FORT WORTH — As the first natural gas well at Texas Motor Speedway was being drilled Tuesday, Hideki Makihara was more than a casual observer.The Japanese lawmaker explained that Japan shut down its last nuclear reactor last week, a casualty of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Since then, he said, electricity prices have doubled and Japan is paying some of the highest prices in the world for the natural gas needed to fuel its remaining power plants.Natural gas that will eventually flow from Quicksilver Resources wells at the giant racetrack in far north Fort Worth should contribute to the surge in U.S. gas production, which has driven down prices domestically and could eventually provide relief for Japan.“We want to import shale gas as soon as we can to reduce the price of electricity in Japan,” Makihara told the Star-Telegram. “So far, the cheapest natural gas in the world is U.S. shale gas.”Makihara, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives, on Tuesday visited Quicksilver’s drill site on the north side of Texas Motor Speedway, where the Fort Worth-based producer started drilling this month. Quicksilver holds the lease on the 1,450-acre property, as well as on much of the neighboring Alliance development.Quicksilver plans five wells at the current drill site on the edge of the racetrack’s sprawling parking lot, plus two additional drill sites on the west side with similar numbers of wells planned. It will also drill under the speedway from the east side of Interstate 35, something it did when it drilled at Alliance Airport, said Steve Lindsey, Quicksilver’s head of government and community affairs.But race fans won’t see any rigs at the speedway next month. Drilling will cease and the rig will be moved for the race weekend starting in late October, Lindsey said.The shutdown of nuclear power plants after the tsunami disaster is costing Japan billions. Japan’s industry ministry has estimated that the nation’s cost to import extra coal, gas and oil to run its non-nuclear plants will hit $93 billion by the end of 2013.The crisis sent Japanese energy interests looking to the U.S. for solutions.In March, Tokyo Gas, Japan’s biggest natural gas utility and a diversified global energy company, bought a 25 percent stake in Quicksilver’s Barnett Shale holdings, including the speedway land. Makihara was accompanied by Koji Yoshizaki, general manager of of Tokyo Gas America, based in Houston.Tokyo Gas has also agreed to buy liquefied natural gas from a planned terminal in Maryland that recently won an export license from the federal government. And the utility continues to seek production in the United States, Yoshizaki said.Under an agreement reached in 2008, the Fort Worth Sports Authority and the speedway will share royalties from production on the property, with much of the money going toward improvements at the facility.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay