26 February 2014

PTTEP headquarters in Bangkok (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images).

Thailand’s semi-private oil giant PTTEP announced its intention on Tuesday to invest a further US$3.3 billion in Burma over the next five years.

The company currently operates five gas projects in Burma directly — all of them offshore, with the exception of a single onshore site in central Burma — and was a partner in the development of the Yadana and Yetagun gas fields, which are operated by France’s Total and Malaysia’s Petronas, respectively. According to CEO Tevin Vongvanich, the company provides “about 27 percent of the energy supply to Thailand.”

Burma was the site of PTTEP’s first foray abroad 25 years ago, and the country will receive 20 percent of the company’s planned $16 billion in capital expenditures between 2014 and 2016. “Myanmar [Burma] is considered the second home of PTT group, because it is the largest investment portfolio outside of Thailand,” Vongvanich said.

The company plans to start production in the Zawtika field imminently, one of Burma’s largest known offshore reserves. According to Vongvanich, the first phase of the Zawtika project will produce 300 million cubic metres of natural gas per day. Last year, the company discovered gas in block M3, a large area immediately south of Rangoon and the Irrawaddy Delta that is not currently exploited commercially.

Thirty new offshore blocks were offered up for exploration by the Burmese government last year, and PTTEP was among the firms that submitted bids. Although the results of the blind auction were expected this month, the announcement is likely going to be postponed until after the Burmese New Year in April.

On Saturday, residents of Kanbauk, Tenasserim Division, staged a protest against PTTEP and its partners in the Yetagun project, demanding the oil companies construct sealed roads in the area, supply surrounding villages with 24-hour electricity, and implement measures to safeguard the local environment. Led by a civil society group, the Regional Development Network, the demonstrators claimed that dust from heavy trucks travelling the existing, unsealed road was causing respiratory problems for local residents.

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