German utility RWE has plans to increase the volume of gas it purchases by 50% to 60 billion cubic meters by 2012, according to Boersen-Zeitung.

RWE reportedly expects to obtain the additional volumes of natural gas with the acquisition of the US-based liquefied natural gas shipping and regasification firm Excelerate and through its participation in the Nabucco gas pipeline project.

The news source noted that RWE has already acquired a 50% stake in Excelerate, with an eye on the firm’s tanker assets. Excelerate reportedly operates four tankers and has plans to increase its fleet size to nine by 2010.

The flexibility of Excelerate’s tankers is said to be one of the reasons for RWE’s interest in the company. These tankers reportedly have onboard regasification capability, allowing them to operate in regions without the necessary infrastructure.

On the other hand, RWE’s plans to import higher volumes of gas hinge on the strategic Nabucco gas pipeline, which is expected to access Caspian and Middle Eastern gas supplies by 2013.