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State-owned Thai oil company unit to invest more in Myanmar

PTT subsidiary to bid for more oil blocks and plans power plant near Yangon

The Zawtika gas block operated by PTTEP produces 300 million to 345 million cu. feet of natural gas per day.   © Kyodo

BANGKOK -- Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production, a subsidiary of Thailand's national oil and gas conglomerate PTT, plans to greatly expand its investment in Myanmar.

The company aims to join a new round of bidding for oil and gas exploration rights, due to open by the end of this year, in hopes of cashing in on higher crude prices. Piya Sukhumpanumet, general-manager of PTTEP International's Yangon office, which runs the company's oil and gas exploration business in Myanmar, said PTTEP is ready to take part in the bidding.

"No matter how many blocks are opened for bidding this year, we are ready to bid as we have invested a lot in Myanmar. And we will maintain our presence in the country with more investment in oil and gas," Piya said.

The plan is part of PTTEP's strategy to expand exploration and production in Southeast Asia, where it has expertise. More gas production from Myanmar would also contribute to Thailand's energy security. The country generates more than 70% of its electricity from natural gas and domestic supplies are dwindling.

Piya declined to say how much more it will invest in Myanmar. The company spent $19.6 billion on exploration and production in the country from 2012 to 2016. However, he said the cost of exploration ranges between $15 million and $20 million per block, excluding production costs. PTTEP plans to bid for several blocks, he said.

According to Myanmar's Ministry of Electricity and Energy, the country has 104 oil and gas blocks. Of the total, 53 are offshore and 51 are onshore. Around 50 offshore and onshore gas blocks are already operating, while the rest are in the bidding process.

"It is a huge [amount] for the government to invest in on its own, so we welcome foreign oil and gas firms to invest in Myanmar's oil and gas exploration and production business," said Mi Mi Khaing, director-general of the ministry's department of electric power planning.

PTTEP is one of three foreign oil and gas producers operating in Myanmar. The company has six exploration and production projects in Myanmar, of which four are offshore. French oil company Total SA operates the Yadana project; Malaysia's Petronas runs the Yetagun project.

PTTEP began producing gas from the offshore Zawtika project in 2014, bringing up 320 million to 345 million cu. feet per day. Some 220 million to 240 million cu. feet is exported to Thailand, while 10 million to 100 million cu. feet is sold to local gas-fired power plants, according to Piya.

"There is around 60 million cu. feet per day of surplus natural gas from the Zawtika block, and we plan to create added value for the gas buy investing further in the gas-to-power business in Myanmar," Piya said.

He said PTTEP has partnered with Global Power Synergy, an electricity and utilities unit of PTT, to study the feasibility of building a medium size gas-fired power plant in Myanmar to make use of the surplus gas. The power plant is expected to be located in southwestern Yangon and supply power to the city and nearby areas, he said.

The company has submitted its plans for the power plant to Myanmar's energy ministry, which has asked for adjustments to the project. "We have made some changes and will resubmit the plan to the [ministry] by August," Piya said.

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