Exclusive: Myanmar delays energy tender to improve transparency

Wed Sep 5, 2012 1:08am EDT
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By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar has delayed an oil and gas exploration tender to meet the transparency standards of the Western energy majors lining up, many for the first time, to invest in the rapidly reforming nation, a senior energy ministry official said.

Myanmar, which is opening up to the world after nearly 50 years of military rule, still plans to hold the tender this year, the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters.

The tender was expected to be launched this month, but the official said it was postponed after the government was approached by several Western oil firms, including ConocoPhillips (COP.N: Quote), Hess Corp (HES.N: Quote), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote), BP (BP.L: Quote), BG Group BG.L and Australia's Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX: Quote).

"Some of the oil companies, like Shell, are very strict about international standards like transparency, environmental, social and biodiversity impacts," the official said on the sidelines of an industry conference in Yangon.

"Therefore our leaders instructed us to make ours be in line with the international standards, so we are taking some more time on this. I guess we will be able to launch the second round around the end of this year," he added.

The government is expected to offer more than 10 offshore and around 10 onshore blocks to foreign investors, the energy minister told Reuters last week.

The tender follows Myanmar's largest oil and gas offering in August last year, which saw nine out of 18 onshore blocks snapped up by foreign firms.

The surge in interest in Myanmar's energy sector comes amid warnings by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to avoid partnering with the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, due to its lack of transparency and accountability.   Continued...

A view of oil wells in Myanmar's village of Chauk, home to one of the longest producing oil fields in the world, is seen in this April 1, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Staff/Files