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Reuters: FACTBOX-Disputed maritime oil and gas areas in Asia

Monday April 30, 6:17 PM

April 30 (Reuters) – Maritime disputes may hold up prospective energy developments in Asia for years or decades despite high oil and gas prices, but analysts say joint development is still on the cards.

Here is a factbox on some of the disputed areas.

GREATER SUNRISE — East Timor/Australia

The $5 billion development of the Greater Sunrise gas fields in the Timor Sea may begin soon, after East Timor’s parliament ratified a pact with Australia in February to evenly split royalties. The fields are estimated to hold 8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas and up to 300 million barrels of condensate.

Greater Sunrise was frozen in 2004 while waiting for Canberra and Dili to resolve their differences over the revenue split.

There is still debate on whether to transport the gas to Darwin in northern Australia, process it at sea at an offshore plant, or bring it via pipeline to East Timor for export from an onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. 

The project involves Woodside , Royal Dutch/Shell and Japan’s Osaka Gas Co. Ltd. .

SPRATLY ISLANDS — China/Vietnam/Taiwan/Malaysia/Philippines

The national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a three-year joint-seismic accord in 2005, to cooperatively assess oil and gas deposits.

Their proximity to nearby oil and gas-producing fields, discovered in the 1960s, bolstered the belief that they harbour rich untapped reserves of oil and gas.

Modern disputes date back to the 1930s, with claims bolstered by references to historical maps and literature. In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near the Spratly reefs, in which more than 70 Vietnamese sailors died.

PATTANI TROUGH — Thailand/Cambodia

The Gulf of Thailand is already a gas-producing zone but 27,000 sq km (10,430 sq mile) is disputed between Thailand and Cambodia. It involves no territory.

Thailand produces natural gas but still relies on imports, which make up about 27 percent of consumption running at 565,854 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

Cambodia, which relies on foreign aid, hopes to begin pumping oil from offshore fields in the Gulf of Thailand by 2009.

JAPAN/CHINA

China’s CNOOC Ltd. said in April it had begun producing gas at the Tianwaitian field in the East China Sea despite Japan’s objections to development. It is also ready to begin producing from the nearby and larger Chunxiao field as soon as Beijing gives it the go-ahead, a source told Reuters.

A Japanese government official quoted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on a visit to Tokyo in April, as proposing that high-level talks about the dispute could be held next month.

Beijing and Tokyo disagree over the boundary between their exclusive marine economic zones and Japan objects to Chinese development of gas fields near the border, although they are in an undisputed area. Tokyo fears drilling there could inadvertently drain Japanese gas through a honeycomb of seabed rocks.

The amount of fuel found so far, in a cluster of fields in the Xihu trough and nearby Pinghu field, is relatively small. CNOOC’s gas output from the Tianwaitian field last year was equivalent to a relatively modest 4 million cubic feet per day. But an industry source said actual output was now running at 500,000 cubic metres a day (17.65 million cubic feet), and when Chunxiao comes on line, annual production at the two fields could reach 600 million cubic metres a year.

Chunxiao has by far the biggest net gas reserves, and operator CNOOC Ltd. puts these at just 4.8 billion cubic metres — enough to meet a month of last year’s demand.

VIETNAM/CHINA

China has disputed Vietnam’s right to a $2 billion pipeline project, in which BP aims to carry gas nearly 400 km (249 miles) from two new offshore fields to Vietnam’s south coast.

The two fields, Moc Tinh, located in Block 05.3, and Hai Thach, in Block 05.2, are near the Nam Con Son gas project, Vietnam’s biggest, where BP works with Petrovietnam, India’s Oil & Natural Gas and ConocoPhillips to supply about 13.2 million cubic metres per day of gas.

The two countries agreed last year to increase joint oil and gas exploration efforts in the Gulf of Tonkin and continue talks about disputed maritime areas further south.

China seized the Paracel Islands, a set of islets just north of the Spratly group, in 1974 and has occupied them since despite Vietnamese protests.

MALAYSIA/BRUNEI

Malaysia and Brunei said last year they would speed up efforts to resolve a dispute over the ownership of two large oil exploration blocks off the northwest of Borneo in the South China Sea. The row has stopped deepwater exploration in the area.

In 2003, Malaysian state-owned Petronas [PETR.UL] awarded deepwater blocks L and M to Murphy Oil . But Brunei awarded a production-sharing contract (PSC) to France’s Total for Block J and was negotiating PSC terms with Shell for adjacent Block K.

Murphy made a sizeable discovery in a Malaysian block near the disputed area in 2003, with oil from the Kikeh field expected to start flowing by this September from reserves at between 400 million and 700 million barrels.

AMBALAT — Malaysia/Indonesia.

Indonesia urged Italy’s Eni in March to explore for oil and gas in the Ambalat block, though an official at its foreign ministry has said Indonesia and Malaysia are still in talks over the border of the two countries, including Ambalat.

Eni operates the Ambalat block under a PSC with the Indonesian government signed in 1999. Some parts of the block overlap with Malaysia claims and both sides have handed out contracts to major foreigns firms in the area.

In March 2005, Indonesia sent warships and fighter jets to the area, after Malaysia struck an exploration deal early in 2005 with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Petronas. Source: Reuters

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