Banpu—controlled by billionaire Isara Vongkusolkit and his family—has agreed to buy natural gas fields in Texas from Exxon Mobil for $750 million as the Thai coal miner accelerates its transition into cleaner energy.
Under the deal announced late Friday, Banpu’s BKV Corp. will acquire 160,000 net acres in the Barnett Shale field—which holds about 93% stake across 2,100 wells that produce 225 million cubic feet equivalent (CFE) of natural gas per day—from Exxon Mobile subsidiaries XTO Energy and Barnett Gathering. The transaction will boost Banpu’s natural gas output by about 32% to 5.8 trillion CFE per day.
“Our gas business is now well-positioned to scale up with extensive synergies and technology enhancement to build sustainable value,” Somruedee Chaimongkol, CEO of Banpu, said in a statement. “Today, BKV is a leading natural gas operator in the U.S. with an integrated approach to the value chain that allows the company to certify its responsibly sourced gas at the well head.”
The latest acquisition follows the acquisition of a 768-megawatt combined cycle gas-fired power plant in Texas last August for $430 million. Banpu is deepening investments in power projects that use cleaner fuel to achieve its goal of expanding the group’s electricity generation capacity to 6,100 megawatts by 2025 from over 3,300 megawatts currently, according to Banpu’s website.
The investments are starting to payoff, with Banpu reporting a first quarter net profit of 10.26 billion baht ($311 million) on sales of 41.5 billion baht. “Our strong first quarter earnings were driven by global economic recovery across industrial sectors and rising energy demand, with growing cash flow generated from both existing businesses and new acquisitions,” Chaimongkol said when the company announced its quarterly results earlier this month.
Banpu is one of three companies controlled by Isara Vongkusolkit, 73, and his family. The family owns privately held Mitr Phol—Asia’s largest sugar producer by revenue—and SET-listed developer Erawan Group, which has over 70 hotels under different brands, including Grand Hyatt. With a net worth of $1.6 billion, the family was ranked No. 24 in the latest list of Thailand’s 50 Richest that was published last June.