On August 10th, Banpu, Thailand’s largest coal mining company, purchased the Temple Generation I gas-fired power plant in Temple, Texas, spending $430 million to acquire a 100% stake. Banpu previously bought US shale and gas assets throughout Texas for $770 million in December 2019, tripling their natural gas output.
The power plant purchase was a clear shift away from the company’s main business model of coal mining. Banpu’s CEO, Somruedee Chaimongkol, stated in July that the company would gradually limit its coal operations and shift towards natural gas and energy use. Banpu, through various initiatives, aims to run low carbon, green operations by 2025. Kasikorn Research Center, a Thai think tank, stated the external purchases will help the company achieve a greater capacity in the green energy sector much faster than building a new plant. In addition to the United States, Banpu is involved in green energy development in Australia, Japan, and China.
Banpu follows suit with other Thai energy companies that have invested in Texas. In June, Thai petrochemical company, Indorama Ventures, announced the development of a technology center in Woodlands, Texas for the purpose of researching feedstock operations and sustainability models. Overall, these companies are evidence that Thailand serves as an important and crucial economic partner to the United States, with the United States serving as Thailand’s 3rd largest trading partner. Solidifying this essential economic relationship is the U.S.-Thailand Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed in 2002, and still serves as an important forum for bilateral trade initiatives and discussion.
Additionally, as an ASEAN member, Thailand contributes to the robust trade relationship between ASEAN and the United States. As the 3rd largest economy in the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN member states serve as the United States’ fourth largest US goods export market, supporting over 625,000 domestic jobs. ASEAN has also invested $24.9 billion in greenfield investments in the United States. The United States serves as ASEAN’s second-largest trading partner and has directly invested around $338 billion into the region.
Banpu’s move towards clean energy usage in Texas showcases close US-Thai relations and a clear commitment for a green future.
Isabel Ayala is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin concentrating in Asian Studies and Government.