BANGKOK, Oct 10 PTT PCL, Thailand's top energy firm, said on Wednesday its 2007 gas sales

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BANGKOK, Oct 10 (Reuters) PTT PCL, Thailand's top energy firm, said on Wednesday its 2007 gas sales growth would be slightly below target due to a delay in pumping natural gas from the A-18 block of the Malaysia-Thailand joint development area.

State-run PTT's gas sales should grow 6-7 percent this year from 245 billion baht ($7 billion) in 2006 and accelerate to 20 percent in 2008, said Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith, senior executive in charge of PTT's gas business.

PTT, whose gas business accounts for about one-third of core profit and 20 percent of revenues, had planned to buy 200 million cubic feet per day from the A-18 block from May, but an accident had delayed gas flow until December or January, he said.

The startup of PTT's third gas pipeline in March and higher product prices boosted growth this year, while new supplies, mainly from the Gulf of Thailand Arthit field and the A-18 block, would be the main revenue drivers next year, he said.

''Growth next year will be in line with gas sales volume, which should rise about 20 percent because the Arthit field will start operations in February or March as planned,'' he said.

Next year's new supplies included 400 million cfd from the A-18 block, 330 million cfd from the Arthit field and 120 million cfd from Arthit North, said Chitrapongse, 58, a PhD graduate of Lamar University in the United States.

PTT, which plans to build Thailand's first LNG receiving terminal, expected to be completed in 2010, was in talks with suppliers in Australia, Indonesia and the Middle East to buy 2 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year, he added.

A contract with a new supplier should be signed later this year, he said, declining to name the supplier. The new LNG supplies would be in addition to an already contracted 3 million tonnes a year to be imported from Iran from 2011.

''It's very difficult to buy LNG at the moment because supply is very tight,'' Chitrapongse said.

DEMAND RISING In a bid to reduce dependence on costly oil imports, Thailand has raced to tap its own gas fields and increase supplies from other countries, including neighbouring Myanmar and Indonesia.

PTT, which runs Thailand's gas pipeline monopoly, planned to spend 167 billion baht on expanding gas capacities over the next five years, Chitrapongse said.

The plans included building its sixth and seventh gas separation plants, a fourth onshore pipeline and smaller pipelines to transport gas to industrial parks in central Thailand, he said.

''We will spend a lot of money in the next two years to build gas separation plants. This will help ensure that we will have sufficient gas as demand will rise continuously,'' he said.

Domestic gas consumption was now expected to rise 10 percent over the next five years due to strong demand from power plants and the petrochemical sector, up from an earlier projection of single-digit growth, he said.

Gas demand was expected to be particularly strong in 2009 when construction of a PTT Chemical petrochemical plant and power plants were completed, he said.

PTT also planned to take 300 million cfd of gas from the B-17 block of the joint development area and 300 million cfd from South Bongkot in the Gulf of Thailand to cope with rising demand in 2009, he said.

''We probably have to look for oil. Gas in the Gulf of Thailand is not enough to meet domestic demand,'' he said.

PTT, Thailand's largest listed company with a value of $30 billion, has more than 30 petroleum, gas exploration, refining and petrochemical businesses.

At 0730 GMT, PTT shares, which have jumped more than two-thirds this year, were up 1.18 percent at 344 baht, while the main Thai index was up 0.8 percent.

($1 = 34.21 Baht) REUTERS MP DS1427

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