Burma Invites Bids for 30 Offshore Oil, Gas Blocks

By Aung Hla Tun 11 April 2013

RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Energy said on Thursday it would open bidding in June for petroleum operations on a production-sharing basis in 11 shallow and 19 deep-sea blocks in an effort to pull more foreign investment into the country’s oil and gas sector.

“Interested parties are to submit their letters of interest to the Director-General at the Naypyitaw-based Ministry of Energy by June 14,” it said in an announcement on its website and in official newspapers.

The announcement, dated April 11, said “the potential bidders will be allowed to submit three proposals for any three offshore blocks [shallow water or deep water or both].”

Burma, a country of 60 million people, is rich in natural gas reserves, which government officials estimate to range between 11 trillion and 23 trillion cubic feet. The bidding round would be the third opportunity for companies to enter Burma’s oil and gas sector since 2011 and the second since U.S. sanctions were eased due to democratic reforms in the Southeast Asian nation.

The announcement said companies that won licenses for the 11 shallow blocks would have to work with at least one registered local partner, but foreign companies would be able to operate alone in the deep-sea blocks.

Few local companies have any experience in the sector.

In January, the ministry invited bids for exploration licenses for 18 onshore blocks. Foreign companies were required to have local partners and as a result about 100 local entities rushed to register with the ministry.

Expressions of interest were due by mid-March.

Official data shows Burma exported gas worth $3.50 billion, mainly to neighboring Thailand, in fiscal 2011-12 (April/March) after $2.52 billion the year before.

According to Chinese state media, gas from off Rakhine State in western Burma should begin to flow through a pipeline to China in May. A parallel oil pipeline is expected to begin operations in 2014.