August 4, 2011

[Thailand] Offshore claims back on agenda with Cambodia


The Thai government is preparing to revive talks with Cambodia on overlapping petroleum claims, which have been stalled for the last five years.

The Department of Mineral Fuels is preparing information for talks for the new energy minister, said Songpop Polachan, the department's director-general.

Cambodia and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding in 2001 on joint development of the southern portion of the disputed offshore area, with the northern portion to be divided by a defined maritime border.

Agreements on overlapping claims were almost resolved before the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin Shinawatra.

Bangkok cancelled this agreement in 2009, however, in protest over Thaksin's appointment as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

The overlapping claims area is thought to contain up to 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the market intelligence firm CLC Asia, along with unknown quantities of oil.

Dr Songpop said the Thai government had no idea about the volume of gas reserves because the field had never been explored.

Nonetheless, he expected the development of offshore petroleum fields would take another eight years should the new talks reach an agreement.

He said the agreements could follow the model of the Joint Development Area (JDA) between Thailand and Malaysia whereby the two countries agree to allocate a balance of gas supply from the overlapping areas.

Mr Songpop said a successful conclusion would be good for both countries.

"Cambodia would be entitled to have more income to finance its development, while Thailand would have access to secure gas reserves for another 30-50 years, as gas supply in the Gulf of Thailand is likely to be enough for only the next 10 years," he said.

Thailand currently consumes an average of 4.4 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. Gas supply from the Gulf of Thailand represents 3.4 billion cubic feet per day and supply from Burma 1 billion.

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