ENERGY, INFRASTRUCTURE, DAMS AND WATER IN THAILAND

ENERGY IN THAILAND

The major energy resource produced in Thailand is natural gas, which is the main fuel for electricity generation. The proportion of overall natural energy use in Thailand is about 80 percent. Although natural gas production has increased considerably, the output cannot satisfy the demand, and energy has to be imported from neighboring countries such as Myanmar. Thailand has been trying to diversify is power sources to reduce it reliance on gas-fired plants.

Major fossil fuel resources are crude oil and natural gas. With the country’s rich natural resources, crude oil and natural gas have been discovered both on land and at sea. PTT Public Company Limited is the company in charge of energy in Thailand. The company was formerly the Petroleum Authority of Thailand.

In 2004 Thailand’s total energy consumption was estimated at 3.4 quadrillion British thermal units, representing about 0.7 percent of total world energy consumption. Thailand is a net importer of oil and natural gas, but the government is promoting the use of ethanol to reduce imports of petroleum and the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether. In 2005 daily oil consumption of 838,000 barrels per day exceeded domestic production of 306,000 barrels per day. Thailand’s four oil refineries have a combined capacity of 703,100 barrels per day. Thailand’s government is considering establishing a regional oil processing and transportation hub, serving the needs of south-central China. [Source: Library of Congress, 2007~]

In 2004 natural gas consumption of 1,055 billion cubic feet exceeded domestic production of 790 billion cubic feet. Also in 2004, estimated coal consumption of 30.4 million short tons exceeded coal production of 22.1 million short tons. As of January 2007, proven oil reserves totaled 290 million barrels, and proven natural gas reserves were 14.8 trillion cubic feet. In 2003 recoverable coal reserves totaled 1,492.5 million short tons.

Historically, the population has had adequate supplies of fuel in the form of wood charcoal, which was usually available for the taking from nearby forests and thickets. Until the midtwentieth century, the chief energy source for the country's limited industry was wood, supplemented by rice husks and bagasse (the dry pulp remaining from sugarcane after the juice is extracted). Even into the 1960s, wood was a major source of fuel for the railroads. Electricity, which was used for power beginning in 1887 with the establishment of the Siam Electric Company, was generated as late as the early 1950s largely by steam produced through burning rice husks. Other natural energy sources existed, although they were underexploited, in the large hydroelectric potential of the Chao Phraya and to a lesser extent of the Mae Klong and other smaller rivers. There were also deposits of lignite, which was used to fuel a number of power plants. Since 1950 small oil deposits have been found and exploited in the North. Oil shales have also been discovered, but exploitation remained economically unfeasible in 1980. The greatest potential for domestic hydrocarbon production in the late 1980s consisted of large natural gas deposits, which had been discovered in the 1970s in the Gulf of Thailand. ~

Energy and Economics in Thailand

According to the New York Times Thailand has one of the most fuel-inefficient economies. It has some but not much domestic energy supplies and is vulnerable to high oil prices. According to the World Bank: Continuous economic development in Thailand has resulted in a steadily rising demand for energy in the country, as energy is an important resource in order to drive the economy, whether the energy comes from electricity or fossil fuels. [Source: World Bank, International Energy Agency]

When the economic was growing in the early 2000s, energy was heavily subsidized. In 2004, when oil hit $50 a barrel, Thais spent about the same for diesel fuel as they when oil was cheaper because the government paid $5.5 million a day in subsides on oil. These measures helped Thaksin in the 2005 election but of course increased the national debt.

In 2005 Thaksin tried to prop up the economy by boosting consumer confidence and cutting fuel consumption. He introduced a stimulus package to try and achieve the former and cut subsidies on fuel prices to cut consumption of oil products. He also named Thanong Bidaya—best known as the man who decided to devalue the baht, triggering the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis—as finance minister again.

In June 2005, aimed to cut fuel consumption by reducing the hours gas stations could sell fuel and limiting the time bright billboards could keep their lights on. Subsidies on diesel fuel were phased out gradually There was even discussion of forcing television station to stop broadcasting after midnight.

