A crude oil pipeline between Myanmar and China opened on Wednesday for a trial operation, according to Chinese state media, giving China access to the South East Asian country's pumps after a five-year joint effort to build the connection. The 771-kilometer (478-mile) pipeline will allow China, the world’s top crude buyer, some diversity in its energy imports and should help to reduce its dependence on oil transport through the Straits of Malacca.
Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Yang Houlan, Myanmar Energy Minister U Zay Ya Aung and General Manager of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Liao Yongyuan jointly inaugurated the trial-operation opening ceremony in Yangon, reported Chinese media Xinhua.
The pipeline would help China ease its reliance on oil imports having to ship via the Straits of Malacca, where shipments have to bypass Malaysia, and eventually Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines – all countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. While the direct pipeline will ease some of China’s fears about the safety of its energy imports, some 80 percent of its overseas purchases will still have to travel the Straits, according to Reuters. China has also been increasing its crude imports from Russia, according to Bloomberg. The official opening will be on Friday. The first large oil tanker with 300,000 tons capacity is ready to deliver for that opening, according to Xinhua.
Construction began in June 2010 and was completed in May 2014. The project was a joint venture between the CNPC and Myanmar’s state-run Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), with a 50.9 percent and 49.1 percent share, respectively. The pipeline, which begins at the Made Island port, has a transmission capacity of 22 million tons per year.
The crude pipeline is also part of a larger oil and gas project between the two countries, where a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar to China opened in July 2013, according to Xinhua. Myanmar is considered a friendly country to China, whose government backed its military junta while it was under Western sanctions, according to Agence France-Presse.