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Thais opt for LNG over nuclear

Thailand is preparing to double LNG imports after putting plans for two new nuclear power plants on ice in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster

Thailand is preparing to double LNG imports after putting plans for two new nuclear power plants on ice in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
Thailand’s first LNG import terminal, the 5m tonne a year Map Ta Phut plant, is expected to start operations in the second half of this year, but state-run energy firm PTT said it could double the plant’s capacity to 10m t/y and secure gas supplies from the Middle East and Australia. The Thai government has also approved PTT’s plan to expand the Chonburi liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) terminal and build another plant, increasing import capacity to 500,000 tonnes.

"We are planning to expand our LNG and liquefied petroleum gas terminals as domestic demand has risen considerably," chief executive Prasert Bunsumpunhe said. "We are waiting for a clear decision from the government to import more gas." Thailand is set to increase gas imports for electricity generation after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March renewed global fears over nuclear power.

The country’s National Energy Policy Committee has already decided to delay the start-up of the first of a tranche of planned nuclear power plants by three years to 2023. The decision comes after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the country lacked to proper regulation to support the projects.

Thailand’s nuclear power plans involved building five nuclear plants with a total capacity of 5,000 megawatts. The plants were to become operational between 2020 and 2025, with the first two originally scheduled for start-up in 2020 and 2021.

Prasert said the increase in LNG imports would be enough to generate the same amount of power as the planned nuclear plants, while secretary-general of the Energy Policy and Planning Office, Boonsong Kerdklang, has already said three 800 megawatt gas-fired power plants would be built instead of the delayed nuclear units.

PTT also estimates LPG demand would continue to increase, with imports this year expected to hit 1.44m tonnes, rising to 5m tonnes by 2017.

"(LPG) demand should rise 8% a year if the government continues to curb domestic retail prices," PTT vice president Nattachart Jaruchinda said.

PTT is set to invest 33bn baht ($1.1bn) in expanding LPG import capacity, with a new import plant, possibly in Rayong province, on the cards.

Thailand is expected to slowly ramp up LNG imports. While demand in the country is surging, thanks to its expanding economy, domestic gas output is also set to rise, which will lessen Thailand’s need to import LNG.

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