in power stations to try to drum up more stable income as flagging oil demand at home erodes their core business, executives and analysts said.
The slump in oil prices since last summer has caused more pain for the refining sector, with accumulated losses totalling $4.6 billion in the last year.
Cosmo Oil said it would cut refining capacity by as much as a third by 2017.
As well seeking to take advantage of an opening up of the 8.1 trillion yen ($68 billion) retail electricity market, refiners are also pushing into more profitable uses of crude by producing petrochemicals.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has been pushing refiners to cut capacity as domestic demand is forecast to fall by more than 7 percent in the next five years. Continuación...