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East Timor eyes Chinese survey

Upstream, Friday 12 March 2004

East Timor expects to receive imminently from PetroChina the results of a gravity and magnetic study conducted over selected onshore areas of the tiny nation.

The Chinese giant's work covered 6000 square kilometres 25% of the entire country.

East Timor-based sources said the study, which was conducted via a combination of trucks and people on foot, would form the foundation for seismic surveys if warranted by results.

"There will be seismic studies but we don't know yet who will do those surveys," said a source.

PetroChina's contract did not include shooting seismic, and the company had not yet expressed an interest in doing that work, the source added.

Sources said East Timor was aiming to finalise by mid-2004 a national petroleum act that would enable it to award its own licences for exploration and production.

It is understood that East Timor has had little onshore oil and gas exploration during the past quarter century through the period of Indonesian rule. Onshore seismic was shot during the 1970s when East Timor was a colony of Portugal, although the small Pacific nation does not, as yet, have access to that data.

An East Timor-based source said more than 30 onshore oil and gas seeps had been documented over the years.

The petroleum sector will be a major source of income for the impoverished country in the years to come.

Its current income comes from fields in the joint petroleum development area shared with Australia.

It is estimated that East Timor's revenue from those offshore fields will be about $4 billion in the coming two decades. That figure will be substantially higher if new maritime boundaries are agreed with Australia and Indonesia.

In 2002 and 2003, the country received about $26 million in tax and royalty revenue from the joint petroleum development area. The Bayu/Undan field alone will generate revenues of about $100 million per year over its 20-year life, compared with East Timor's annual expenditure for 2002/03 of $80 million.

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (Lao Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
email: 
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