September 25, 2007 / 8:31 AM / in 10 years

FACTBOX:What's behind Myanmar's painful oil and gas price rise?

(For related story see MYANMAR/ or [ID:nBKK283254])

Sept 25 - Public anger at sudden, steep fuel price rises in Myanmar in August triggered protests which have swelled into the largest demonstrations against the military junta in 20 years. Here are some facts on the country’s energy policy and reserves.

RESOURCES:

-- Myanmar has some of Asia’s biggest reserves of natural gas. It has been an oil producer since the 19th century, but gas has bypassed oil in importance.

-- It has at least 90 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas reserves, the world’s 10th largest, and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves in 19 onshore and three major offshore fields.

OIL AND GAS SECTOR:

-- Compared to manufacturing and service sectors, which are hampered by inadequate infrastructure and corruption, industries such as oil, gas and mining are the most productive sectors in the country of 53 million people.

-- However, Myanmar has to import nearly all of its diesel because its domestic refining sector has been crippled by 50 years of non-investment, analysts say. In 2004 it imported an estimated 19,180 barrels of oil per day.

INVESTMENT:

-- A 1988 foreign investment law eased the oil and gas industry open to foreign companies. The sector had been nationalised in 1962, when the military seized power.

-- Despite its political isolation and Western sanctions, Myanmar’s offshore natural gas fields have become a hotly contested commodity as neighbours seek stable, secure sources of cleaner fuel for their fast-growing economies.

RISING EXPORT REVENUE:

-- Gas sales to Thailand accounted for almost half of all overseas revenue in 2006, doubling to $2.2 billion from $1.1 billion in 2005.

-- This is said to be 43 percent of overseas revenue, the rest coming mainly from gems, timber, copper and agricultural goods, although official statistics on foreign trade are thought to be understated.

AUGUST PRICE SPIKE:

-- The shock doubling of diesel prices and a five-fold rise in the cost of compressed natural gas on Aug. 15 most likely resulted from the government’s struggle to fund domestic diesel subsidies, analysts say.

    -- Energy Ministry Director Soe Myint said the increase was not as severe as the last one two years ago, when the price of state-subsidised, tightly rationed fuel increased nine-fold.

    STRAINED NATIONAL REVENUES:

    -- Despite rising revenues from natural gas, other outgoings have strained national revenues.

    -- These include building a new capital at Naypyidaw in jungle-clad hills 400 km (250 miles) north of Yangon, a five-fold pay-rise for civil servants, a 10-fold increase for the army and bank-rolling the ambitious Yadanabon Silicon Village cyber-city outside Pyin Oo Lwin in the north.

    THE ENERGY INDUSTRY IN 2007:

    -- Onshore: Nine foreign oil companies are exploring and pumping in 16 onshore blocks according to gas company Total: Myanmar Petroleum Resources Ltd, Focus Energy Ltd, Westburne, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (0883.HK), China National Petrochemical Corporation, Sinopec (0386.HK), Essar, ESRO.BO, Goldpetrol and a representative of the Kalmik republic.

    -- Offshore: A further 29 blocks are being explored by Total (TOTF.PA), Petronas Carigali Myanma, Daewoo (047040.KS), PTT-EP, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (0883.HK), China National Petrochemical Corporation, Essar ESRO.BO, Gail and Rimbunam (Malaysia).

    Sources: Reuters, CIA World Factbook, Total (here)

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