State-owned PetroChina has begun work on the Yunnan section of the Burma (Myanmar)-China gas pipeline in Anning City, Yunnan province. The project, which will cost 4.6bn yuan ($730mn) in total, extends to 21 branch lines covering 1,700km and 13 urban gas projects, covering 15 prefectures and cities. Six of the branch lines are scheduled to come on stream together with the Myanmar-China trunk gas pipeline before June next year, according to PetroChina. Total pipeline capacity in Yunnan is expected to reach 7bn m³/yr by 2020.

While this latest announcement is a step forward in the construction of the pipeline running from Rakhine state to Kachin state on the border with Yunnan, the project faces a threat from political tensions. Violence in Rakhine targeting the Muslim Royhinga population has not derailed construction work, but fears of genocide and ethnic cleansing are rising. China is seen, locally, as having colluded with Myanmar’s military regime to gain access to energy resources, according to think-tank the International Crisis Group. And reformist President Thein Sein last year halted work on the Chinese-backed 6GW Myitsone dam in Kachin state, where fighting continues between local rebels and government forces.

PetroChina commenced work on the Chinese segments of the Burma Road oil and gas pipelines and an associated refining project in September 2010, while construction on the Myanmar section of the route started in June that same year. The two pipelines will supply 440,000 b/d of crude and 12bn m³/yr of natural gas and are due to be operational in 2013. The crude pipeline will eventually link up with PetroChina’s planned 300,000t petroleum wharf at Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu port on the Bay of Bengal.

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