LONDON Oct 11 International energy groups say
recent signs of political change in autocratic Myanmar are
unlikely to lead to a rapid expansion of their activities in the
country, which holds valuable reserves of oil and gas.
Christophe de Margerie, Chief Executive of France's Total SA
, said his company, which has a project in the former
British colony, would like to play a bigger role in the country,
formerly known as Burma, but had to see concrete signs of
increased democratisation before this was possible.
Western trade sanctions have been in place since the
military crushed a 1988 student uprising isolating Myanmar's
army dictatorships but in March, the army nominally handed over
power to civilians after elections in November. The process was
ridiculed at the time as a sham to cement authoritarian rule
behind a democratic facade.
It was followed by other overtures such as calls for peace
with ethnic minority guerrilla groups, some tolerance of
criticism and more communication with Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released last year from 15 years of
On Tuesday, state television said 6,359 prisoners would be
freed on Wednesday and political detainees are expected to
"We decided that... it was important to be in Myanmar but
that we will not invest until things are getting better... I do
hope that will happen," Total's de Margerie told reporters on
the sidelines of the Oil and Money conference in London.
Total leads the $1 billion Yadana gas project in the Andaman
Sea, and the CEO said he would like to back additional
exploration and production investments.
U.S. oil major Chevron is a partner in Yadana but
Washington banned new investments in Myanmar by U.S. companies
in 1997 and barred imports.
New investments by western oil companies could be a boon for
the companies which build and supply their facilities but
Andrew Gould, chief executive of the world's largest oil
services company, Schlumberger , said it was too soon to
tell the implications from the recent political easing.
Myanmar's crude oil reserves are estimated at 3.2 billion
barrels, the energy ministry has said. This compares with
China's proven oil reserves of 14.8 billion barrels, Malaysia's
5.8 billion, Vietnam's 4.4 billion and Indonesia's 4.2 billion
barrels, at the end of 2010, according to the BP Statistical
The country's proven gas reserves tripled in the past decade
to around 800 billion cubic metres, equivalent to more than a
quarter of Australia's, BP Statistical Review figures show.
Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director for Upstream
International, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Ali Moshiri,
President, Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and
Production Company all declined to talk about possible new
investments in Myanmar.