ANALYSIS-Thailand faces a perfect storm as it seeks more LNG supplies

Band Chayut Setboonsarng

BANGKOK, March 16 (Reuters)A global energy crisis is driving up liquefied natural gas prices, but Thailand must increase purchases to compensate for a sharp drop in production from its largest gas field and as sanctions threaten supplies from Myanmar.

The Southeast Asian country has little choice but to join the rush for alternative gas supplies at a time when European demand is rising. Buyers are racing to secure cargoes to replace Russian gas and LNG as the war in Ukraine escalates.

The revenue shortfall for Thailand, a net importer of oil and gas that last year depended on imports for almost 75% of its electricity, crude oil, coal and natural gas needs, could become more onerous as prices continue to soar.

Thailand’s shortfall is largely due to the sharp drop in production from the offshore Erawan field, which supplies the lion’s share of the country’s gas needs. Threats of new US sanctions against Myanmar following a military coup have also cast uncertainty over gas imports from the longtime supplier.

“We were facing a gas drop in the Gulf of Thailand and potential sanctions in Myanmar…we are now adding another situation of gas price spikes to the situation between Ukraine and Russia,” the secretary said. permanent at Energy, Kulit Sombatsiri.

PTT Exploration and Production PCl (PTTEP) PTTEP.BKa unit of the public energy company PTT Pcl PTT.BKset to take over Erawan gas field from Chevron Corp CVX.N in April and has been seeking access since 2021.

Transitions between oilfield concessions are often collaborative, but delays in talks between PTTEP and Chevron come amid a dispute between the US oil major and the government over who should pay to remove offshore assets from the field. .

About a quarter of Thailand’s natural gas needs came from the Erawan field, which is expected to produce less than a fifth of its capacity next month.

The delayed transfer has also slowed investments needed to maintain production from the field, crucial to Thailand’s long-term energy security.

In 2021, 54% of the country’s electricity used natural gas and a tiny fraction came from petroleum sources. It had planned to increase imports this year, but super-chilled fuel prices have doubled in just over a month due to sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow has called a “special operation”.

When Chevron comes out, production could be as low as 200 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmsfcd) before climbing to 400 mmsfcd in the fourth quarter, said SCB Securities analyst Chaipat Thanawattano.

In 2019, the field produced 1200 mmsfcd.

“The transition has not been smooth and we started to see a shortfall late last year,” the secretary general of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) told Reuters. , Komkrit Tantravanich.

To compensate for Erawan’s decline, the ERC increased LNG import quotas. This brings total imports to 9.7 million tonnes this year from 6.4 million tonnes last year.

State-owned PTT will import 1.2 million tonnes from the spot market from January to April as the situation was “urgent and required quick decisions”, Komkrit said.

Finansia Syrus Securities analyst Suwat Sinsadok said he expects the quota to be fully used and he estimates it will take two years before Erawan reaches 800 mmsfcd – the production target for the Thai operator.

A Chevron spokesperson said in an email, “Despite the complex challenges presented by the transition, we are committed to achieving the goal of a safe Erawan transition in April 2022.”

PTT declined to comment on its existing reserves, LNG imports and Erawan field capacity.


Thailand will be reluctant to buy spot LNG if prices rise by around $40 per mmBtu, Komkrit said.

The average price of an April delivery in Asia LNG-AS retreated to around $38 per mmBtu, after hitting record highs on the risk of a Russian gas cut.

Some power plants will switch to using oil to generate electricity to reduce gas demand, Komkrit said, as the government extended the shutdown of a coal plant and biomass contracts.

“The best we can do is conserve energy…so that we can get through these uncertain times,” Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow told reporters last week. Thailand imported almost 90% of its oil needs last year.

Potential sanctions on supplies from Myanmar, which account for about 14% of Thailand’s natural gas needs, have also added to the uncertainty.

“If that happens we will have to find a replacement, but in the meantime we have increased the regasification capacity to be ready,” Komkrit said.

The government announced last week that it would begin partial operations at a regasification terminal six months earlier than planned in May, adding capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per annum (tpa) from 7.5 million of tpa.

LNG must be regasified before being used in power plants.

The decline of deposits in Myanmar would have a permanent impact on Thai demand for LNG in the long term.

“We estimate this could increase Thailand’s LNG imports by 2.3 Mt per year by 2030,” said Wood Mackenzie analyst Angus Rodger.

($1 = 33.4200 baht)

LNG prices in Asia

Thailand power generation by source

(Additional reporting by Isabel Kua; Editing by Florence Tan and Jacqueline Wong)

(([email protected], Twitter: @ChayutSet; +66854849033;))

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