Burma Gas Exports to Slow as Pipeline Closes for Work

By Soe Sandar Oo & Than Htike Oo 26 December 2013

RANGOON — The Thai government is reportedly taking measures to avoid a shortage of energy after Burma announced a half-month stoppage of the Yetagun natural gas project.

An official at the Burmese Ministry of Energy told The Irrawaddy that the pipeline, which takes gas from the Yetagon offshore gas field in the Andaman Sea to be processed in Karen State, will be out of operation from Jan. 1 to Jan. 15.

The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to talk with the media, said a pipeline was being constructed between the platform where gas is brought up from the seabed and a pressure machine platform, also offshore.

Therefore, Burma will temporarily reduce its exports of natural gas, he said.

Gas will stop flowing through the Kanpauk-Myaing Kalay pipeline, from Tenasserim Division to Karen State, the official said. Gas is processed at a factory in Myaing Kalay in Karen State before being sent to Thailand or to a turbine in Rangoon.

The official said the flow of gas from the Yandana offshore field to Rangoon would also be affected.

“We will fill the Yangon gas turbine ahead [of the closure] so that it can rotate normally while we cut off natural gas distribution to the Kanpauk-Myaing Kalay pipeline for 24 hours, and Yadana-Yangon for four hours [a day],” he said.

The Yetagun field project—which reportedly began producing 200 million cubic feet of gas per day in 2000—is run by Malaysia’s Petronas, Thailand’s PTTEP, Nippon Oil and the Burmese state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

The Yadana pipeline takes gas from the Yadana field, operated by France’s Total and Chevron of the United States.

The Shwe gas field, off the Arakan State coast, began operating this year and is connected by a pipeline through Burma to China’s Yunnan Province.

According to a Thai-language media report, the country’s Energy Ministry Secretary Suthep Liumsirijarern said Thailand is preparing extra generators to fill the lack of power next month.

“I hope we will be fine, because normally in winter, the consumption of electricity is usually less,” he was quoted saying.

When the Yadana pipeline was suspended for maintenance in April 2013, Thailand voiced strong concerns over the stoppage. Observers said Thai officials used that outage as an opportunity to remind the Thai public of their reliance on overseas energy, since domestic projects usually face strong opposition.

Currently, only 13 percent of househ­­olds in Burma are connected to the electricity grid, compared with roughly 100 percent of Thai households. Average energy consumption is just 117 kilowatt hours in Burma, compared with more than 2,100 kilowatt hours in neighboring Thailand.

Burma began negotiating with Thailand to sell gas over the border in 1990, and the countries have a 30-year sale agreement for gas from the Yadana and Yetagun fields.