Joint Gulf plan moves closer
Thailand, Cambodia to tap gas resources
published : 5 Jan 2023 at 04:25
newspaper section: News
writer: Wassana Nanuam
The government is set to go ahead with a long-awaited joint development of petroleum resources in an energy-rich area in the Gulf of Thailand claimed by Thailand and Cambodia, according to government sources.
The sources said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had pushed for new talks on the matter with Cambodia for years.
He raised the matter with Suy Sem, Cambodian Minister of Mines and Energy, in Bangkok on Dec 16, 2022.
Both sides discussed possible cooperation to make use of energy resources in the overlapping claim area (OCA) as a solution to energy shortages.
The cabinet on Tuesday had an informal discussion on the realisation of joint development of petroleum resources estimated at 5 trillion baht.
It followed a positive signal from Cambodia, which is keen to reopen talks on joint development.
The project would follow the model of the Thailand-Malaysia Joint Development Area (JDA), the sources said.
The Foreign Ministry has set up a working group to handle negotiations.
During the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha emphasised the importance of the issue and said state agencies must study the matter carefully as it involves the OCA, energy sources and legal issues.
He said he instructed the Foreign and Energy ministries to handle the matter.
Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow previously said that talks on OCA development between Thailand and Cambodia were to resume as part of efforts to decrease the dependence on expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry will lead the talks, which aim to seek an agreement on benefit sharing from petroleum production.
It is expected that the area will become a new natural gas source in the upper part of the Gulf of Thailand.
Mr Supattanapong, who is also the energy minister, said he believes the new petroleum venture will benefit the two countries, helping them ease the impact of the recent surge in global energy prices, which has hit economies worldwide.
The move to resume the talks is a long-term energy management plan after Thailand faced higher energy prices, especially for LNG, one of the main fuels used to produce electricity.
The rise in LNG imports follows a drop in gas supply from the Gulf.
The proportion of gas coming from the Gulf of Thailand has fallen to 54%, down from 64%, while imported LNG has increased to 20% of the total, up from 8%.
One way to increase the domestic gas supply is the plan to explore and produce gas in the OCA, the sources said.
Calls for OCA talks were previously made by the Thaksin Shinawatra administration in 2001.
Sontirat Sontijirawong, a former energy minister, also raised the issue on the sidelines of the 37th Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting (Amem) in Bangkok in 2019.
At that discussion, representatives from both countries agreed that the OCA should be developed in a way that benefits both Thailand and Cambodia.
"We expect to start talks again," said Mr Supattanapong.
Thailand is now trying to reduce imports of LNG by using other fuels for power generation.