|Wikileaks:||View 02RANGOON1340 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||ENRG EPET ECON BM Economy|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 RANGOON 001340 SIPDIS STATE FOR EAP, EB COMMERCE FOR ITA JEAN KELLY TREASURY FOR OASIA JEFF NEIL CINCPAC FOR FPA E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2012 TAGS: ENRG, EPET, ECON, BM, Economy SUBJECT: BURMA: DARKNESS AT NOON REF: A. RANGOON 1292 B. 01 RANGOON 1819 C. 01 RANGOON 783 Classified By: COM CARMEN MARTINEZ FOR REASONS 1.5 (B,D) 1. (C) Summary: Power is flowing nearly 24 hours a day in the capital. The government is making this happen through a hodgepodge of policy proclamations, full dams at the hydropower plants, and expensive, and potentially dangerous, stopgap measures. Because of increasing agitation over food prices, the regime is trying to hold this Potemkin village together until after the harvests in November. However, as we see no long-term solution on the drawing board, we expect darkness to descend again by the end of the dry season. End Summary. Light at the End of the Tunnel? 2. (U) Denizens of Rangoon have been pleasantly surprised by nearly 24 hour electricity in their homes since September 18 or 19. The government asserts that this will be the reality from now on as additional natural gas is brought into the city from the offshore Yadana field. Also, the government says, a turbine in a Rangoon-area power plant has been fixed allowing for full capacity generation of power. The government mouthpiece newspaper New Light of Myanmar has been filled with photos and stories of officials from the Ministry of Electric Power visiting power plants, factories, and government offices offering "guidance" on production and conservation of electricity. 3. (C) The government is, in fact, able to pipe some gas now from Yadana to the capital. However, there is less to their claims than meets the eye. This gas is coming over a haphazard collection of poorly constructed pipelines of varying diameters running from Kanbauk in Tanintharyi Division up to Hpa'an and then on to Rangoon. A Ministry of Energy official claims it is now piping 50 million cubic feet a day (mcfd) through this pipeline network (although he admitted that most of this was consumed by factories and power plants along the way). UNOCAL says that supplies now are running about 40 mcfd, though how long the pipeline can sustain the volume remains a question mark. Because of its poor quality, the existing Burmese pipeline system could easily be disabled through corrosion, flooding along the pipeline's path, or explosion. No Easy Way Out 4. (C) Other than this shaky supply from Yadana, the government is relying on four things to keep the lights burning in Rangoon. -- First, the government has ceased piping 8 mcfd of gas per day from the onshore A'Pyauk field, near Rangoon, to a power plant near Thaton. This supply has been redirected to power plants in the Rangoon area. -- Second, the government is now firing up existing hydropower plants whose dams are full following the heavy monsoon season this year. -- Third, the government is pushing massive conservation efforts, both in the ministries and at state-owned factories. Ministry buildings, government schools, and hospitals are kept dark except for emergencies. A representative of a foreign oil company told us that the government has ceased sending gas to its fertilizer and methanol plants. -- Finally, the government is spending precious hard currency to import high-speed diesel fuel (at around $40/barrel) to run generators and dual-fuel turbines. 5. (C) These strategies may be effective in the short term, but are not sustainable. As reported in Refs B and C, the A'Pyauk gas field is nearly drained, producing at under 40 mcfd and declining rapidly. The other major onshore gas field, in Nyaung Doun, is masking some of A'Pyauk's decline (producing between 25 and 45 mcfd depending on whom you ask), but is being exploited too quickly. This unwise strategy shortens the fields economic life span and risks spoiling the gas by sucking water into the reserve. Based on our sources, we think the A'Pyauk field could run dry within a year. The Nyaung Doun field should hold out a few more years, but unsound drilling practices could reduce yield and drive up costs of production. 6. (C) Hydropower is also only a temporary balm. If conditions are perfect, hydropower plants in operation can generate 350-390 MW of power (Rangoon relies on hydropower for 250 MW), but nearly 40 percent of this will be lost during transmission. However, some of these plants are in dire need of refurbishment, and in any event, this peak generating capacity is available only during the period of least demand, during the post-monsoon "cool season" (October to February). The dams are usually quite low, and generation capacity much reduced, during the "hot season" period of peak demand (March to July). The government claims that 2136.6 MW of new hydropower will be available over the next five years as new dams and plants are built. However, only about 510 MW of new generating capacity is predicted between now and the end of 2003 -- and we are skeptical of this number. 7. (C) The Burmese government claims it is moving away from fueling its power plants with imported oil as it is a very expensive solution -- particularly as the cost of Malaysian and Sumatran oil rises alongside Middle East oil. Domestic oil fields are producing about 6000 barrels a day, but the production is not economical and provides only about 60 percent of total domestic demand during normal times. No new oil production is forecasted, although the Chinese National Petroleum Company has agreed to work with the Ministry of Energy to try and pump out any remaining oil in the old Pyay fields north of Rangoon. 8. (C) Finally, radical conservation by government ministries will have no real impact on the energy situation here. More alarming is if the government continues to keep hospitals and schools in the dark. Though keeping fertilizer and other factories idled will have the largest impact on energy conservation (we estimate that heavy industry here consumes about 85 mcfd of gas) the impact on the economy, and in the case of fertilizer plants food yields, will be devastating. Which Way Out? 9. (C) Unfortunately there are no quick, or cheap, solutions. The most logical move would be for the Burmese to claim the right it negotiated several years ago to 125 million cubic feet a day of Yadana gas by approving the Total/UNOCAL plan to build a 20-inch pipeline directly from the Yadana to Rangoon. This has been tabled since the end of 2000 due to reluctance by Senior General Than Shwe to front the $750 million (over 15 years) price tag. A Ministry of Energy official said, though, that there was no interest now in continuing with this project. Instead the focus would remain on using the existing domestically constructed pipelines, cooperating with neighboring countries on regional pipeline projects, and on developing hydropower. The latter two priorities are long-term solutions. 10. (C) If, as we predict, Burma's dwindling onshore gas reserves suddenly become unreliable, the only short-term option for the Burmese government will be to try its luck buying additional gas from the Yadana pipeline consortium, expensive and unlikely if the Thais increase demand or if the Burmese do not upgrade their pipeline network. Another option would be to negotiate with the Yetagun operators for a share of its Thai-destined gas, though this too would be a very expensive solution. Failing this, the Burmese might have to return to the most expensive option of all, shifting their plants back onto imported oil, and increasing their purchases from Malaysia. Comment 11. (C) We cannot predict exactly when the lights will start going out again, but we would be surprised if the government could keep its expensive patchwork of stopgap measures in place for long. Because of growing unrest over mounting food prices, see Ref A, the government is desperate to maintain the illusion of government sacrifice and electricity upgrades until after the rice harvest in October of November. However, once the flush of monsoon-driven hydropower subsides in January and February, the government will be stuck trying to supply nearly all the country's energy needs with imported oil and gas. This is an impossible proposition for an already foreign exchange-poor country. End comment. Martinez
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