State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. said Tuesday it has begun construction of a pipeline across neighbouring Myanmar to speed delivery of Middle East oil shipped through the Indian Ocean.
Construction of the 771 kilometer (481 mile) pipeline comes as China boosts investment in Myanmar and tries to gain greater access to foreign oil and gas supplies to fuel its booming economy.
The pipeline will connect Myanmar’s port of Maday Island on the Indian Ocean via Mandalay in central Myanmar to Ruili in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, CNPC said on its Web site. It gave no indication when the pipeline would be ready for use but said it will be capable of carrying 84 million barrels of oil per year.
The pipeline would speed delivery of Middle East oil to China and eliminate the need for tankers to pass through the crowded Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia.
China is Myanmar’s biggest foreign investor and the closest ally of its military regime, which is shunned by the West because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.
Critics complain that oil and gas projects in Myanmar are helping to keep the military in power and could harm the environment and local residents.
“Past experience has shown that pipeline construction and maintenance in Burma involves forced labour, forced relocation, land confiscations and a host of abuses by soldiers,” said a group based in Thailand, the Shwe Gas Movement, in a report this year.
CNPC owns PetroChina Ltd, Asia’s biggest oil and gas producer by volume.
CNPC and another Chinese state-owned oil producer, China National Offshore Oil Co., have exploration projects in Myanmar and are expected to be key customers for natural gas from a newly developed offshore field.
China also has built an oil pipeline connecting its northwest with fields in Kazakhstan in Central Asia and is constructing another pipeline to obtain crude from Russian fields in Siberia.