BEIJING, May 30 (Reuters) - China National Petroleum Corporation and Korea’s Daewoo International Corp plan to explore together for oil or gas in Myanmar, the Chinese firm said, as the reclusive nation reels from a cyclone.
A photograph of a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understanding, attended by CNPC’s general manager, Jiang Jiemin, was posted on a company website (www.cnpc.com.cn).
A photo showed a backdrop proclaiming in English “MOU of joint exploration project between CNPC and Daewoo International”. A caption confirmed that the project is in Myanmar.
CNPC is the state-owned parent of listed PetroChina.
Few Western companies will invest in the former Burma because of its poor human rights record and continued detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has led to a broad range of U.S. and European sanctions.
Myanmar this week extended her house arrest on Tuesday, for between six months and a year.
China, typically wary of supporting or imposing sanctions and one of Myanmar’s few diplomatic allies, has shown no qualms about investing in its neighbour, coveting its natural gas, oil, minerals and timber to feed a booming economy.
There were no details of the plan, which was signed as relief workers struggled to persuade the ruling military junta to ease access to the stricken Irrawaddy delta nearly a month after it was pounded by cyclone Nargis.
Daewoo said last year it had picked China as a preferred bidder for natural gas from a project in Myanmar, putting it at the front of a queue that also includes India and Thailand — although no final decision has been announced.
Myanmar officials have also said the gas will go to China and Beijing says it is considering building gas and oil pipelines into southwestern Yunnan province. This would improve access to its neighbour’s rich resources, coveted by many energy-hungry nations across Asia.
Myanmar has at least 90 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves in 19 onshore and three major offshore fields.
Altogether, 25 offshore blocks are under exploration, 12 of them in the Gulf of Martaban, six off the Tanintharyi coast and seven off the Rakhine coast.
CNPC controls listed PetroChina, which has come under pressure from activist shareholders because of its parent firm’s investments in Sudan. (Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Nick Macfie)