Rush to avert power woes in April

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand's energy authorities are scrambling for ideas to prevent a possible power shortage in April - the hottest month every year - as Myanmar is shutting down two gas fields that have supplied one-fourth of the Kingdom's natural gas demand.

Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal said he would call a meeting with his ministry's officials next week to seek measures to deal with the situation. Initially the ministry will launch a campaign to encourage people to reduce electricity use during that period, he added.

As the first measure to cope with this situation, PTT is ready to use 5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas reserves, or 700 million cubic feet per day (mcfpd), to back up the country's electricity-generating system as Myanmar suspends gas production at Yetakun and Yanada from April 4-12 to repair its drilling rigs.

PTT chief executive officer Pailin Chuchottaworn said that Myanmar had informed the company about its planned suspension of gas supply to Thailand during the period, after the destabilisation of the rigs in the Andaman Sea.

"Normally, Myanmar shuts down the gas fields for annual maintenance during the Songkran Festival. However, this time the period of closure could be longer. PTT will try its best to ensure sufficient supply of natural gas during that period," he said.

Pailin said the temporary stoppage would see a decline of gas supply from the two fields amounting to 1.1 billion cubic feet per day. While PTT will use supplies of 700 mcfpd, it will talk with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand about sourcing other kinds of fuel to offset the remaining shortfall of 400 mcfpd.

In March and April last year, Thailand's power consumption hit new peaks six times. On April 25, consumption peaked at a record 25,682 megawatts, according to Egat, as the temperature soared to 38.4 degrees Celsius.

Pailin noted that NGV-fuelled car owners would suffer from this incident, as some small cars in the West cannot fill up their tanks with gas from the Gulf of Thailand. Gas from the gulf contains higher colorific value than Myanmar's gas, and western gas stations do not have the tools to adjust to the heat.

Pongsak said the rig in Yanada field experienced destabilisation and needed to be fixed at its base on the seabed before the problem got worse. Therefore, Myanmar had decided that it would shut down the gas-supply system in both Yetagun and Yadana for repairs.

In a separate matter, Pongsak said that the Energy Ministry would try to cap the retail price of diesel fuel at Bt30 per litre as long as it could cope with the rising global oil price. Dubai crude oil is now exceeding US$110 (Bt3,300) per barrel.

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