Himalayan News Service

Yangon, July 11:

Energy officials from Myanmar, India and Bangladesh will meet here later this month to iron out differences between New Delhi and Dhaka over a proposed tri-nation gas pipeline, reports Xinhua.

A technical committee comprising officials from the three countries engaged in negotiations on the construction of the trans-national gas pipeline from Myanmar to India via Bangladesh will meet here this month, the Myanmar Times newspaper reported today.

The over $1 billion project envisages a pipeline that will carry gas from a newly developed gas field off Myanmar’s western Rakhine coast via the Indian states of Mizoran and Tripura before crossing through Bangladesh to Kolkata in West Bengal.

Bangladesh, however, tagged some proposals to the project calling for reduction of the trade imbalance with India, provision of a corridor for Nepali goods to Bangladeshi ports and access to hydroelectric power in Bhutan.

Some media reports said in view of Dhaka’s demands, New Delhi was considering alternate routes for the gas pipeline so that it would directly enter Indian territory from Myanmar without bypassing Bangl-adesh. The technical committee meeting would be a follow-up of a bilateral meeting between Myanmar and Indian energy ministers in New Delhi last week during which it was decided that India and Bangladesh would try to work out an agreement for a trilateral pipeline.

The energy ministers of the three countries agreed in principle here in January this year on the laying of the gas pipeline. However, a formal signing of the agreement has been delayed up to now. Huge natural gas deposits were found last year off the Rakhine coast by a consortium of foreign oil companies comprising South Korea’s Daewoo which holds a 60 per cent stake in the oil field, South Korea Gas Corporation with a 10 per cent stake, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd with a 20 per cent stake and the GAIL (India) Ltd with a 10 per cent stake.

The field holds gas reserves of four to six trillion cubic-feet (TCF). The whole block is estimated to yield up to 14 TCF of gas. Another Indian company, Essar Oil Ltd, has inked an accord with Myanmar to undertake gas exploration at one block in Rakhine and one block in the coastal Sittway region.

According to an estimates, Myanmar has a total of 87 TCF (2.46 TCM) of gas reserves and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves in Myanmar’s offshore and onshore areas.