TOKYO - Japan is considering a new scheme to curb city gas usage and head off an energy crunch during the winter, an official at the industry ministry said on Monday, amid growing fears of disruptions of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies from Russia.

The government, which already has a mechanism to ask electricity users to conserve power, plans to introduce a similar system to help reduce gas consumption, the official told Reuters, confirming a Saturday report by Kyodo news agency on the move.

The measures could include allowing the government to request families and businesses to conserve city gas consumption without or with numerical targets, the official said, adding that it may also allow orders to restrict usage during severe supply crunches.

The discussion on the new measures will begin at a meeting by a group of experts later on Monday, with an aim to make them effective before heating demand rises in the winter, the official said.

Resource-poor Japan faces a historic energy security risk as tensions with Moscow intensify, heightening the threat of gas supply disruptions at a time when global supply is tight and spot prices are sky-high.

Even without the Russia factor, Japan is looking at tight power supply this winter.

For January, all regions except the Hokkaido and Okinawa are expected to fall short of the 3% electricity reserve capacity level needed to avoid potential blackouts, according to the ministry's estimate last month.

(Reporting by Ritsuko Shimizu, Writing by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Sam Holmes)