The European Union has imposed sanctions on several top officials in Myanmar and state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which helped fund the military that overthrew the country’s democratically elected government in February 2021.

MOGE is a partner in Myanmar’s producing gas fields, such as Yadana and Yetagun, from which operators and co-venturers including France’s TotalEnergies, Malaysia’s Petronas and Chevron of the US have already announced their departure.

The sanctions on MOGE came after mounting pressure from human rights organisations, which have claimed this would stop a significant source of the military’s funding.

Around half of Myanmar’s foreign currency comes from natural gas revenues, with MOGE being expected to earn upwards of $1 billion from offshore and pipeline projects in 2021-2022.

The EU said that the bloc “is deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of violence in Myanmar and the evolution towards a protracted conflict with regional implications”.

“Since the military coup, the situation has continuously and gravely deteriorated.”

Malaysia’s national E&P company and Yetagun operator Petronas Carigali is the latest industry heavyweight to pull out of Myanmar’s upstream arena, following TotalEnergies, Chevron, Woodside Petroleum and Shell, leaving the nation’s producing assets likely to be acquired by counterpart PTTEP.

Myanmar produced upwards of 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of gas in 2021, of which some 50% was operated by TotalEnergies.

Yadana

Both the French major and Chevron have stakes in Myanmar’s largest producing project, Yadana, which includes the Yadana, Badamyar and Sein fields.

Output from the Yadana project has been in the range of around 700 million to 750 million cubic feet per day for the past five years with 2021 production totalling around 282.5 billion cubic feet, according to Rystad Energies vice president upstream research Southeast Asia, Prateek Pandey.

The consultancy pointed out that Total (now TotalEnergies) has been operating the asset since start-up in 1998 and losing a company with that longevity would likely make it more challenging for the next operator to sustain production, while additional investments will also likely be needed.

Thailand’s PTTEP is tipped by many analysts and market observers as the likely acquirer of TotalEnergies’ and Chevron’s Yadana interests, not least because the company relies heavily on the asset to deliver pipeline gas exports to parent PTT for power generation in Thailand.

Three-quarters of Yadana’s production is allocated for export to Thailand while all of the Petronas-operated Yetagun field is allocated for export to Thailand.

However, Yetagun’s output is in decline and last year, which saw the field shut-in for several months, totalled less than 17.7 Bcf.

Zawtika

Meanwhile, PTTEP’s operated Zawtika field offshore Myanmar in 2021 produced 116.5 Bcf of gas, of which 66% is allocated for export to Thailand.

However, it is not only the future of existing production assets in Myanmar that could be compromised with the departure of industry heavyweights — their exit raises questions over when, or even if, major discovered resources will be exploited.

The exits announced previously by international oil companies TotalEnergies, Chevron, Woodside and Shell impact resources of more than 500 million barrels of oil equivalent, the majority of which were in the pre-final investment decision life cycle.

Australia’s Woodside has the highest share with around 270 million boe, all of which is in the pre-FID stage, noted Pandey.

TotalEnergies has around 200 million boe of remaining resources, of which around 60% is in the pre-FID stage, while Chevron has around 60 million boe, all of which is in the producing life cycle.

Co-venturers TotalEnergies, Woodside and MPRL’s ultra-deepwater grassroots A-6 gas project offshore Myanmar with upwards of 330 million boe of resources and $2 billion of expected investments “was for numerous reasons a highly anticipated approval”, said Pandey.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the A-6 project had been expected to enter the front-end engineering and design phase in 2020 ahead of being sanctioned, with first gas being targeted in the middle of this decade however the two international partners have now pulled the plug.

“It was one of the top five deep-water projects that was set to be sanctioned in the Southeast Asian region by 2030 and was on course to be one of TotalEnergies’ top five deep-water gas projects to be sanctioned globally by the end of this decade,” he added.

The project was of great importance to Myanmar as it would have accounted for 20% to 25% of the nation’s gas production by 2035.

“With both Woodside and TotalEnergies exiting, it leaves the project at risk as it appears unlikely that MOGE will be able to find a buyer for this deep-water project owing to the political situation in the country,” said Pandey.