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New oil pipeline in northern Thailand may worsen flooding

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A pipeline stretching from central to north-east Thailand promises to “promote Thailand as an energy hub in the region” and “increase energy security”, according to the Ministry of Energy. Construction began in mid-2019, despite local communities objecting that the largely Chinese-financed project could worsen flooding and contaminate water.

The 342km pipeline will run two metres underground and link Thailand’s north-eastern province of Khon Kaen to an existing pipeline in the central province of Saraburi. Energy Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong attended a ceremony on 5 February to lay the foundation of a 140 million litre oil tank in Khon Kaen’s Ban Phai district at the end of the pipeline.

Altogether, it will pass through 70 towns in five provinces including Lopburi, Nakhon Ratchasima and Chaiyaphum.

The route was agreed in August 2016, when the energy ministry signed a deal with the project investor, Thai Pipeline Network (TPN).

The ministry has promoted the pipeline as a more efficient means of transporting oil to the north-east, claiming it will lower oil prices and cut down on accidents involving road tankers.

TPN director Panu Seetisarn said the pipeline will avoid 88,000 road tanker journeys each year.

The THB9.2 billion (US$300 million) project is largely funded by a loan from the Chinese government, which stipulates that at least 35% of the equipment used must come from China. The precise details of the deal have not been made public. However, Panu revealed that TPN and undisclosed investors are investing about THB1 billion each.

The project has been progressing quickly since January last year when the government approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

In February, TPN – a subsidiary of Power Solution Technologies (PSTC) – signed a contract with China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering (CPP) to construct the pipeline within a 30-month period. And then works commenced in mid-2019.

Panu also revealed that the company wants to link the pipeline to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, and to southern China.

As well as the controversial north-eastern route, the first phase of another route, from central to north, is also under construction. The northern route is being developed with the ultimate aim of linking Tak province into Myanmar’s Kayin state at Myawaddy.

Flood risk

“This will lead to a big flood, bigger than the recent one,” said Ow, a local resident of Khon Kaen’s Ban Phai district, recalling flash flooding following tropical storm Podul that put homes under more than 1.5 metres of water for over a month last summer.

She fears the construction of an oil tank a few kilometres away will worsen flooding in future.

“Looking at its huge area and how high they have raised the land to level it for construction, [it] will definitely block all waterways,” she said, adding: “What will happen to us if there’s a big storm again?”

“After discussion with my neighbours, we [all] share the same concern and decided to file a complaint to the local authority but nothing happened,” said Ow.

The villagers’ concerns are justified, according to Jaroonpit Moonsarn, an environmental official at the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion (DEQP).

“There are two creeks, the Huay Bandoo and the Huay Khamrian, in the area that are natural waterways helping to drain waters in the district. The construction has blocked these significant waterways,” said Jaroonpit.

She believes another tropical storm in the area would create a bigger flood than the one last August.

Dust, pollution and public safety

Flooding is tomorrow’s fear, but dust is today’s suffering, said Ow, referring to air pollution caused by the construction of the oil tank that is affecting surrounding communities.

“We filed a complaint to the construction company, but they told us to complain and seek compensation from their subcontractors. It’s still unresolved. We don’t know who to talk to,” she said.

Jaroonpit also noted local concerns about the project once it’s finished, such as explosions, chemical contamination of local groundwater and heavy traffic. Road tankers will still be needed to distribute oil from the pipeline to nearby provinces, and additional tankers are expected to operate if the road to Laos is improved.

“Public safety should be seriously studied and discussed, including how to manage such risks and how to compensate,” she said.

“This involves the daily life of local people and they should have been informed clearly before the project’s construction approval, otherwise it leaves all the burden on them,” said Thawisan Lonanurak, former secretary general of the North-eastern Chamber of Commerce.

Apart from the risks to public safety, there are several basic questions about the project that need answering, according to Thawisan.

“Will oil prices in this area really be cheaper? How cheap? And most important, how transparent is the deal between the state and private investor?” Thawisan said.

“These questions should be answered at least during the EIA and hearing process, but it hasn’t happened,” he added.​

Witoon Kamonnarumet, senior advisor to the Khon Kaen Federation of Industry, said hearings for the EIA were conducted twice among a small group of people selected by the project owner and the company contracted to produce the EIA. They were not open to the general public.

“Even local businessmen in my network said they know very little about this project and are not clear on what it will really look like. We heard it would come two years ago and then there was a long silence and then construction started recently,” Witoon said.

“At the EIA hearing, most of the time was used for a company presentation focusing on what they had done in other areas,” said Paitoon Mahachuenjai, Nakhon Ratchasima’s Dan Khun Thod District head. They said that if there was “any problem during construction they would be ready to help,” he added.

