Thailand aims to liberalise gas pipeline business by mid-2015

BANGKOK Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:57am EDT

BANGKOK Aug 15 (Reuters) - Thailand's military government plans to liberalise the country's gas pipeline business, which is monopolised by energy giant PTT Pcl, by the middle of 2015, energy policy makers said on Friday.

State-controlled PTT will spin off the business by transferring the pipeline and related assets to a new entity, according to a statement from the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC), chaired by junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The liberalisation will give other companies access to the country's gas pipelines and links to the LNG receiving terminal run by PTT.

Initially, PTT will own 100 percent of the new entity but the Finance Ministry could take a stake, Areepong Bhoocha-Oom, permanent secretary of the Energy Ministry, told reporters after meeting with the NEPC.

PTT runs onshore and offshore gas pipelines running 3,715 km (2,300 miles) and is building a fourth at an estimated cost of 39 billion baht ($1.22 billion). The pipeline business has contributed about 25 percent of PTT's core earnings in the past three years, analysts said.

The policy makers also approved PTT's long-delayed plan to sell its 36 percent stake in Star Petroleum Refining Co (SPRC) in an initial public offering in the second quarter of 2015.

PTT has long wanted to dilute its holding in SPRC but a listing has been delayed for several years by negotiations with oil giant Chevron Corp, which owns 64 percent of SPRC.

In their first meeting since the army seized power in May, the energy policy makers also broadly approved a power development plan for 2015-2036 and agreed to conclude details about opening a new round of petroleum concessions by the end of this year.

The policy makers will take three months to study details on power demand and what energy sources will be used for power generation under the new plan, in which alternative energy will account for 25 percent of the total.

Thailand, which currently uses natural gas to generate nearly 70 percent of its power, has been struggling to secure long-term energy supplies as growth in output and reserve replacement have not kept up with demand. ($1 = 31.8500 Thai Baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and; Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Alan Raybould)