Electricity in Thailand

The Electricity The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is the state enterprise in charge of managing electricity in Thailand, taken from sources such as dams in Thailand and purchased from neighboring countries, such as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Malaysia.

Electricity - production: 147.9 billion kWh (2010 est.); country comparison to the world: 25. Electricity - consumption: 131.9 billion kWh (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 24. Electricity - installed generating capacity: 47.38 million kW (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 19. Electricity - exports: 1.35 billion kWh (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 53. Electricity - imports: 7.812 billion kWh (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 30. [Source: CIA World Factbook<>]

Electricity - from fossil fuels: 90.9 percent of total installed capacity (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 74. Electricity - from nuclear fuels: 0 percent. Electricity - from hydroelectric plants: 7.4 percent of total installed capacity (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 121. Electricity - from other renewable sources: 1.7 percent of total installed capacity (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 62. <>

In 2005 Thailand consumed about 127 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Electricity consumption rose by 4.7 percent in 2006 to 133 billion kilowatt-hours. According to the state electricity utility, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, power consumption by residential consumers has been increasing because of more favorable rates given to residential customers over the industry and business sectors. Thailand’s state-controlled electric utility and petroleum monopolies are undergoing restructuring. [Source: Library of Congress, 2007]

History of Electric Power in Thailand

As industry revived and began to expand after World War II, the need for electricity grew. The supply was limited and unreliable, and some industrial firms and businesses installed their own generators, mostly fueled by imported oil. In 1958 the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) was established to generate and supply power to Bangkok and adjacent provinces. A year earlier the government had also set up the Yanhee Electricity Authority (renamed in 1969 the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand--EGAT) to promote development of hydroelectric power. The first hydroelectric generating facility was the Phumiphon Dam. Completed in 1964 on the Mae Nam Ping, it had an installed capacity of 420 megawatts in 1979 and a potential of 560 megawatts. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987 ~~]

Escalating power demand led to construction of a major oil-fired plant, the North Bangkok Power Station, which went into operation in 1961. Installed capacity from 1968 totaled 237 megawatts. The capital area became adequately supplied with the construction of a new oil-fired plant in Bangkok. The South Bangkok Thermal Power Plant started up in late 1970 with a 200- megawatt capacity; by 1977 this was increased to 1,300 megawatts. The country's second major hydroelectric plant, at the Sirikit Dam (potential generating capacity of 500 megawatts) on the Mae Nam Nan, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya, started generation with an installed capacity of 375 megawatts in 1974. A third large hydroelectric facility, part of a multipurpose irrigation, flood control, and power project at Ban Pho on the Mae Nam Mae Klong northwest of Kanchanaburi, was completed in the 1980s with an initial capacity of 360 megawatts and an estimated potential of 720 megawatts. ~~

Generating capacity to other parts of Thailand was on a much smaller and regionally unequal scale. Increased oil prices in the 1970s stimulated a new interest in lignite, and a lignite-fueled plant installed at Mae Mo, the site of a major lignite deposit, was producing 825 megawatts by 1987. Lignite reserves were estimated to be 865 million tons in 1985. ~~

In the South a lignite-fired plant at Krabi with an installed capacity of sixty megawatts commenced generation in 1964. A major purpose of this plant was to furnish power for tin mines in the area and the tin smelter on Phuket Island, in addition to meeting local needs. In 1968 additional generating capacity was installed on Phuket through a ten- megawatt-capacity diesel plant, and between 1971 and 1977 three gas turbine units totaling forty-five megawatts were installed on Hat Yai. In the late 1970s, three additional gas turbine units having a combined capacity of fortyfive megawatts were also located at Surat Thani. ~~

Development of power facilities in the Northeast received little attention until the mid-1960s, at which time the region had an estimated generating capacity provided by small diesel units of perhaps one megawatt. By the early 1970s, however, four hydroelectric plants had been installed at dams in different parts of the region, with an installed capacity of ninety-five megawatts. New gas turbines furnished an additional thirty megawatts, and diesel units produced an additional four megawatts. ~~

