By ERIKA KINETZ
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) â¿¿ Myanmar plans to put over 20 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks up for auction by April as the country pushes to attract foreign investment and expertise to help overcome an energy deficit that's a legacy of gas export deals made by its former military rulers.
Myanmar produces more than enough natural gas, which is its primary source of energy after biomass, to meet domestic needs. But it exports about 80 percent of the 1.2 to 1.4 billion cubic feet of gas it produces each day to Thailand under contracts signed by Myanmar's old authoritarian military rulers.
A new gas pipeline to China, which may not be able to commence operations in June as scheduled because of a recent outbreak of violence in Myanmar's northeast, would initially send an additional 400 million cubic feet of natural gas per day out of the country. Eventually, that could rise to 1.2 billion cubic feet per day, government officials said.
That leaves Myanmar with about half of the natural gas it needs to meet domestic demand. If it didn't export so much, it could easily meet its domestic needs, which are expected to rise from 471 million cubic feet per day in the fiscal year that ends March 31 to 918 million cubic feet per day next fiscal year, according to Ministry of Energy statistics.
Myanmar's energy sector today reflects the larger drama of a country struggling to change course, while still honoring contracts made by previous regimes on often unfavorable terms. The struggle to balance old commitments with new values and new freedoms can be seen around the country. A violent crackdown on protests against the Letpadaung copper mine in northwestern Myanmar â¿¿ which is jointly owned by a Chinese company and a company owned by the Myanmar military â¿¿ has triggered an official inquiry led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. And farmers who claim their land was seized by the country's old military junta are waging countless smaller battles to get their property back.