BEIJING: Gas has started flowing to energy-hungry China through a pipeline from Myanmar, Beijing’s official media reported, in a major project that highlights their economic links even as political ties come under pressure.
The 793-kilometre pipeline runs from Kyaukpyu on resource-rich Myanmar’s west coast, close to the offshore Shwe gasfields, and across the country.
It enters southwest China at Ruili, near areas where heavy clashes between the rebel Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military were reported earlier this year.
As well as diversifying China’s sources of fuel, by supplying energy to the vast and less developed west it could help Beijing’s attempts to promote economic growth there.
It went into operation on Sunday at a ceremony in Mandalay, the official Xinhua news agency reported. “When torches flamed in the sky…. a storm of applause and cheers broke out,” it said.
But the controversial project is the fruit of Beijing’s long allegiance with the military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades, a bond that is weakening as the reforming government opens up to the West.
In an editorial on Monday China’s Global Times newspaper, affiliated with the ruling Communist Party, said: “This is another breakthrough in China’s strategy of energy diversification and has obvious significance in reducing China’s dependence on the Strait of Malacca for the import of oil and natural gas.”
Construction began in June 2010, according to China National Petroleum Corporation, the key investor.
A parallel oil pipeline is also part of the project.
According to Xinhua, the gas pipeline will be able to carry 12 billion cubic metres annually, while the crude oil pipeline has a capacity of 22 million tonnes per year. — AFP