Come to Where the Energy Is: Myanmar Country

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/12/2013 12:40:00 PM
With apologies to the Philip Morris Co.'s iconic figure, let's draw some analogies here: Both Marlboro and Myanmar are not exactly the most politically correct of figures, one representing the hazards of cigarette smoking and the other decades of political oppression. That said, both are irresistible draws in certain, undeniable respects. Marlboro is instantly recognizable worldwide for its cowboy, go-it-alone romantic imagery of the "American West." Myanmar, meanwhile, epitomizes the exoticism of the "Far East" to many Westerners. Despite their less-than-perfect reputations, they remain top-drawer economic attractions. Marlboro remains a Top 20 global brand, while Mynamar's considerable natural resources will always have its takers. [Photo c/o Process Design Engineering blog.]

So it is with the recent normalization of Myanmar's relations with the rest of the world (best illustrated by it hosting a World Economic Forum event) that it's sought energy sector investment from MNCs whose countries previously barred them from doing business with the military junta. It's like a land grab out there as its "frozen in time" oil and gas fields are going to be up for auction soon. And, unlike the oil and gas fields of Southeast Asian neighbours the Philippines and Vietnam, China is not disputing ownership over them. (Call it an accident of geography since China has this habit of claiming everything within, alas, striking distance.) Indeed, prior to the recent wave of liberalization, China was next to the only foreign investor of note in Myanmar after India. But anyway, back to the story...
[Australia's] Roc, [France's] Total SA (FP), [Italy's] Eni SpA (ENI) and [India's] Oil & Natural Gas Corp. are among 59 companies that qualified earlier this year to bid for onshore fields in Myanmar, according to the nation’s energy ministry. Myanmar is also offering 30 offshore blocks. Myanmar’s potential gas resources are estimated at as much as 45 trillion cubic feet, Roc said in February, citing a U.S. Geological Survey report. Myanmar has 7.8 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, according to BP Plc data.“That’s quite a significant prize, and clearly the industry feels that as well given the appetite,” Eliet said. 
Due to having fewer geopolitical tussles with China alone, Myanmar's prospects for energy recovery may be said to be better than those of the Philippines and Vietnam irrespective of their reserves. It's certainly indicative of the lure of the "resource curse" that a country such as Myanmar stands to fill its coffers so much just by practicing rudimentary improvements in governance, but I guess that shows you how fierce competition is worldwide for fossil fuels even at this time when energy costs have receded somewhat.