Thai Energy Ministry reasons with villagers

Construction News

Thai Energy Ministry reasons with villagers

The Energy Ministry is urging protesters of offshore oil exploration near Koh Samui to hear its explanation regarding environmental protection and safety measures before taking action.

Local residents have been protesting in recent weeks against new exploration in the Gulf of Thailand at a field located 42 kilometres from Koh Samui.

Songpop Polachan, deputy director-general of the Department of Mineral Fuels, said the department and London-based Nucoastal, the operator of the new field, arranged a public hearing on Koh Samui early last month in compliance with the law.

But some protesters chose not to listen.

“We tried to explain this is just exploration and no one can be sure if they will find anything to extract. And this is not the first project in the area, there are a lot of oil fields operating around the Gulf of Thailand,” said Mr Songpop.

“I think the protesters were panicked because of the incident in the Gulf of Mexico. For the record, an accident has never happened here in the past 40 years even though there is a lot of gas and oil extraction fields located not too far from Koh Samui.”

Mr Songpop said there is no chance a similar incident to the Gulf of Mexico could happen here because the oil wells here are low pressure, while in the Caribbean the wells were high pressure, which is the main reason the oil is spreading so quickly.

Oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Thailand have an average depth of 30-50 metres, compared to the Gulf of Mexico‘s 1.5-kilometre-depth.

“The big wells here have reserves of around 500 to 1,000 barrels in one oil pocket, while those in the Gulf of Mexico, like BP’s leaker, have more than 50,000 barrels a pocket in reserve. These are different cases,” said Mr Songpop.

The DMF granted licences of exploration to Chevron and Pearl Oil that stood around 100 km from the coastline of Koh Samui, but they could not find any reserves.

“I want to ask them to calm down and listen to our marine safety standards and environmental protection measures,” said Mr Songpop.

DMF director-general Kurujit Nakornthap said the state may need to extend the licence for Nucoastal as the contract allows the government to request a penalty fee from the licence holder if the project cannot start in three years after the agreement was signed.

For this field, Nucoastal is required to start by the end of this year or the licence is invalid.

To prevent future opposition, DMF in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and exploration and production companies in Thailand has proposed to set up a fund from the offshore explorers for marine life preservation and offshore environmental protection, he said.

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