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Petroleum activity in the Far East reporting region evinced a subtle shift during 1979 toward exploration for smaller, lower productivity plays in more mature areas. Examples of this are renewed onshore activity by Brunei Shell and Sarawak Shell in pre-World War II fields, active exploration by Atlantic Richfield and liapco in the Java Sea, Indonesia, and renewed interest in older producing areas of Pakistan and India's Assam basin. Price increases appear to have promoted this type of exploration activity.
Price increases in both oil and gas have put pressure on "have not" countries to accelerate petroleum investment in their areas. Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Burma, China, and even India solicited foreign participation in resource development. Others, such as Bangladesh and Burma, made greater efforts to acquire drilling and seismic equipment necessary to speed up their internal exploration and development programs.
The most active "new" area within the Far East reporting region was China. Atlantic Richfield led the rush of foreign contractors who acquired seismic exploration rights off China's southeast coast. Almost all of the area from the Gulf of Tonkin on the south to Taiwan on the north was surveyed seismically. At year end approximately 12 seismic vessels were surveying in this area. So great was the rush to China that programs in other Far East countries were, in some places, curtailed for lack of equipment.
There is no accurate count of exploratory and delineation wells drilled within the reporting area but relative to 1978 there was a 16% increase during 1979. An estimated 394 exploratory and delineation wells were drilled excluding those in countries which do not report these statistics. Of these, 39% were drilled in Indonesia which again was the busiest area within the reporting region.
Areas which showed significant increases in activity were Peninsular Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and China. Only in Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia did this activity result in multiple discoveries. Even here none of the discoveries appear to have large reserves.
Production for the Far East region increased only slightly during 1979. Major increases however were recorded in Peninsular Malaysia, offshore India, and China. Peninsular Malaysia's production increased from 19,735 BOPD to an estimated 120,000 BOPD at year end. China probably had an increase of 225,000 BOPD. Indonesia recorded a slight drop in oil production despite active exploration and development programs in both 1978 and 1979. Japan and Taiwan, with moderately active exploration programs during 1979, recorded no major discoveries. Production declined slightly as a result of the lack of success over the last few years. The only bright spot for Japan is that exploration began late in 1979 on the Japan-South Korea joint development area.
In early 1979, the Philippines became a producing nation for the first time. Another first was that Burma became an exporting nation for the first time since 1941.
Acreage acquisition in the Far East region by foreign contractors followed the same pattern as 1978. Pertamina offerings in Indonesia generated great interest and garnered significant bonuses and work commitments. Similarly in the Philippines and Pakistan there were acreage acquisitions by many of the world's major oil companies. However, countries such as Sri Lanka, South Korea, and Burma again had no luck in attracting foreign investment in their offerings.
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