India proposes 5000-MW power plant in Myanmar

Vol 9, PW 11 (08 Sep 05) People & Policy

Oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is backing a proposal to set up a 5000-MW power station in Myanmar.

Yet to be approved by Yangon, the plant would be fuelled by gas from the offshore A-1 block, where GAIL and ONGC Videsh have a combined 30% stake. This report learns a team lead by oil ministry joint secretary gas Ajay Tyagi and including NTPC executive director BP Singh and GAIL executive director Rajiv Khanna made an unexpected visit to Yangon in the last week of August to see what Myanmar authorities think about the proposal.

Organised at very short notice, the visit was driven by growing fears that Myanmar will be tempted away from India by Chinese or Korean offers for its gas. Myanmar officials apparently gave the Indian team a patient hearing and agreed to consider the proposal.

Two opposing views dominate discussion of the power station proposal within the oil ministry. One view is that routing a gas import pipeline through Indias northeast is neither technically nor financially viable and that it makes more sense to set up a gas-based power station in Myanmar to import the power through the northeast.

An opposing view is that theres enough gas in Tripura to set up a medium sized power station but that poor local demand does not warrant construction of such a power station in this remote northeastern state. Example: in Tripura ONGC is forced to cap its gas wells for want of buyers.

ONGC has been asked to become a minority partner in a gas-based 700-MW power station in Tripura, we learn. But even in this project the issue of evacuation near the border (with Bangladesh) is less attractive.

Simply put, evacuating electricity from a power station in Myanmar to India would be harder still. Aiyar, though, has the last word.

I would not wish to rule out the electricity option, he writes in an internal note on 18th August, The power minister (PM Sayeed) was quite interested and positive on this when he talked to his Myanmar counterpart.