BANGKOK, Feb 20 – Energy Minister Narongchai Akrasanee said the government would be able to decide on the fate of the planned opening of the 21st round of oil and gas exploration concession bidding after the one-day public forum on the issue ends later today. He stressed that Thailand needs to find new energy sources.
Mr Narongchai told journalists investors would be allowed to submit bidding forms until March 16.
He said former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had called on the government to amend the Petroleum Act before opening bidding. The the Act was earlier amended six times, and the current version is believed to be the most suitable for issuing concessions.
Whether the Act would be amended in future depends on National Legislative Assembly (NLA) consideration, Mr Narongchai said, adding that he believed the concession system favoured by the government would benefit the country more than the production sharing system demanded by those opposing the upcoming bidding.
It is projected that Thailand will have to import all its oil and gas in the next seven years for domestic use and the cost would double, he said.
Even if a concession is given now, it would take four to five years before a new energy source is found.
Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office Panadda Diskul said while presiding at the forum’s opening that the government was “sincere in listening to public opinion” and the outcome of the public forum would be reported directly to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Representatives of the Energy Ministry, the private sector, the civil society group, the National Reform Council and the NLA attended the government-sponsored forum amid tight security.
Speakers were divided into two sides with each side having four persons allowing them to express opinions.
Deputy Permanent Secretary for Energy Kurujit Nakornthap told the forum that during the most recent round of concessions, only 50 billion cubic feet per year of natural gas was found.
Currently, demand for natural gas in Thailand stands at 1.8 trillion cubic feet while only 1.3 trillion cubic feet has been found, which is worrisome, said Mr Kurujit.
Several countries consume about 80 per cent of the world’s total gas consumption, and the Energy Ministry has amended the law and listen to public opinion constantly, Mr Kurujit added.