19 Feb 2020
Myanmar Eyes Key Next Steps in Bid to Ensure Power Self-Sufficiency
- Photo: Myanmar: Government proposals envisage 100% of the country connected to the National Grid by 2030. (Shutterstock.com)
- Photo: Zeya: Specialist power facilities developer.
- Photo: MSP: Photovoltaic supplier.
- Photo: Pioneer Dragon: Engineering services provider.
- Photo: Myanmar Inspection & Technology: Energy solutions.
Oil and gas, electricity and renewables players assembled in Yangon to formulate innovative, and novel ways of unlocking the nation's undoubted energy potential throughout the course of the Myanmar Electricity & Energy Expo.
Myanmar's nascent power sector presents a major challenge to the country's continued growth, with demand far outstripping supply and electricity outages frequent. In July last year, electricity tariff hikes were implemented to encourage more efficient use by consumers and industry, and to rein in demand. Myanmar's National Electrification Plan targets 75% of the population having access to electricity by 2025, and 100% by 2030. The Myanmar Times wrote recently that new generation and distribution capacities are urgently needed because "the electricity sector has been a growth bottleneck for a long time".
The second Myanmar Energy & Electricity Expo was held in Yangon, in part to assess the masterplan's progress to date, and was supported by the country's Ministry of Electricity and Energy, also known as Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE). The event played host to engineering, logistics, equipment rental and drilling service firms that support energy projects, renewables providers, agents and distributors, and global foreign investors such as Schlumberger and PTTEP.
Established in 1996, Zeya & Associates, which has bases in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, the country's capital, is a specialist developer of power facilities. Than Swe Ley, the company's Deputy General Manager, described its power generation work, saying: "In 2017, we completed the second phase of a 50MW gas-fired power plant at the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, Myanmar's first SEZ, which is being developed 20 kilometres from Yangon. It's Myanmar's first natural gas power plant to use Rolls-Royce engines. We buy the gas from MOGE and supply electricity to the national grid. This was an important project because the country really needs more electricity."
Reducing the use of low-quality coal to fuel power generation is a national priority, with hydro, solar and gas-fired sources preferred. Myanmar aims for 57% of energy generation to come from hydropower by 2030, with 8% from natural gas and 5% from solar and wind – and just 30% from coal.
Founded in 2011 with bases in Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay, Myanmar Solar Power (MSP) is one of the country's leading providers of photovoltaic solutions. At the show, MSP was promoting AE Solar technologies from Germany, for which it is the authorised distributor. Si Thu, an Executive Engineer with the company, saw demand for solar power increasing, especially on commercial and industrial projects. He said: "We work on private, public and NGO projects in all states. Our clients include the US and Malaysian embassies, and a new project for Unicef in Kachin state."
Royal Marine Group was founded in 1998 and works on engineering, fabrication and ship-building projects for clients such as Total, Sumitomo and TMT Ports. It is also Myanmar's authorised distributor for the Zinga range of anti-corrosion and galvanising products from Belgium. Myint Aung, the firm's Managing Director, explained, saying: "We've been working with JFE and Nippon on the steel structure and machinery installation for a waste incineration plant, and the insulation of an air separation unit plant – both at the Thilawa SEZ.
"Thilawa is a landmark project for the future economy in Myanmar, a joint venture between the Myanmar government and Japan. The latter is providing funding for the zone, the upgrade of Yangon airport and highways between the airport, port and SEZ."
Myanmar has abundant oil and gas reserves and is one of the world's oldest oil suppliers. More than 150 foreign investors are active in its oil and gas sector, but foreign direct investment has slowed in recent years. Production also fails to meet the country's demands, although the government is making strides to liberalise the industry, as new offshore discoveries have been made. Upscaling the sector is proving to be tricky, given the global response to Myanmar's political issues.
Pioneer Dragon, with offices in Yangon and Singapore, provides oil, gas, marine and chemical engineering services to clients such as PetroVietnam. Managing Director Thein Tun Aung outlined the challenges Myanmar faced, saying: "About 26% of total investment in oil and gas is from overseas, and the government would like to raise that figure. There was big interest from China, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia and Europe, but the past two years have been quite slow because of the political situation. We feel hopeful that investment flows will increase again in the near future, but the government will need to choose carefully which partners to work with."
According to keynote speaker, Vicky Bowman, Director of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) and a former British Ambassador to Myanmar, creating greater legal clarity for investors will be vital to bringing in investment. She said: "A problem for oil and gas operators and service companies is that the laws are contradictory and, often, people don't even know they exist." As head of the MCRB, a joint initiative between the Institute for Human Rights and Business and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, she consults with businesses, policy makers and regulators to promote responsible practices in various sectors.
The good news is that new policy initiatives are taking shape, with Bowman saying: "Myanmar has a busy regulatory agenda, including a Draft Petroleum Law, Draft National Land Law and Draft Environmental Impact Assessment guidelines, which are being supported by the Norwegian government. These will directly affect operators and service companies in energy, oil and gas, hydro and mining, so investors should study them very carefully."
Founded in Yangon in 2012, Myanmar Inspection & Technology provides technical services to the oil and gas and petrochemical sectors. According to the firm, such expertise is in much demand as Myanmar is drafting new occupational health and safety rules for the industry. Managing Director Than Tun Zaw, who has 20 years of oil, gas and power industry experience in Myanmar, Malaysia and South Korea, said: "We develop welding engineering, piping inspection, crane operation and liquid penetrant testing training for local staff and foreign investors. The oil and gas industry here is changing, and we are needed to ensure high quality because the government wants to raise standards."
Located near Yangon International Airport, Machinery and Solutions is the authorised Myanmar distributor for The Crosby Group's rigging, lifting and materials handling applications, Bauer Compressors, and Sulzer Pumps. It also distributes Emerson's valve range and provides after-sales service and maintenance for foreign investors in Myanmar. Chan Nyein, the company's Assistant Manager, said: "Another specialist area we provide is designing and fabricating modular offices for onsite operations in various industries, such as oil and gas, infrastructure and telecoms. Our clients include Coca-Cola, Heineken and the Central Bank's data centre."
VEM Motors Asia is the Singapore arm of Germany-based VEM, which was acquired in 2017 by a Chinese family firm and manufactures electric drive systems for the chemical and oil and gas industries. In Myanmar, VEM motors and generators are distributed by Yangon-based Burco Marine Myanmar, which specialises in turbochargers and electric drive services and parts. The two companies shared a booth at the show. May Thu Zar Htet, Burco's Sales and Marketing Engineer, said the company was established in 2014 and brought VEM to the Myanmar market in 2017: "We have attended a few trade shows since then and have seen a positive response, although the market is a little quiet at the moment."
The 2019 Myanmar Electricity & Energy Expo took place from 29 November to 1 December at the Tatmadaw Hall in Yangon.
Geoff de Freitas, Special Correspondent, Yangon