In 1987 the power sector was composed of three governmentowned enterprises: EGAT, under the Office of the Prime Minister, was the national power production agency; MEA, under the Ministry of Interior had responsibility for power distribution in Bangkok and the provinces immediately around the city; and the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), also under the Ministry of Interior, distributed power throughout the rest of the country. There were also a number of privately held distribution franchises that bought power from PEA or EGAT. Some privately owned industries also generated their own power. Installed generating capacity in 1986 was 7,570 megawatts, of which 70 percent was thermal and 30 percent hydropower. In 1985 industry used nearly 50 percent of the 20 million megawatt-hours of energy consumed. Residential consumption was 25 percent, commercial establishments used 25 percent, and street lighting and miscellaneous uses accounted for less than 1 percent. By the end of 1986, nearly 43,000 villages of the more than 48,000 throughout the country had been supplied with power. It was projected that 95 percent of all villages would have electricity by 1991 and essentially all villages by 1999. ~~

In October 2012 a consortium of Japanese firms, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it would build a $1.2 billion thermal power plant in Rojana Industrial park in central Thailand. The plant will have a capacity of 1,600 megawatts and is set to begin operation in 2015.

Petroleum in Thailand

Thailand has some oil. However it imports much of its crude oil and processes it into fuels and chemicals in local refineries and plants. The price of oil can have a profound effect on the Thai economy. Prices at the pump are often subsidized to prevent political unrest.

Crude oil - proved reserves: 442 million bbl (1 January 2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 52. Crude oil - production: 378,200 bbl/day (2011 est.), country comparison to the world: 33. Crude oil - exports: 39,820 bbl/day (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 48. Crude oil - imports: 807,400 bbl/day (2009 est.), country comparison to the world: 15. [Source: CIA World Factbook <>]

Refined petroleum products - production: 837,400 bbl/day (2008 est.), country comparison to the world: 25. Refined petroleum products - consumption: 985,100 bbl/day (2011 est.), country comparison to the world: 24. Refined petroleum products - exports:191,600 bbl/day (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 34. Refined petroleum products - imports: 7,564 bbl/day (2008 est.), country comparison to the world: 139. <>

There is oil off the west coast of Thailand and Myanmar. As of January 2007, proven oil reserves totaled 290 million barrels, As the world’s largest rice exporter it has raised the idea of bartering rice for oil with Iran, one of Thailand’s major rice buyers. Iran bus about 1 million tons of rice from Thailand annually. PTT Global Chemical is the partially state-owned oil giant

Oil was discovered near Fang in the far north of the country in the early 1950s, but by the late 1970s the principal field was reported close to depletion. Onshore deposits were believed to exist in other parts of the country, and several foreign firms had exploration concessions in the 1980s. Exploration in the 1970s in the Gulf of Thailand uncovered oil in limited quantities. Oil shales were found at Mae Sot in Tak Province in the North. Surveys in the mid-1970s indicated a reserve of about 2.5 billion tons. A smaller deposit, estimated at about 15 million tons, existed in Lamphun Province, also in the North. Surveys in the Northeast from the mid-1970s showed the existence of about 2.5 billion tons of oil shale in that region. Although 4 million barrels of petroleum were produced in 1983, extensive commercial exploitation still seemed remote because of comparatively high production costs. [Source: Library of Congress, 1987 ~~]

In the early 1980s, petroleum products provided about 68 percent of the annual energy requirement. The country was highly dependent on petroleum imports, and increasing world petroleum prices had a serious impact on the country's balance of payments. In 1980 there were three large, privately operated, oil refineries having a combined design capacity of 165,000 barrels per day (bpd); government sources estimated maximum capacity at 188,000 bpd. The Thailand Oil Refining Company (TORC) started operations in the mid-1960s with a capacity of 42,000 bpd. This was expanded to 65,000 bpd in 1971 under an agreement whereby the entire operation was to become the property of the Thai government in 1981. A second fully integrated plant was government owned but was leased for operation to the private Summit Industrial Corporation; the lease was due to expire in 1990. This plant had a design capacity of 65,000 bpd. A third plant was owned and operated by Esso Standard of Thailand and could handle 35,000 bpd. A very small 1,000 bpd plant was operated in the far north by the Ministry of Defense to refine domestic oil produced in the area. ~~

