The Ministry of Energy says that new fields could hold five million cubic feet of natural gas and 20‐50 million of crude oil as the country looks to boost energy security
Thailand has announced that it is to offer new concessions for the exploration of oil and gas for the first time in seven years, as the military government hopes to make up for diminishing reserves.
The net importer of oil and natural gas is to put forward 29 areas available for exploration, while a list of potential investors is expected to be drafted by the end of 2014. The onshore and offshore blocks will mostly be located in the northeastern and central provinces of the country, with six also situated in the Gulf of Thailand.
The announcement comes as the Minister of Energy, Narongchai Akrasanee, revealed in October that existing supplies would last only another seven years.
For the ruling military – which came to power following a coup d’état of the unpopular Yingluck Shinawatra government in May – the new explorations are expected to provide a welcome boost to the economy as well as help revive an ailing industry.
Thailand imported 85% of its crude oil use last year, with total oil and gas imports reaching more than $30 billion (almost 10% of gross domestic product). What’s more, the country's proven natural gas reserves plunged 43% over the past decade, from 14.75 trillion cubic feet in 2003 to 8.41 trillion, according to data from the Ministry of Mineral Fuels.
The steep decline in resources is a result of increasing demand and state energy subsidies that have encouraged consumption.
In further efforts to ensure energy security – aside from the exploration areas which are hoped to provide an extra five million cubic feet of natural gas and 20‐50 million of crude oil – the government has pledged to reduce the subsidies that have cost Thailand 500 billion baht in the last three years.
The Energy Minister also announced last month that Thailand would continue negotiations with neighboring countries, especially Myanmar and Cambodia, over boosting cooperation on energy issues.
By Aled Bryon