Local activist Suwit Kularbwong, chairman of the Human Rights and Environment Association, said communities affected by the project have limited access to information about it.

“Where will the pipeline pass through exactly? How much area will be expropriated or compensated, and at what rate? They still don’t know. This goes against the [country’s] 2017 Constitution on public information and public participation for such a project,” Suwit said.

“This project has been initiated by the state and developed with a top-down approach, without sufficient consideration of its impacts, and with poor public participation. What will happen if more and more people along the pipeline know about the real impacts after construction and learn that they were not informed beforehand? Local opposition is foreseen. And government should be aware of this as it could affect the ongoing construction of the project,” he said.

Chinese investment and public discussion

Suwit said there is inadequate public awareness and discussion about projects and Chinese investment.

“The influence of Chinese investment in this region as well as the Mekong has been growing rapidly in recent years, without taking human rights violations and environmental impacts into account. And [it’s been] actively supported and facilitated by our Thai government.

“The key question is how ready are we for such massive investment from China? How ready is our government to protect its people’s interests from developments like this one where they are losing their land?” asked Suwit.

To address public concerns, Suwit suggested open public forums so that discussion could take place on the controversial oil pipeline and broader development plans for the north-eastern region.

“That which is missing from the past EIA process should be fixed there. At the forum, all basic project information should be available beforehand. It should be open to participation and discussion from all groups,” Suwit said.

Thawisan shared the same suggestion. “Local universities and academics should also play an important role to help digest technical and academic information for local people to understand the project properly,” he said.

From our partner chinadialogue.net

Isaan Hawk is a group of three journalists working for local media in Thailand’s north-eastern provinces, each with over 10 years experience.

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Natural gas markets expected to remain tight into 2023 as Russia further reduces supplies to Europe

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Russia’s continued curtailment of natural gas flows to Europe has pushed international prices to painful new highs, disrupted trade flows and led to acute fuel shortages in some emerging and developing economies, with the market tightness expected to continue well into 2023, according to the IEA’s latest quarterly Gas Market Report.

Natural gas markets worldwide have been tightening since 2021, and global gas consumption is expected to decline by 0.8% in 2022 as result of a record 10% contraction in Europe and unchanged demand in the Asia Pacific region. Global gas consumption is forecast to grow by only 0.4% next year, but the outlook is subject to a high level of uncertainty, particularly in terms of Russia’s future actions and the economic impacts of sustained high energy prices.

Russia has largely cut off gas supplies to Europe in retaliation against sanctions imposed on it following its invasion of Ukraine. This has deepened market tensions and uncertainty ahead of the coming winter, not just for Europe but also for all markets that rely on the same supply pool of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sharp reductions in natural gas supplies to Europe are causing significant harm to consumers, businesses and entire economies – not just in Europe but also in emerging and developing economies,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s Director of Energy Markets and Security. “The outlook for gas markets remains clouded, not least because of Russia’s reckless and unpredictable conduct, which has shattered its reputation as a reliable supplier. But all the signs point to markets remaining very tight well into 2023.”

The current gas crisis also casts longer-term uncertainty on the prospects for natural gas, especially in developing markets where its use was expected to rise at least in the medium term as it replaced other higher-emission fossil fuels.  

European natural gas prices and Asian spot LNG prices spiked to record highs in the third quarter of 2022. This reduced gas demand and incentivised switching to other fuels such as coal and oil for power generation. In some emerging and developing economies, the price spikes triggered shortages and power cuts. Europe’s gas consumption declined by more than 10% in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period in 2021, driven by a 15% drop in the industrial sector as factories curtailed production.

Natural gas demand in China and Japan was almost unchanged in that same period, while it contracted in India and Korea. Chinese gas demand is forecast to increase by less than 2% this year, its lowest annual growth rate since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, natural gas prices in the United States hit their highest summer levels since 2008, yet North America was one of the few regions of the world where demand increased, supported by demand from power generation.

Europe has offset the sharp falls in Russian gas supplies through LNG imports, as well as alternative pipeline supplies from Norway and elsewhere. Europe’s surging demand for LNG – up 65% in the first eight months of 2022 from a year earlier – has drawn supply away from traditional buyers in the Asia-Pacific region, where demand dropped by 7% in the same period as a result of high prices, mild weather and continued Covid lockdowns in China.

The IEA forecasts that Europe’s LNG imports will increase by over 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year, or more than double the amount of global LNG export capacity additions, keeping international LNG trade under strong pressure for the short- to medium-term. This implies that Asia’s LNG imports will remain lower than last year for the rest of 2022. However, China’s LNG imports could rise next year under a series of new contracts concluded since the beginning of 2021, while a colder-than-average winter would also result in additional demand from northeast Asia, further adding to market tightness.

