It isn’t being detailed in the Western press — but things have changed drastically for energy and mining in one of Southeast Asia’s most important markets.
The most visible shifts in Thai natural resources have come in oil and gas. With the country’s energy minister General Anantaporn Kanjanarat setting a timeline Friday for new ownership of the country’s biggest natural gas projects.
Minister Kanjanarat announced that the offshore Erawan and Bongkot gas fields will be auctioned to new owners starting in July. With a deal for the fields to be finalized by December of this year.
The auction for these two fields itself was expected. With the Thai government having previously said it planned to take the projects back from current operators Chevron and PTTEP — when the project licenses expire in 2022 and 2023.
But here’s the interesting part. The same week as the auction was announced, a number of other big developments went down in the Thai energy sector.
First, the parliament tabled a bill to create a new state-run energy company. Showing that some lawmakers want to see the government take a bigger role in oil and gas development.
The strange thing is, PTTEP — current operator of the Bongkot field — is partly a government entity. With the firm’s 65 percent parent, PTT, being a majority state-run firm.
But the problem appears to be the 35 percent of PTTEP held by other, private investors. With the movement for a new state oil firm signaling Thai lawmakers may be trying to shift oil and gas control to other powers within the country. Related: Are Gulf Oil Producers Falling Into The ‘Venezuela Trap’?
At the same time, parliament also changed petroleum laws — to allow operators a greater choice of oil and gas contracts. Including production sharing contracts and service contracts, in addition to currently-used concession agreements.
All of which suggests Thailand may be setting up for a big shuffle of energy assets. A move that’s all the more interesting in light of the government’s recent de facto expulsion of international gold miners from Thailand.
That sudden and unexpected move may be part of a similar plan to shift ownership of mining assets — signaling big changes could be coming soon across Thailand’s natural resource sector. Watch for more legal changes in energy and minerals — and for deals to shift projects to new owners.
Here’s to doing the shuffle.
By Dave Forest
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