Thailand has all but abandoned its oft-touted and long-delayed 21st licensing round in its original form, with the next acreage release likely to comprise only onshore blocks.

“It’s still in the conceptual process, however the tendency is for onshore. Only for onshore areas, perhaps no offshore,” Supalak Parn-anurak, Director of Planning at the Department of Mineral Fuels, told delegates at OTC Asia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

The government is focusing first on launching the auction for new contracts to replace the expiring concessions for the producing Bongkot and Erawan gas fields.

Supalak confirmed the auction process, which upstream regulator the DMF has been trying to accelerate for “one year now”, is now being targeted to kick off in April.

The aim is to announce the winners around year-end and have production sharing contracts signed a couple of months after.

PTTEP president Phongsthorn Thavisin told Upstream that keeping to that touted timeline would help ensure the company would maintain its investments at Bongkot – PTTEP’s existing concession runs until 2023.

However, should the auction process be further delayed and not completed before the end of next year, then the Thai upstream player and French partner Total would likely scale back spending due to uncertainty over their return on investment.

In 2007, Thailand held its last licensing round and the 21st acreage offering has been postponed on numerous occasions since 2011.

Initial plans for the 21st bid round envisaged 29 blocks — 23 onshore in central and northeast provinces and six offshore in the Gulf of Thailand.

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