Natural Gas in Thailand

Natural gas - proved reserves: 299.8 billion cu meters (1 January 2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 40. Natural gas - production: 36.27 billion cu meters (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 26. Natural gas - consumption: 45.08 billion cu meters (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 21. Natural gas - exports: 0 cu meters (2010 est.). Natural gas - imports: 8.81 billion cu meters (2010 est.), country comparison to the world: 27. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

In 2004 natural gas consumption of 1,055 billion cubic feet exceeded domestic production of 790 billion cubic feet.As of January 2007, proven natural gas reserves were 14.8 trillion cubic feet. In 2003 recoverable coal reserves totaled 1,492.5 million short tons. [Source: Library of Congress, 2007]

Natural gas was found by international firms in offshore concessions in the Gulf of Thailand in the mid-1970s, and subsequent explorations determined that large quantities were recoverable, sufficient to alter favorably Thailand's energy position. By 1979 two major gas fields had been generally delineated, one located approximately 425 kilometers south of a proposed pipeline terminal east of Sattahip at the upper end of the gulf, the other 170 kilometers farther south. Proven recoverable reserves in the first field were estimated at nearly 1.6 trillion cubic feet and probable recoverable reserves at 220 billion cubic feet. In the second field, proven recoverable reserves were 1.3 trillion cubic feet and probable reserves 4.5 trillion cubic feet. Two smaller fields about 365 kilometers south of the terminal site were estimated to have about 500 billion cubic feet of recoverable reserves. The country's total proven reserves of natural gas were estimated at 8.5 trillion cubic feet in 1984. Thailand's production of natural gas in 1987 was 162.3 billion cubic feet. [Source: Library of Congress~~]

In late 1979, the World Bank approved a loan of US$107 million to the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, a state enterprise, to assist in the first-phase exploitation of the discoveries. A submarine pipeline was built from the terminal near Mapthaphut to a production platform at the major field 425 kilometers south in the gulf. When completed in the early 1980s, it was the world's longest submarine pipeline. Additional pipelines were built to transport the gas overland, initially to the South Bangkok Thermal Power Plant and later to a new thermal power plant at Bang Pakong southeast of Bangkok, built in the early 1980s under EGAT's 1978-85 power generation development plan. Gas was also distributed to industrial users along the pipeline route. ~~

Energy Companies, Coal, Nuclear Power and Pipelines in Thailand

The Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) is Thailand’s top energy, oil and gas firm. It is controlled by the government. Chevron and Unocal are major oil producers in Thailand. The Japanese firm Mitsui oil has found oil and gas in test sites in northern Thailand. Mitsui produces about 70,000 barrels of oil a day in Thailand.

At present Thailand gets no electricity from nuclear fuels. Before the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in 2011 there were plans to build five nuclear power plants in Thailand by 2020. State-owned EGAT Thailand was planning to build the country’s first plant, capable of producing 1000 megwatts, by now but as of 2011 it had not received government approval. After the disaster in Japan Thai Prime Minister Abhisit said the incident would “impact the decision on whether to build nuclear power plants in Thailand.” He told Japanese reporters that its is well known that “I’m not particularly in favor of nuclear power” and that his government had drawn up an energy plan that did not include nuclear power. A radiation leak in 2000 killed three people.

In 2003 recoverable coal reserves totaled 1,492.5 million short tons. In 2004, estimated coal consumption of 30.4 million short tons exceeded coal production of 22.1 million short tons. Banpu PCL is Thailand’s biggest coal mining company. It supplies half of Thailand’s coal, runs large powerplants and has invested heavily in coal mines in violence-prone areas such as Kalimantan and Aceh in Indonesia, and sells coal to Japan.

Pipelines: gas 1,889 km; liquid petroleum gas 85 km; refined products 1,099 kilometers (2010) In 2006 Thailand had 3,760 kilometers of gas pipelines and 379 kilometers of refined products pipelines. In 1998, a pipeline was completed linking a natural gas field off the coast of Myanmar with Thailand. As of 2006 it supplied 20 percent of the natural gas consumed in Thailand.

