Offshore oil plan causes alarm

KARON : A plan to unload large quantities of crude oil in the open sea north of Phuket and store it in Phang Nga has brought expressions of concern from Pamuke Achariyachai, Chairman of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, at a meeting with senior government ministers over the weekend. But his objections may be too late. “We are afraid of oil leaking,” he told the gathering of ministers, officials and media representatives from Bangkok. “A big spill would ruin tourism in Phuket. The environment might be destroyed and we might never be able to restore everything to the way it was.” In response, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam indicated that there was not much more room for debate. The government had been studying the issue for 10 years, he said. “Now that I have toured the sites, I am persuaded that they are suitable and I will present this conclusion to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra,” he added. The sea and land oil pipeline is part of the government’s plan to build a Strategic Energy Landbridge (SELB) that would permit Thailand to increase its oil reserves from 36 days’ supply to 60 or even 90 days. Crude oil from tankers off the west coast would be carried by pipeline to a tank farm at Ban Tab Lamu, near the Royal Thai Navy Base in Phang Nga. A similar pipeline would be built on the east coast with a storage facility in Surat Thani. Combined, the two facilities could store up to five million barrels of oil. The SELB – an oil pipeline and road – would link the two sites. About 100 local government staff and members of the business sectors in Phuket and Phang Nga were at the meeting on Saturday evening at Karon Villa. Other ministers from Bangkok included Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej and the Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit. The ministers viewed sites on both sides of the isthmus at the weekend. Deputy PM Wissanu said that the government believes that the multi-billion-baht project will allow Thailand to become a regional trading and oil reserve center. Widening Phuket’s bypass road was another project discussed by the meeting.

Phuket News
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