By Malini Hariharan
I have been trying to get some clarity on what is happening at Map Ta Phut and what companies are planning to do.
Construction activity has not yet stopped despite the Supreme Court ruling last week which suspended 65 projects, says a PTT source. The government has yet to issue a notice to the companies. So it looks like prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has not acted on his plan to inform companies about the court order.
The situation is complicated. Most of the projects have received EIA approval and complied with all existing rules and regulations. Article 67 of the constitution asks for a health impact assessment (HIA) study to be evaluated by an independent body but that body has yet to be formed. A government panel, led by former Thai prime minister Anand Panyarachun, has been given the task of drafting new regulations and set up an independent body. The panel is now trying to accelerate the process and is likely to complete its task by the beginning of next year.
PTT's biggest concern is its No6 gas separation project which would provide feedstock to PTT Chem's new cracker. The cracker is not on the list of affected projects and can start at the end of the year. PTT Chem's plan is to carry out a turnaround at an existing cracker to divert feedstock to the new plant. PTT is also working on a plan to supply ethane from its No2 and No3 gas recovery plants where the company is due to complete a modification project by the end of the year. This project is not the list of 65 projects.
But the new cracker is unlikely to run at 100% until the No6 gas separation plant is commissioned.
PTT is also busy working out a strategy to ensure commissioning of this project in Q1 2010. One alternative being evaluated is asking the Central Administrative Court for a waiver as the project had already received EIA approval. This appeal could well be rejected as HIA is now needed. So PTT has also started preparing a HIA report which can be put up for approval once an independent body has been set up.
I was also told that another alternative under preliminary evaluation by PTT and Siam Cement is suing the government agency responsible for sanctioning their projects. "That is because the companies have done everything to comply with the rules; they have not done anything wrong," says the source.