In the early 2000s there were plans to extract natural gas from the Gulf of Thailand and transport it through southern Thailand to Malaysia. The $700 million project was a joint venture between Thailand’s PTT PCL and Malaysia’s Petronas. It was scheduled to be completed at the end of 2004. The project was opposed by local fishermen—many of the Muslims—who say the pipeline will disrupt their lives and make it hard for them to make a living. Their main object ion was a fuel separation plant which will could harm the local sea ecology.

Alternative Energy in Thailand

To create energy security in Thailand, the Ministry of Energy promotes the use of other resources as alternative energy sources, such as hydro energy, wind, solar, biodiesel, gasohol, and biomass, including energy from high-technology production such as nuclear and hydrogen energy. As of 2009, Thailand got 1.7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

Thailand wants to replace regular gasoline with a mix that includes 10 percent ethanol and aims to raise daily consumption of ethanol 12-fold by 2006. Fuel wood is in dangerously short supply in Thailand.

Bio gas is collected from pigs and even prison convicts. Coconut oil mixed with kerosene is used is as automobile fuel. The idea was proposed by a coconut farmers as a solution for the problem of declining demand for coconut oil caused by health concerns. A village teacher and coconut farmer developed an engine that ran on coconut oil and used oil used by street vendors to fry donuts mixed with a small amount of kerosene to give it a “kick.” The engines have been used at shrimp farms and on ocean-going fishing boats used around Koh Samui.

Cement manufacturers cut fuel costs by using rice husks as fuel. Companies that once used coal to fire their kilns turned to rice husks left over from rice production that otherwise would have been dumped in landfills. The carbon dioxide emissions from rice husks are a fifth of that of coal. One of the leaders of the Asia wide phenomena was Siam City Cement which invested $360,000 on equipment to handle agricultural waste but realized savings in reduced operational cost almost immediately.

In December 2010, Japan’s Kyocera Corporation announced that it has agreed to supply roughly one million solar modules equivalent to 204-megawatts (MW) for Thailand's largest solar power project, which is being implemented by Solar Power Co., Ltd. Under the project, 6MW "Solar Farms" are to be constructed at 34 sites concentrated in northeastern Thailand. In total, the Solar Farm project will provide electricity for the local area with an annual power output sufficient for roughly 170,000 average Thai households. [Source: Kyocera]

The Solar Farm Project is being planned, constructed and managed by Solar Power Co., Ltd., and the power generated from the project will be routed to the Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand (PEA) and then supplied to homes and businesses. The project plans to build 34 individual 6MW Solar Farms for a total output of 204MW. Northeastern Thailand is particularly sunny, dry and hot and has a high amount of annual solar radiation. The use of solar power is expected to grow in the future. Since the introduction of a feed-in-tariff in 2007 the implementation of solar power has begun in earnest. The Thai Government has announced a plan to install 500MW of solar power by 2022.

INFRASTRUCTURE IN THAILAND

Thailand’s infrastructure has lagged behind its economic growth.

Sanitation facility access: Improved: urban: 95 percent of population; rural: 96 percent of population; total: 96 percent of population. Unimproved: urban: 5 percent of population; rural: 4 percent of population; total: 4 percent of population . [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Proposed Kra Canal—the Panama Canal of Southeast Asia

The Thai Canal, formerly known as Kra Canal or Kra Isthmus Canal, refers to a plan for a large canal that would cut through southern Thailand to enable improved transportation in the region like the Panama Canal or Suez Canal. A canal through the Kra Isthmus, which would shorten shipping times around Asia, was suggested as early as 1677. The Thai King Narai the Great asked the French engineer de Lamar to survey the possibility of building a waterway to connect Songkhla with Marid (now Myanmar), but the idea was discarded as impractical with the technology of that time. [Source: Wikipedia+]

