Thailand’s Energy minister orders safety review of oil, gas pipelines following recent deadly gas pipe explosion

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Thailand’s Energy minister orders safety review of oil, gas pipelines following recent deadly gas pipe explosion

Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow has instructed officials to conduct a safety review of the nationwide oil and gas pipeline network, following growing concerns by state officials and civic groups over a recurrence of the deadly gas pipe explosion last Friday.

Mr Supattanapong stressed yesterday a similar accident should not occur again because of the fatalities and fear it caused in many communities that live near the pipelines.

The incident, which happened on Oct 23 in Samut Prakan’s Bang Bo district, killed three people and injured more than 50 others.

It alarmed villagers living near gas distribution pipelines in the province, located on the rim of the Gulf of Thailand.

Earlier this week, a Kanchanaburi-based environment group prompted PTT Plc to step up its probe into the accident and raised concerns over a section of the ageing gas pipeline in the province.

The national oil and gas conglomerate operates gas distribution through a network of onshore and offshore gas pipelines stretching more than 4,200 kilometres.

The operation is overseen by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

A safety review of gas pipelines is insufficient because Thailand also has a network of oil pipelines, said Mr Supattanapong.

Oil distribution along more than 400km of oil pipes between oil refineries in Rayong and Chon Buri and an oil depot in Pathum Thani, as well as oil linkages to Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, are operated by Thai Petroleum Pipeline Co and Fuel Pipeline Transportation Co.

New oil pipelines are under construction to cover Phichit in the North and Khon Kaen in the Northeast.

The Department of Energy Business oversees the operation.

Communities located near these gas and oil pipelines have been seized with fear after learning of the Bang Bo incident.

They are worried some sections of the pipelines may have signs of wear because they have been in use since the 1990s and are ageing.

Pinan Chotirosserani, head of Kanchanaburi Conservation Group, said earlier she is concerned about the Thai-Myanmar gas pipeline, which was launched in 1997.

The pipeline is used to deliver imported natural gas from Myanmar’s Yadana gas fields to the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand’s 2,800-megawatt power plant in Ratchaburi.

She wondered why the pipeline was not directly routed to Ratchaburi. Instead, it passes through several communities in Kanchanaburi’s Thong Pha Phum, Sai Yok and Dan Makhamtei districts before it enters Chom Bung district in Ratchaburi.

Safety concerns were also mentioned by provincial officials.

Earlier this week, Chachoengsao governor Maitree Traitilanont asked PTT to submit a map of the province’s gas distribution networks so local officials can put markers and warning signs along the route.

Mr Supattanapong instructed officials to look into safety issues carefully.

“I told them to closely examine pipelines thoroughly. Safety is the most priority,” he said.

Mr Supattanapong said PTT is in the process of investigating the gas pipe explosion.