US LNG export pause is a concern for energy sourcing in Thailand

– by Dr Kurujit Nakornthap, March 11, 2024

For decades, natural gas has been a choice fuel and an integral part of Thailand’s energy systems.

Over the past 50 years, gas has consistently provided more than 60 per cent of our electricity generation.  Gas has also provided necessary feedstock for the Thailand petrochemical industry, as well as LPG for cooking gas to millions of Thai households.

The reliability of gas as a power source has been essential to economic growth in Thailand. It is also the essential bridging fuel as the Country is embarking on the energy transition to emit less CO2, while trying to limit the use of coal in our power sector.

Thailand has been fortunate to have its own domestic gas resources, which we have developed sensibly and put to good use over many years, with the help of many US firms such as Unocal, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Hess.  However, our domestic gas reserves are declining, thus more imports of piped gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are necessary for our energy security.

With recent and forecasted increases in Thailand gas demand, finding different ways to access more gas supplies including LNG imports from various countries is imperative.

 

Thailand now imports LNG from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Qatar, Australia, and, increasingly, from the United States. The share of Thailand’s LNG imports originating in the US jumped from 5 percent in 2021 to 9 percent in 2023.

The development of the US to become the world’s biggest LNG exporter has been beneficial for the energy situation in Thailand.

It has supported diversification of our sources of gas supply.

LNG is at the heart of energy transition plans in Thailand, supporting growing investment in renewable energy and serving as a feedstock for the development of low-carbon energy carriers such as hydrogen and ammonia.

But the recent US Government announcement of a halt to pending LNG export approvals is a cause of concern for Thailand, as well as traders and importers across the Far East. It is bound to hurt, not help, the spirit of free trade that the US is championing.

It could also cause significant setbacks to the planned and proposed US export projects that could potentially support Thailand energy needs into the 2030s and beyond.

Any decision to reduce or restrict future US LNG exports would impact both the diversity and volume of supply on global markets and likely result in LNG becoming less affordable.

Thailand is proud to have powered a strong, vibrant and stable economy through the use of natural gas, which produces around half the CO2 emissions as coal when used to generate electricity.

Natural gas has positioned Thailand well as the country that opts for cleaner and efficient forms of energy, with the opportunity to be a leader for Southeast Asia in low-carbon energy solutions.

But with restriction of US LNG supply, Thailand’s energy sourcing may need to be revised, and future alternatives looked at.

Dr Kurujit Nakornthap is the Executive Director of the Petroleum Institute of Thailand (PTIT) and a former Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Energy.