Energy demand in Myanmar is rising fast. The country is abundantly rich in natural energy resources, but the investment of capital and technology will not be able to unlock these resources in time to fulfill the growing need for power.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Energy is considering its options for imported fuel to supply the domestic market.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is one option, according to Daw Wah Wah Thaung, an executive engineer at state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).
LNG imports could provide a possible short-term solution to Myanmar’s energy shortage problems.
The development of other near-term solutions such as hydro and coal-fired power plants are limited by the negative impact they could have on communities, with gas generation seen as causing less damage then coal and taking up a smaller footprint than hydro. Renewable energy, in the form of solar and wind projects, is still in the very early stages.
Companies from China, Korea, Japan, Norway, Singapore and Thailand have already proposed investment into LNG development projects in Myanmar, and feasibility studies have been completed, according to an official from MOGE.
“China National Petroleum Corporation has proposed developing a terminal in Kyaukphyu to receive imported LNG and to transmit it through the pipeline,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
The Myanmar-China natural gas pipeline, which begins at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State, began full operations in late 2013. It is designed to transmit 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year from the Shwe natural gas field, although currently only around 400 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) is exported to China.
Beijing is holding discussions with the Myanmar authorities on using the pipeline’s full capacity, which will help to reduce shipping costs and enhance energy security, according to the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington.
“Myanmar may consider building a similar LNG facility at Kanbauk within seven years or potentially share the facility with CNPC in Kyaukphyu. This would mean that we have a greater gas supply for domestic use,” said Ken Tun, chief executive officer of Parami Energy.
The sale point from the Zawtika offshore gas field to MOGE is located at the Kanbauk area of Tanintharyi Region in southern Myanmar.
While Myanmar does not yet use LNG, the Ministry of Electric Power invited private companies to import it, through a tender in July 2013. Its intention was to procure more gas for developing new gas-fired power plants.
Currently state-owned and privately run gas-fired plants are operating with limited natural gas, as the Ministry of Energy is only able to supply around one-third of the 500 mmcfd of gas needed.
The Japan Research Institute, together with the Japan Gasoline Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, conducted a feasibility study last year to develop a Floating Storage & Regasification Unit (FSRU) offshore, around 80 kilometers from Yangon.
The project, if it goes ahead, will have a regasification capacity of at least 360 MMCFD, and will help to power the Thilawa Special Economic Zone. Thilawa will become Myanmar’s first SEZ, and is being built on the outskirts of Yangon.
According to the study, the initial cost of developing a FSRU is at least US$500 million, in addition to $25 million a year in operating costs.
“There are some other discussions with foreign companies about importing LNG, but none of them have been confirmed so far,” said U Yan Lin, Chief Engineer of Yangon Electricity Corporation.
Thailand’s state energy firm, PTT Public Company Limited is also planning to develop LNG import terminals in Myanmar, according to reports in The Nation newspaper last year.
PTT has reportedly completed a feasibility study and is waiting for final approval from the Myanmar government to build an LNG terminal near Dawei.
Dawei is in southern Myanmar, around 190km from the Thai border.
If Myanmar is able to secure LNG imports, it could go a long way to meeting the supply gap over the next few years. The country’s four commercial gas fields are in long-term export contracts.
The country will need a total capacity of 24,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030 to provide electricity nationwide, almost five times the generation capacity currently installed, while oil consumption will double to 42,000 barrels over the next decade, according to authorities.