OPINION: Timor-Leste's government and petroleum officials are yearning for success from this year's planned exploration campaign as the curtain is set to soon come down on the country's one and only producing field.
If any wells come up trumps, they could eventually lead to new taxation revenue, which the country desperately needs.
Timor-Leste is totally reliant on petroleum revenues to meet the government's budgetary spending.
However, it has only one producing field — Bayu-Undan — which is nearing the end of its productive life.
This partly explains why the country's petroleum officials are feverishly promoting the 2021 licensing rounds.
There are 11 offshore blocks on offer and seven onshore blocks. Bids close on 1 October 2021.
There will likely be good take-up of onshore permits but the offshore could prove less attractive, given the number of unsuccessful wells over the years.
If this year's planned offshore appraisal well on the Buffalo oilfield by Australia’s Carnarvon Petroleum and UK company Advance Energy is a success, it will be the country's first good well in years.
Likewise, if privately owned Timor Resources has success with its onshore exploration campaign this year, it could prove transformative.
Timor-Leste has only a handful of active offshore exploration permits, held by Eni, Timor GAP, Carnarvon and SundaGas.
Onshore, there are two exploration permits, both held by Timor Resources.
Bayu-Undan will get a reprieve if operator Santos bears fruits with its imminent three-well infill drilling campaign.
In an absence of drilling success, however, Timor-Leste will again look to the large Sunrise discoveries operated by Woodside.
Timor-Leste owns nearly 57% of the field and wants to establish an onshore liquefied natural gas facility on its south coast, but Woodside has said it will not fund the plant.
Consequently, the upstream and downstream capital requirements on the government would be daunting and it would take years for Sunrise to be developed.
Authorities in Dili will be crossing their fingers for imminent onshore success and a Buffalo charge.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)