In addition to diversifying supply, the European Union and its member states have taken other steps to increase gas security, such as setting minimum storage obligations and implementing energy saving measures for the coming winter. EU storage facilities were close to 90% full as of end of September, though the absence of Russian supply presents challenges for refilling them next year. Both Japan and Korea have instituted policies to reduce reliance on imported LNG for power generation and have developed contingency plans for possible LNG supply disruptions.

For the new report, the IEA conducted a resilience analysis of the EU’s gas market in the case of a complete Russian supply shutdown starting from 1 November 2022. The analysis shows that without demand reductions in place and if Russian pipeline supply is completely cut, EU gas storage would be less than 20% full in February, assuming a high level of LNG supply – and close to 5% full, assuming low LNG supply. Storage falling to these levels would increase the risk of supply disruptions in the event of a late cold spell. A reduction in EU gas demand through the winter period of 9% from the average level of the past five years would be necessary to maintain gas storage levels above 25% in the case of lower LNG inflows. And a reduction in demand of 13% from the 5-year average would be necessary through the winter period to sustain storage levels above 33% in the case of low LNG inflows. Therefore, gas saving measures will be crucial to minimise storage withdrawals and keep inventories at adequate levels until the end of the heating season.

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Mozambique Readies For Developing Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project

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Mozambique is ramping up efforts toward establishing a sustainable energy supply to drive its economy especially the industrialization programme. As it seeks reliable foreign partnerships, it has already shortlisted a few energy groups for the new US$4.5 billion Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam, on the Zambezi River, located in Tete province that is estimated to generate 2,070 megawatts for Mozambique. It will be 700 metres long and rise 86 metres above its foundations, with 13 floodgates.

The tender for the “Selection of the Strategic Partner or Investor for the Development of the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project” finally in December recieved the results of the market survey carried out in September involving the critical aspects of structuring the project, alignment with potential buyers and shareholder participation. The structure of the energy transmission line, the methodology for selecting the strategic partner, the implementation schedule, among other relevant issues related to the project transaction. 

According to Malaysian newspaper The Star, the process of selecting the seven potential investors was made at the end of an investor conference held in Maputo. It further wrote that there were two individual companies and five large consortiums that previously visited the site to understand the natural conditions of the area and assess the fundamental data to prepare proposals from a technical, economic and financial point of view.

The newspaper estimated the infrastructure cost between US$4.5 and US$5 billion and have capacity to produce 1,500 megawatts, making Mphanda Nkuwa the second-largest hydroelectric dam in the country, after Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric (HCB), which generates 2,070 megawatts. With the two infrastructures in fully operational energy production, Mozambique hopes to achieve the goal of universal access to energy and respond to the growing energy deficit that plagues southern Africa.

General Director of the Mphanda Nkuwa development office, Carlos Yum, envisaged that during the construction phase, more than 7,000 jobs will be created, and 50 percent of the energy generated will be exported, contributing to the country’s economy and thus making a regional energy hub in Mozambique.

The Mphanda Nkuwa project will be a lower-cost power generation option which will position Mozambique as a regional energy hub, and contribute to universal access, industrialization, job creation and technical training while generating tax and concession fee revenue. The project is fundamental for the energy transition and decarbonization of the southern region of Africa.

Carlos Yum has laid out the status of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam construction project. According to Yun, the project is budgeted at around US$5 billion, and work will start in 2024, the year in which financing is expected to be definitively concluded.

The project will take a total of six to seven years to complete. Of the approximately US$5 billion price tag, 60% is for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line. At this moment, the development office is preparing the launch of public tenders for the updating of the project’s feasibility studies.

By December 2022, the office will launch a tender for the identification of the strategic investment partner, whose financial closing a 2024 deadline has been set. In terms of shareholding, the Mphanda Nkuwa project will have the participation of the Mozambican state, through Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) and Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric [(HCB), with between 30% and 35% of shares. The remaining 65% will be secured from private investors.

Carta de Moçambique also informed that there would be consultants involved – from Brazil, the United States, Sweden and South Africa – to assess possible problems associated with the project according to the best international practices, avoiding pitfalls that have marred previous projects implemented in the province and in Mozambique generally. 

It reported that experts and strategic investors, including the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (ADB), have discussed some significant aspects concerning the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project.

“Overall, we think this project is very important to the government’s goal of universal access by 2030,” said Zayra Romo, World Bank Mozambique Lead Energy Specialist and Infrastructure Practice Leader. As for the current stage of the project, which consists of the search for a strategic partner for the development of Mphanda Nkuwa, Romo said that the World Bank’s support would consist of ensuring the greatest possible competitiveness for the project, with a view to selecting the best contractor or investors that have experience to effectively manage Mphanda Nkuwa.