In 1793, the idea resurfaced: the younger brother of King Chakri (Rama I) suggested it would make it easier to protect the western coast with military ships. In the early 18th century, the British East India Company became interested in a canal. After Burma became a British colony in 1863 with Victoria Point opposite the Kra estuary as its southernmost point, an exploration was undertaken, again with negative result. In 1882, the constructor of the Suez canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps, visited the area, but wasn't allowed to investigate in detail by the Thai king. In 1897, Thailand and the British empire agreed not to build a canal there, to protect the regional dominance of the harbour of Singapore. +

The width of the Kra Isthmus at its minimum is only 44 kilometers (27 miles), but the height of the interior mountain chain is 75 meters (246 feet) above sea level. Compare this to the Panama Canal: length of 77 kilometers (48 miles), but highest point at the Gaillard Cut was only 64 meters (210 feet) above sea level. The Panama Canal passes this point at a height of 12 meters (39 feet) (canal bottom) and 26 meters (85 feet) (water line), thus ships have to be lifted with locks to a height of 26 meters (85 feet) above the ocean. The Suez Canal is 192 kilometers (119 miles) long but passes entirely through a flat area (which was historically flooded by seas before). +

The length on land of a proposed Thai Canal could be anywhere between 50 and 100 kilometers (30 and 60 miles) depending on the route chosen. At a depth of 25 meters (82 feet) below sea level the width of the Kra Isthmus is about 200 kilometers (120 miles). By 50 meters (160 feet) below sea level this becomes about 400 kilometers (250 miles). +

In the 20th century the idea resurfaced several times again, now changing the preferred route to somewhere in Southern Thailand, to connect the Bandon Bay near Surat Thani with Phangnga. A Japanese plan for a canal in 1985 would have used over twenty nuclear devices each roughly twice the explosive energy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The latest proposed site is across Nakhon Si Thammarat and Trang provinces. If finished, it is believed that the canal would bring an economic boost to the nearby area and the whole country. The canal would compete directly with ports in the Strait of Malacca area, including Port Klang and Singapore. As such, there is a long standing rumor in the region that Singapore and Malaysia have been trying very hard to prevent the construction of the project by bribing Thai officials to vote against the construction of the project in the Bangkok parliament. The conspiracy theory is widely believed given the incentive that both of these countries have in protecting their own economy and industries who stand to lose a substantial sum of business if the project was erected. +

As a substitute the construction of a land bridge was started in 1993, however as the location of the harbors wasn't fixed, highway 44 as the only finished part of the project now does not end at the sea yet. The two lanes were built 150 meters apart to leave space for a railroad and eventually also a pipeline. Right now the highway runs from 8̊18.11 N 98̊47.03?E to 9̊9.47 N 99̊31.02 E and the project is stalled due to environmental concerns. This is also a reason for recent interest in the canal. The Strait of Malacca, just under 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) long, is narrow, less than 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) at the narrowest, and just 25 metres (82 feet) deep at its shallowest point. It is heavily used by oil tankers and bulk carriers. Some 80 percent of Japan's oil supplies pass through the Straits. Any planned canal in Thailand would mean that large ships could travel through the region from India and on to China and Japan without passing through the Strait of Malacca. +

In 2005 an internal report prepared for U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was leaked to The Washington Times, spelling out China's strategy of underwriting construction of the canal across the Kra Isthmus complete with Chinese port facilities and refineries, as part of its "string of pearls" strategy of forward bases and energy security. The Chinese plan called for construction over ten years employing roughly 30,000 workers and costing between $20 billion and $25 billion. Aroound the same time there was discussion on the topic in Thailand, where a careful was taken at a 120-kilometer route through Krabi, Phatthalung, Nakorn Si Thammarat, Songkhla and Trang Provinces. The Thai estimated the project would take 10 years to complete and cost around $25 billion. +

Thai Infrastructure Vulnerable to Terrorism

Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote in The Nation: “Thailand does not have a grand strategy to protect critical infrastructure sectors and assets such as oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand, oil refineries and gas pipelines in various parts of the country, or the subway and Skytrain in Bangkok. In the US, plans exist for the safeguarding of such sectors as well as infrastructure related to agriculture and food, water, public health and emergency services. [Source: Kavi Chongkittavorn, The Nation October 24, 2005 ^]

