PTTEP quitting Yetagun gas field in Myanmar

PTTEP quitting Yetagun gas field in Myanmar

Malaysia's Petronas also pulling out of nearly-depleted field

Gas reserves in the Yetagun field in the Gulf of Moattama off Myanmar have declined significantly. (PTTEP Photo)
Gas reserves in the Yetagun field in the Gulf of Moattama off Myanmar have declined significantly. (PTTEP Photo)

PTT Exploration and Production Plc (PTTEP) of Thailand and Petronas of Malaysia say they are withdrawing from the Yetagun natural gas project in coup-hit Myanmar.

The announcement on Friday was the latest in a series of moves by foreign energy firms to exit Myanmar. The most notable has been the withdrawal of US-based Chevron and TotalEnergies of France from the Yadana gas field, where PTTEP is taking over their interests.

The Petronas subsidiary Carigali holds a roughly 41% stake in the Yetagun project while PTTEP has a 19.31% share. The immediate future of the field is not clear as the gas reserves there have declined significantly.

“The withdrawal is part of the company’s portfolio management to refocus on projects that support the energy security for the country,” PTTEP chief executive Montri Rawanchaikul said in a statement on Friday.

PTTEP, the exploration arm of the majority state-owned energy firm PTT Plc, said its stake would be reallocated proportionately to the remaining shareholders with no commercial value, pending regulatory approval.

Petronas, which has operated the project since 2003, said in a statement that its decision followed a review and was part of an “asset rationalisation strategy” to adapt to “the changing industry environment and accelerated energy transition”.

The 24,130-square-kilometre field in the Gulf of Moattama produces natural gas and condensate. The other two shareholders in the venture are Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration of Japan and Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, controlled by the Myanmar military.

Petronas has been experiencing difficulties related to operating the Yetagun field since the coup. More than 100 workers were left stranded on an offshore platform in the immediate aftermath of the military takeover in February last year. They were employed by a contractor and Petronas was responsible for ensuring their safety.

In April 2021, Petronas declared force majeure on the Yetagun field due to a significant decline in output. It said production rates had dropped below the technical threshold of the offshore gas processing plant.

PTTEP’s decision to quit Yetagun is not the end of its involvement with Myanmar.

In March, it said it would take over the running of the much larger Yadana gas field in order to ensure energy security for both Myanmar and Thailand.

Chevron and TotalEnergies said in January that they would pull out of Myanmar following growing international pressure from human rights groups to cut financial ties with the junta.

The Yadana field in the Andaman Sea provides gas that fuels electricity generation in both Myanmar and Thailand. It is one of a number of gas projects that Human Rights Watch says make up the largest source of foreign currency revenue for Myanmar, generating more than $1 billion annually.

Myanmar’s military has interests in large swathes of the country’s economy, including oil and gas.

Other international firms — including British American Tobacco and the French renewable energy firm Voltalia — have also pulled back from Myanmar since the coup.

A spokesperson for the rights group Justice for Myanmar called on companies involved with the Yetagun gas project to completely sever ties with the military.

“The field is near depletion and we call on Petronas and its international partners to decommission the field in accordance with environmental best practices, and responsibly disengage,” said Yadanar Maung.

“Petronas and their partners must ensure no more revenue flows to the Myanmar junta.”

More than 1,800 civilians have died during a military crackdown  since last year’s coup and more than 13,000 have been arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

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