Long-Delayed Thai-Malaysia Pipeline Gets Green Light

Construction will begin in early 2003 for the Thai-Malaysia pipeline which will carry natural gas from the Gulf of Thailand to Malaysia. Work on the 230-mile trans-Thai Malaysia gas pipeline was originally due to start in late 2000 and geared for full operation by the second half of 2002. But fierce opposition from environmental lobbyists in Thailand delayed the project. "We expect to award all the (construction contracts) before the end of the year, and commencement of commercial operations should be achieved by the end of 2004," said Alida Nutkanjanakul, vice president at Trans Thai-Malaysia (Thailand) Ltd.

Construction can commence as soon as three months after the initial contracts are awarded. The total cost of the project is $700 million and consists of three main parts: supply of the pipe; laying the onshore and offshore pipe and construction of an onshore gas separation plant in Thailand. Earlier this year the government of Thailand decided to re-route the landing site of the pipeline by three miles to appease the opposition. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has insisted that the pipeline would go ahead, although protests erupted in September with calls for more delays to further study the environmental impact of the project.

PTT Plc and Petronas each hold equal stakes in the pipeline and gas separation project.