THE ENERGY MINISTRY has revealed that a drilling site in Khon Kaen has enough gas to operate commercially – so a gas pipeline and another rig at the same site are set for construction within the next few months.
But a local environment group warned that petroleum production in the area would severely affect nearby villagers’ lives because of the pollution the drilling would emit.
Energy Ministry geology specialist Santi Thongwilard revealed that the Dong Mun 5 site near Ban Namun village in Kranuan district could produce 6.5 million cubic feet of gas per day.
“As the Dong Mun site was found to be operational, the gas pressure test will be done for another 30 days and after that 16 kilometres of gas pipeline will be constructed to transport gas to the plant and there will be drilling for another site nearby,” Santi said.
“This is good luck for the country that we found an operational gas site in our country. It can reduce the gas reliance from abroad and it will generate income for the country through royalties and taxes.”
Santi said Thailand used 5,000 million cubic feet of gas per day, while the country produced only 3,800 million cubic feet per day and had to import the shortfall from Myanmar.
He said that Apico, the American firm operating the site, would pay Bt29 billion to the local government and Bt188 billion to the central government in royalties.
Locals ‘left sick by exploration’
The news has shocked locals in Ban Namun, who claimed that 15 days of round-the-clock gas burning at the site as part of the exploration had left villagers sick.
The village is 1.7 kilometres from the site.
“We just heard the news that the gas pit will be developed into a gas production site and we are very disappointed with this news, because the people here have already been hurt by the gas exploration. The gas production will definitely change the locals’ lives,” said Nattaporn Arthan, a representative of the Namun Dunsad Environment Conservation Group.
The villagers had asked the Khon Kaen Administrative Court to suspend the drilling, which they said leaked methane into the environment and contaminated the local food and water supply.
The court was scheduled to rule on the matter on October 15 but that did not happen.
Nattaporn said the villagers would go to Bangkok tomorrow to protest at Apico’s office.
“We have no choice but to fight to protect our livelihoods,” she said.