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State media reported on Thursday that the largest on shore discovery of natural gas for 20 years had been made in central Pahtolon, Magwe division. The deposit was estimated by state media to be as much as 909 billion cubic feet of natural gas and 7.16 million barrels of condensate, essentially naturally occurring liquid natural gas.
The find was made by a joint venture between Chinese state owned enterprise, Sinopec International Petroleum Corporation (SIPC), a part of SINOPEC, which is ranked by Forbes as possessing the seventh largest revenue of any company in the world, and the junta-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).
Despite triumphalist statements from state-run media Sinopec were reportedly downplaying the scale of the find, with oil and gas publication upstreamonline.com reporting that Sinopec had confirmed the discovery but were saying that it was smaller than the junta’s estimate.
The website also confirmed that SIPC would be carrying out more exportation on the Pathtolon field and would confirm the exact size after consultation with MOGE.
The find will come as a boon to the Chinese energy sector, ever hungry for new supplies of relatively clean gas, especially with recent reported fuel shortages.
It will also be greeted with enthusiasm by the junta, as the state press coverage indicates, but the divergence in opinion on the size of the find suggests that there may still be a way to go before deals on the extraction are finalised.
The Chinese however will be keen to further consolidate their position in the Burmese extractive sector with fierce rivalry from countries such as India, recently further exposed in leaked cables.
Natural gas is Burma’s most important and valuable export, reportedly earning the junta around $US2.5 billion in the fiscal year 2007/08.