Malampaya: When the gas runs out will Luzon have power?

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – The Malampaya Natural Gas Facility supplies fuel to three major power plants in Luzon.

These plants provide 40-percent of the island's energy requirement.

But Malampaya's lifespan is projected to end in less than a decade.

The facility is expected to produce less fuel in its remaining year. So to help maximize its output, Malampaya operator Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. installed another platform to help pump gas from under the ocean.

Albert Emas, Shell offshore installation manager, says: "It's like, let's say, a water jug: Every time you get water from the water jug, di ba, it declines. So pero there's a certain limit or level na you would be concerned about na oops, masyado na mababa yung level ng jug ko."

The Malampaya facility only has nine years left before it runs out of natural gas.

The government is now finding other sources of fuel within the country's territory to sustain the production of three power plants relying on Malampaya.

Without a new fuel source, the government says it may resort to importing fuel. The problem is that this will entail a higher cost that will be passed on to consumers.

One of the areas up for oil and gas exploration is Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

However, a territorial spat with China forced the government to stop activities in that area.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla says the government wouldn't realy know oil reserve prospects in the area until drilling is actually conducted.

Malampaya operators are now searching for other gas sources near their service contract.

This may augment supply or even extend the life of Malampaya.

Sebastian Quiñones, managing director of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V., says: "There are what we call field reservoirs that are close to Malampaya. Meron, but it would require us to obviously drill and then bring the gas to here."

But to do that, the company needs to shell out billions of dollars to conduct exploration activities as well as renegotiate a new contract with the government beyond 2024.