Yingluck keen on US liquefied natural gas

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is urging the US government to assist in supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Thailand, says Virabongsa Ramangkura, chairman of the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development.

He said that during US President Barack Obama's visit last month, Ms Yingluck asked the US to sign an agreement with Thailand on supplying 2.5 million tonnes a year of LNG over 20 years. There has not been a definite response from the US.

"The US is starting to become a large exporter for energy products now," said Mr Virabongsa.

At a seminar entitled "Thailand's Economic Outlook" in Bangkok yesterday, he said even though Thailand has not entered into an FTA with the US, Thailand is treated as a Non-FTA Partner, and it has bought energy at lower prices than market leader Saudi Arabia is charging on the global market.

Mr Virabongsa, who is also chairman of the Bank of Thailand's executive board, said over the past five years the US has increased its capacity of gas by 500,000 tonnes a year, with plans to explore further resources in the seas. If there is no impact to the environment that triggers protests, the US can produce even more petroleum and gas, which would lower prices.

Over the past two years, crude prices dipped to US$86.87 a barrel from over $100 as a result of increasing supply even though Chinese and Indian demand increased, he said.

"I think the crude price has passed its peak already. I don't think it will start rising again," said Mr Virabongsa.

By 2020, the US should be able to produce gas and crude of about 11.1 million barrels a day, while Saudi Arabia's capacity is projected at 10.2 million barrels a day. If the US can maintain that capacity throughout 2035 as planned, it would be the world's largest exporter of crude.

The changing global energy landscape will impact the power balance too, as the political bargaining power of the Middle East will decline, he said.

Asean is expected to have more influence in the world economy. The political conflict between Japan and China may force Japanese investors to relocate their production from China to Asean, and Thailand could benefit, said Mr Virabongsa.

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Writer: Wichit Chantanusornsiri
Position: Business Reporter