“In Thailand, the most important and yet the most vulnerable facility is the Map Ta Put Industrial Estate. Security at the site, which covers nearly 10,000 rai and is accessible by many means of transportation, is mediocre. Terrorists would have a field day targeting this area. Any risk assessment by security experts at the facility would reveal its current security system to be utterly inadequate. More than $14.66 billion was invested in Map Ta Put, making it the world?s eighth largest investment and economic zone. It is also Asean’s biggest foreign-investment zone. Thai intelligence sources have said in private that international terrorists consider this facility as a possible target, because a major attack on it could immediately cripple Thailand’s economy. ^

“Thailand also has a total of 2,660 kilometres of exposed gas pipeline - 1,369 under the sea and 1,291 on land. The hundreds of kilometres of underwater and overland pipelines running from the Yadana and Yetagun natural gas fields are particularly vulnerable to sabotage. There is comparatively more security and surveillance at the Benjamas, Tantawan, Platong, Palilin and Bongkot natural gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand. EGAT PLC’s nine power plants are also easy targets because of the lack of security awareness among EGAT administrations, who consider security upgrades as too costly.”^

Dams and Thailand

Bhumibol Dam was constructed across the Ping River at Khao Kaew Sub-district, Sam Ngao District of Tak Province. Constructed between 1958 and 1964, it is 154 meters high and 486 meters long and has a retention capacity of 13.46 billion square meters. The first and largest multipurpose concrete arch dam in Thailand, it provides electricity generation, irrigation in collaboration with the Sirikit Dam for agricultural areas under the Greater Chao Phraya Project, which embraces 1.2 million hectares in the wet season and 480,000 hectares in the dry season. The dams also provide flood mitigation of the Central Plain, inland navigation as well as prevention of sea water intrusion in the lower Chao Phraya and Tha Chin river basin.

A hydroeelctric plant in Laos supplies Thailand with a large chunk of its electricity. Similar projects are planned in Myanmar and Cambodia. If the projects come to fruition they will supply a third of Thailand’s electricity. Some worry about Thailand becoming too dependant on possibly unstable neighbors for energy.

A number of hydroelectric projects are on the drawing board. There are plans to build a hydro-electric dams in Trat along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Large numbers of rural people in Thailand have lost their homes as a result of hydroelectric dam projects. Some have been evicted from their land and received no compensation. With out a means of making a living, many of displaced people have migrated to Bangkok. An estimated 1 million people have been forced off their land. Many of them have no recourse because although their families have occupied the land for centuries they have no official title. May people don't now how to get land titles and those that do don't have the money to bribe bureaucrats to get the job done.

Dams In Laos and Thailand

The majority of electricity produced in Laos--approximately 75 to 80 percent, as of 1992--is exported to Thailand, which has an agreement to purchase all surplus electricity. The remainder is supplied to power networks for domestic consumption. Through 1986 the sale of electricity to Thailand was the country's most important source of foreign exchange. Despite increased production, in 1987 hydroelectricity yielded its place as the principal export to wood products, because of the drought, which lowered water levels, and a reduction in the unit price of electricity to Thailand. By 1991 a new agreement between Laos and Thailand had raised the unit price of electric power. Thailand is the primary investor in the hydroelectric sector; Australia, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, and Sweden also have companies with interests in various projects. *

Laos’s earliest major dam is on the Ngum river near Vientiane, providing 150MW mainly for domestic consumption. Completed in 1971 with Japanese aid, it flooded 370 km2 (140 sq mi) of forest and farmland to create the country's largest reservoir. The Nam Ngum plant began operation in 1971 with an installed generating capacity of thirty megawatts; by 1987 additional turbines had increased capacity to 150 megawatts. In the early 1970s, the Nam Ngum facility provided electricity to Vientiane; the supply was gradually extended to surrounding villages on the Vientiane plain. As of the early 1990s, approximately 80 percent of the power produced at Nam Ngum was exported to Thailand.

