Saudi Arabia and Thailand sign landmark agreements on energy

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia and Thailand on Friday signed landmark agreements on energy cooperation and renewable power during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok.

The crown prince is a special guest of the Thai government at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in the city.

The main agreement on energy cooperation was signed at a meeting between Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Thai Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow.

“It will be a framework to seek energy cooperation that will be beneficial to Thailand and Saudi Arabia in different dimensions such as petrochemical cooperation, hydrogen fuel, carbon capture and storage, circular economy development, and low carbon technology, promoting energy innovation, exchanging useful information and experience regarding energy,” Punmeechaow said.

Representatives of ACWA Power, who are part of the Saudi delegation in Bangkok, also signed a deal on renewable power development with Thailand’s state-owned oil and gas company PTT and the state-owned power supplier Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

The agreement to develop a green hydrogen/ammonia project in Thailand would “expand cooperation in the energy sector,” Punmeechaow said. “Its objective is to push forward and develop hydrogen fuel in Thailand.”

A third agreement was signed by the Saudi Ministry of Investment and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to promote energy transition, the Thai minister said.

Thailand’s energy policy focuses on reducing dependence on natural gas and fossil fuels to enhance energy security and reach its ambitious target of supplying 30 percent of power from renewable sources by 2037. Its current power generation mix comprises only 14.9 percent renewables.

The Saudi crown prince’s visit to Thailand is a historic moment in Riyadh-Bangkok ties, which stalled in the 1980s and were restored only this year, when Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited Saudi Arabia on the crown prince’s invitation.

Many agreements and official exchanges have followed since. The volume of trade between the two countries has significantly increased, and more is on the agenda as regaining access to Saudi Arabia has for many years been a priority for the Thai government.

The restored relationship gives Thai exporters and investors more access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond. “This is a big, big issue for Thailand. Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East,” Prof. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies in Bangkok, told Arab News.

“That is a gateway for Thailand to reengage and reenter Middle East markets. Without the Saudi Arabia relationship, a lot of doors were closed. Now, more doors will be opened.”

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