North Sea technology can leverage the many unknowns of an emerging Asian exploration market as the new frontier finds its footing, according to an industry leader.
Keith Palmer, Expro’s president of EPTI Overseas, sat down with Energy Voice fresh off his appointment in Bangkok, Thailand.
Palmer discussed the emerging Asian market in the wake of Energy Voice research which revealed the region to be one of the most sought international frontiers.
Palmer said now was a critical time for the North Sea to capitalise on a technology transfer.
“I would venture to say some of the reason people answered the way they did was the unknown of Asia,” he said.
“A lot of us know West Africa, North Sea, US but to some degree I think the activity and markets in Asia are unknown.
“The respondents would see that as an opportunity to understand and discover what’s going on there and bring some of their horsepower, technology, ideas or whatever else they can.”
He broke the Asian market down into three main regions.
“When I think of the Asia market I think of it in three main segments or countries – Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia,” he said.
“When you look at the production levels of those countries a few things are important to note. First of all, most people don’t think about those countries as big producers.
“Again this comes from a perspective of the North Sea and US.
“Historically, if you think of Asia what do you think of? You hear about China and what’s going there but you don’t think about the production in the other three.”
The differentiating factor was Thailand was a net importer while the remaining duo were next exporters.
Palmer added: “The other thing is in each of those countries there’s predominate NOCs and for the most part they write the rules. Those are the ones governing things and there’s this backbone of structure, infrastructure and legacy. But for the most part they’re not the predominant operator.
“I’ll take Thailand first because that’s where I am right now. When you look at things PTTEP is the national oil company, but the predominate producer is Chevron.
“About 15 to 20 years ago Chevron moved in alongside Total in Thailand. Then 10 years or so ago Total’s licenses expired and the national oil company took them over, so that’s kind of how they made their presence.
“Chevron is currently the predominat player with over 200 platforms in Thailand. They’re producing significant amounts and very dynamic much like the US.
“Chevron currently has eight to 10 rigs and each rig drills a well every eight to 10 days so it’s an amazing dynamic there as opposed to some of the other markets.”
Expro currently does more work with Chevron in Thailand then it does with the firm in the Gulf of Mexico or any other oil province. The pair are currently working on leveraging the potential of late life wells in the region.
Malaysia and Indonesia were also prime spots for the North Sea to share its wealth of expertise.
Palmer, who spent four years managing Expro’s North Sea operations, said: “Once you get into that market a lot of it is untapped so there’s a lot of opportunities there and when you look at it, it is there.”
“There’s a lot of technology that we can bring in and once the critical mass and infrastructure is built in Asia then you can export that elsewhere”
But companies should be mindful that Malaysia’s NOCs heavy industry involvement made winning work more “bureaucratic or cumbersome” and Indonesia was home to the most stringent bidding process of the three, according to Palmer.
However, ultimately it will be Malaysia who sets the tone for doing business in the area.
Palmer said: “A side note to that is who knows what these coming years are going to bring because the national oil companies want to do more.
“In about five years Chevron’s licences are going to expire so the big question mark in Thailand is will they get an extension? The current law and constitution in Thailand is silent to that fact. There’s a lot of negotiating going on in Thailand about that and this could lay the groundwork for Thailand specifically in the future.
“Will the NOC take over Chevron’s licences like they did Total? Will Chevron get an extension? The next few years in Thailand will be interesting. I say that because how that unfolds will lay the groundwork of how other companies will invest there.”
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