About twenty smaller hydropower facilities and diesel plants supplied additional power as of the mid 1990s. Since the mid-1980s, Thakhek and Savannakhét had access to a regular power supply through a repurchase agreement with Thailand whereby a cable under the Mekong diverts power from the Thai electrical grid; villages along Route 9 east of Savannakhét have been receiving electricity since the late 1980s. Louangphrabang has seasonal access to power from a hydroelectric dam supplemented by diesel generators. A power transmission line from Nam Ngum to Louangphrabang is scheduled for completion in the mid-1990s and will bring electrification to many villages near Route 13 that previously relied on kerosene lamps and battery-operated florescent lights. *

At least eleven sites have been identified for a series of further large dams to be built up to 2020 to produce a total of 5,000MW. Thailand would be supplied by a dam on the Ngiep and further dams on the Ngum and Theun, other sites being on the Kong River, Mo River, Xe Pian and Xe Kaman in the south of the country for supply to Vietnam. With political support, the only questions concern raising finance on the international markets. The largest dam planned is the Nam Theun II, 50 kilometer (31 mi) upstream of Theun-Hinboun. This dam will be 50 m (160 ft) high, provide 1,000MW and flood an area of 450 km2 (170 sq mi), construction cost being around half the annual Laos gross domestic product. Final hurdles to starting construction appear to have been cleared early in 2005, despite considerable environmental opposition. +

Martin Petty of Reuters wrote: In Laos “Thai firms dominate hydropower. With dozens of new dams, Laos aims to become the "Battery of Southeast Asia," providing 8 percent of its power by 2025, with the potential to generate 28,000 megawatts (MW). Half of that is committed to neighbors by 2015. Output doubled in March 2010 with the start of the $1.45 billion, 1,086 MW Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric dam, a joint venture between Electricite de France, Lao Holding State Enterprise and Thailand's Electricity Generating Pcl. [Source: Martin Petty, Reuters, December 18, 2011]

Thai miner Banpu and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Pcl each hold 40 percent stakes in the $3.7 billion, 1,800 MW Hongsa Lignite thermal power plant, set to be Laos's largest power station when completed in 2015. But these plants are prime targets for environmentalists. Laos recently bowed to pressure from Cambodia and Vietnam and shelved the $3.5 billion, 1,260 MW Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River, in which Thai builder CH Karnchang Pcl, has a 57 percent share and Thai state-run EGAT, has 12.5 percent.

In November 2012, Jonah Fisher of the BBC reported: “Laos has given the go-ahead to build a massive dam on the lower Mekong river, despite opposition from neighbouring countries and environmentalists. Countries downstream from the $3.5 billion dam at Xayaburi fear it will affect fish stocks and the livelihoods of millions.Xayaburi is being built by a Thai company with Thai money - and almost all of the electricity has been pre-sold to Thailand. [Source: BBC, Jonah Fisher, November 6, 2012 <>]

See Laos

Water in Thailand

Sanitation facility access: improved: urban: 95 percent of population; rural: 96 percent of population; total: 96 percent of population. unimproved: urban: 5 percent of population; rural: 4 percent of population; total: 4 percent of population; [Source: CIA World Factbook]

About 88 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water.

Thailand need a lot of water to support rice paddy agriculture, industry and aquaculture. Water management in Thailand has traditionally focused on buildings and reservoirs to meet demand rather than on conservation and reducing consumption. Water supplies are particularly short in northeast Thailand. Farmers in northern Thailand have lobbied for an agreement with Burma on tapping water from the Salween and Moei rivers.

Thailand raises water prices and sets up water banks to manages its resources during severe floods and droughts There were water shortages in industrial areas in eastern Thailand in 2005 despite healthy monsoons in most of the country. Some blamed the problem on poor managment of water supplies by the Thai government which had adequare warning that shortages were possible and failed to act. For example, a plan to dam rivers in Rayong and Chachoengsao and pump water through a pipeline to the Dok Krai and Nong Plalai reservoirs, the two main water resources for the eastern industrial zone, were not acted on in a timely manner.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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