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BruDirect:com: Contradictions In Brunei’s Oil Town

By Wani Abdul Gapar

Kuala Belait – Seria a dynamic oil town with sleepy coastal community. Nowhere one finds these two contradictions co-existing side by side for such a long period of time. The Brunei Times talked to some of the Seria residents and tried to find the reasons behind these contradictions.

A Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) employee who has been with the company for more than 25 years said that, “Because of the oil’ industry, we have the local population and foreigners to support the market-the oil price influences the economy.

“I remember a few years ago when oil prices hit an all-time low, local contractors found it hard to obtain tenders and many private companies had to cut their foreign staff.”

When asked if Seria town benefits from BSP, she said, ‘Definitely! Without IBSP, the oil town would not exist.”

Lee Siaw Kin, a Canadian citizen, who was born and raised in Seria, said there was not much change since she migrated to Canada more than a decade ago.

“I’ve visited Brunei many times since I lift and it is very difference in the capital not so much in Seria.”

She became a little nostalgic about some of the area’s unofficial landmarks that have been since torn clown which to her was a great loss.

“I grew up around the old wet market and mien tang (noodle stalls) which have been demolished. To us, it’s a big loss because it was a very special part of Seria”.

Lee said, “It is much quieter now, not so vibrant the last time I visited. People used to congregate at the old wet market, especially during Chinese New Year around 3am or 4am to buy vegetables. But now that it’s gone, young people prefer to go elsewhere.”

Belait resident Gerard Ho is happy with the positive contribution that the Brunei Shell Petroleum has made to the community over the years.

“We have our own privileges even though Kuala Belait and Seria have little to offer in terms of entertainment. But we can’t have it all if we want to keep this laid-back culture.”

Today, BSP headquarters in Seria is a home to a large expatriate community.

Life in Seria revolves around the oil industry when in 1929 the British Malayan Petroleum Company, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, which was the forerunner to the present Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd, first extracted oil to be commercialised.

Exploration for oil in Brunei Darussalam started in 1899 with the first recorded well drilled close to Brunei town, now known as Bandar Seri Begawan. It was only in 1924 that the Royal Dutch Shell found some accumulation of oil and gas in Labi, Belait, but it was too small to be commercialised. In 1991, a milestone was achieved when the Seria field produced its billionth barrel. — Courtesy of The Brunei Times

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