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Oil and gas experts predict Burmese boomtown

Despite the slump in energy prices, oil and gas fields in Burma will soon be the busiest in Asia as foreign and local investors begin to ratchet up their explorations, a recent seminar was told.

Waranon Laprabang, senior vice-president of Thailand’s state-run PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), said oil prices are creeping up.

“For now, operators need to see how they can work together to maintain the success we have achieved,” he told the third annual Southeast Asia Offshore Summit 2015.

Low energy prices will bring opportunities to the country as the cost of exploration falls in line with energy prices, said Daniel Clery, country manager of Woodside Energy (Myanmar) – a subsidiary of Australia’s Woodside. It is a very good time to explore in Myanmar, he said.

Than Tun, offshore director of Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, said the activities in Burma would be in full steam in the next three years.

Exploration must be carried out regardless of the energy prices, according to the Production Sharing Contract obligation that binds all local and foreign bid winners. This means that service contractors will be in high demand. At least two offshore supply bases will be required to fulfil logistics support for those operations.

“We will shortly start onshore operations such as drilling, pipelines, seismic activities, and some offshore works. We have tried to develop the existing offshore blocks and exploration on 20 new blocks will start soon. Onshore exploration in 39 blocks has also kicked off,” Than Tun said.

Burma divides offshore areas into 51 blocks: 18 are under operation; 20 new blocks were awarded last year; and 13 are in the government’s hands. Seismic tests and drilling of the new blocks are to be carried out in 2015-16.


Burma, officially known as Myanmar, is a promising country for international operators, said Xavier Preel, general manager of Total E&P Myanmar, which started operations in the country in 1992. “We are starting a new era of deep-water exploration in the country,” he said.

The new developments are also creating job opportunities for the locals, who make up 85 percent of Total’s staff. Since 1995, the firm has invested US$115 million in training for more than 150 technicians and engineers, as well as establishing a technical training centre for operators and technicians.

Oliver Massmann, general director of Duane Morris, a US law firm, said Burma’s decision to seek full membership of the World Bank’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is an encouraging sign for foreign investors.

PTTEP’s Waranon warned that education and capacity building of the local people seemed to be the biggest obstacles, aside from regulatory conditions, custom systems and special tax issues. But these can all be overcome for the sake of the country’s development, he said.


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