UPDATE 2-Thailand's EGAT seeks LNG for first time as market liberalises

* Seeking up to 1.5 mmtpa of LNG from 2019

* EGAT has been buying gas from Thailand’s sole importer PTT

* Part of liberalisation of market to create competition (Adds analyst comment)

SINGAPORE, Aug 21 (Reuters) - State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is seeking to directly import liquefied natural gas (LNG) for the first time, as part of a government plan to boost competition in the power sector.

Thailand joins other Asian countries such as China where LNG imports have risen exponentially over the past few years driven by strong economic growth and a push for cleaner air.

“This seems to be a continuation of the current trend, where we see increasing amounts of end-user buyers coming to the market to procure LNG directly,” said Edmund Siau, analyst with energy consultancy FGE.

EGAT is requesting expressions of interest for up to 1.5 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) of LNG via Thailand’s existing Map Ta Phut LNG Receiving Terminal in the eastern part of the country, according to a document issued by the company and reviewed by Reuters.

EGAT, the country’s largest power producer, typically buys gas from state-owned PTT, which is Thailand’s sole gas supplier and its only LNG importer.

EGAT is seeking expressions of interest for the delivery of LNG through an agreement with PTT’s LNG terminal for 4 to 8 years from March 2019, according to the document.

The LNG will feed its power plants, including South Bangkok, Bang Pakong and Wang Noi, as part of Thailand’s target to increase competition in the downstream gas sector.

PTT will be allowed to participate in EGAT’s tendering process. Expressions of interest are due by Aug. 31.

EGAT also acquired access to 1.5 mmtpa of regasification capacity from PTT LNG at the current terminal, over a 38-year period from 2019 to 2056, the document said.

EGAT is also planning its own 5 mmtpa floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) in the Gulf of Thailand, expected to be ready by 2024, it said. The FSRU will be linked to Thailand’s existing gas pipeline network.

Thailand’s LNG imports could more than double in five years from the current 4 mmtpa, driven by rising import dependency amidst declining domestic gas production, said FGE’s Siau.

“Thailand is looking to diversify its gas supply away from declining production from the Gulf of Thailand,” he said, adding that pipeline gas import contracts with Myanmar are set to expire over the next decade.

“Coal-fired power generation has been proposed several times, but there is strong anti-coal sentiment in Thailand, he said. “New coal projects in Thailand have been delayed multiple times.” (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)