* Domestic gas reserves will last for seven years -energy
* Plans to import more LNG, open new bid for petroleum
* Energy demand seen up 2.5 pct in 2014, natural gas up 4
(Adds quotes, details from the ministry officials)
By Khettiya Jittapong and Pisit Changplayngam
BANGKOK, Jan 9 Thailand is seeking more imports
of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and looking to other energy
sources such as coal and renewables as domestic gas reserves
will likely last only another seven years, senior Energy
Ministry officials said on Thursday.
Thailand, which uses natural gas to generate nearly 70
percent of its power, has been struggling to secure long-term
energy supplies as output growth and reserve replacement have
not kept up with rising demand.
Thailand's proven reserves for natural gas dropped 10
percent from a year earlier to 9.04 trillion cubic feet in 2013,
the first decline after the country began producing natural gas
from the Gulf of Thailand more than three decades ago.
"We need to seek several alternatives to help boost
domestic gas supplies, which will be depleted," said Suthep
Liumsirijarern, permanent secretary at the Energy Ministry.
Thailand became the first Southeast Asian nation to import
LNG in 2011 when it brought a 5-million-tonne-per-year terminal
online. State-controlled PTT is now looking at setting
up a new LNG terminal in a plan to double its import capacity.
But prices of LNG are two to three times higher than natural
gas and that will push up electricity tariffs, Suthep said.
Thailand is also looking at buying power from neighbouring
countries and plans to diversify energy sources into coal and
renewables, he said.
It is also planning to open a new round of bidding for
petroleum exploration concessions and extend the life of
existing production-sharing contracts to boost output of natural
gas from domestic fields.
The timing of any new exploration round, however, will
depending on the policy of whatever government is in place after
the elections that have been called for Feb. 2.
Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an
election for next month but anti-government protesters want her
to step down and be replaced by an appointed "people's council."
"We hope the new government will help amend regulations on
petroleum concessions and open a new auction. If we do nothing
or delay this, we could face a gas shortage," Suthep said.
Concession contracts due to expire in the next eight years
include those held by Chevron Corp and PTT Exploration
and Production, a subsidiary of PTT.
Coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant global energy
source by 2017, and only a drop in world gas prices could curb
the use of the dirtier fossil fuel in the absence of high carbon
prices, the International Energy Agency said in December.
In 2013, Thailand produced 3,037 million cubic feet of
natural gas per day (mmcfd) and imported 990 mmcfd from Myanmar.
It also had 729 mmcfd from Thai-Malaysia joint development
areas and imported 190 mmcfd of LNG last year. That was just
enough to meet domestic gas needs of around 4,950 mmcfd.
Thailand's 2014 energy demand is expected to rise 2.5
percent on the assumption that the country's economy will grow
4-5 percent this year, versus a rise in energy use of 1.2
percent in 2013, the ministry said in a statement.
Demand for natural gas is expected to rise 4 percent in
2014, boosted by growing demand for electricity, it said.
(Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Tom Hogue)