A press release from the Mphanda Nkuwa Implementation Office said that these companies and consortia had replied to the tender launched in December 2021, and delivered their pre-qualification documents before the deadline, first fixed on 28 February but, at the request of several of the bidders, it was extended to 18 April. It is hoped that construction of the new dam (which has been on the drawing board for decades) will finally begin in 2024. Construction will last for at least seven years.

According to the media release by the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office, the main objective is to ensure the coordination of actions for the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa project.

Location: The Mphanda Nkuwa Dam will be located in Tete Province, Centro region, on the Zambezi River, 61km downstream of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Project description: The Hydroelectric Power Plant will have a capacity of up to 1,500 Megawatts and an Electric Power Transmission Line from Tete to Maputo with 1,300 kilometres.

Budget: US$4.5 to US$5 billion, 60% for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line.

Strategic importance: The project will position Mozambique as an energy hub in southern Africa. It will provide lower cost energy in the country and region, contribute to universal access to energy in the country by 2030 and support rapid industrialization, with job creation, skills development and business opportunities (local content). Social and economic benefits, in the form of royalties and income on concession fees for the Mozambican state.

Environmental approach: The project will be implemented in strict compliance with national standards and internationally accepted best practices for the development of projects of this nature, to mitigate negative impacts and maximize positive aspects. In this context, the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office recently signed an agreement with the International Hydroelectricity Association for the assessment of the project’s sustainability, including training and capacity building.

Mozambique News Agency reported, citing government sources, that there were eight international consortiums interested to become strategic partners of Mozambique in building the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, with electricity production: ETC Holdings Mauritius, Longyuan Power Overseas Investment (Chinese), PowerChina Resources, WeBuild Group, Scatec (Norway), Sumitomo Corporation, EDF and Kansai Electric Power (Japan).

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic, political and security cooperation within the Southern African Development Community. 

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U.S. Government Likely Perpetrated Biggest-Ever Catastrophic Global-Warming Event

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On September 28th, the AP headlined “Record methane leak flows from damaged Baltic Sea pipelines” and reported that “Methane leaking from the damaged Nord Stream pipelines is likely to be the biggest burst of the potent greenhouse gas on record, by far. … Andrew Baxter, a chemical engineer who formerly worked in the offshore oil and gas industry, and is now at the environmental group EDF …  said, ‘It’s catastrophic for the climate.’” The article pointed out that methane “is 82.5 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing the sun’s heat and warming the Earth.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been aiming ultimately (and maybe soon) to get the gas to Europe flowing again, and said to EU nations on September 16th, “Just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going.”

Here is what U.S. President Joe Biden had already promised about that on February 7th:

If Germany — if Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the — the border of Ukraine again — then there will be — we — there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2.  We will bring an end to it. 

Q    But how will you — how will you do that exactly, since the project and control of the project is within Germany’s control?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  We will — I promise you, we’ll be able to do it

He had promised to cause permanently the end of Nord Stream if Russia invaded, which it did on February 24th. He fulfilled on that promise on September 27th.

Radek Sikorsky, who is a Member of the European Parliament and had been Poland’s Foreign Minister and is the husband of the famous writer against Russia Anne Applebaum, and has been affiliated with Oxford Universisty, Harvard University, and NATO, tweeted on the day of the explosions, “Thank you, USA.” He also tweeted explanations: “All Ukrainian and Baltic sea states have opposed Nordstream’s construction for 20 years. Now $20 billion of scrap metal lies at the bottom of the sea, another cost to Russia of its criminal decision to invade Ukraine.” And: “Nordstream’s only logic was for Putin to be able to blackmail or wage war on Eastern Europe with impunity.”

Furthermore on September 27th, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported that, as Reuters put it, “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had weeks ago warned Germany about possible attacks on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea” 

On September 28th, SouthFront headlined “No Way Back for Europe” and reported

It is reasonably suspected that the pipeline was blown up by the special services of the United States in order to finally stop the gas supplies to Germany from Russia.

On September 27, a detachment of warships led by the US amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge reported on the completion of their tasks in the area of the alleged sabotage in the Baltic Sea and headed for the North Sea.

Since the beginning of September, suspicious activity by anti-submarine helicopters of the US Navy has been observed in the area. In the last few days, reconnaissance activities of NATO aircraft have significantly intensified in the Baltic Sea area. In particular, a US Boeing E-3 Sentry reconnaissance aircraft was on constant patrol over the Baltic States, and a US Joint STARS was spotted over Germany and Poland.

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