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Petroleum activity throughout the Far East region was on the upswing during 1980. The impetus of higher prices and stable political circumstances, compared to the Middle East producing countries, caused many operators to favor Southeast Asia as an area in which to make major investments in natural resources.
In spite of increased interest in many parts of the Far East, no major new discoveries were reported. As pointed out in 1979, the trend seems to be toward smaller prospects throughout the area. From India to Indonesia, old fields are being rehabilitated and previously uneconomic areas are being looked at again. This is largely a function of the new, high price of oil, but it also reflects an awareness of the political stability of the region.
Indonesia set a new record in 1980 for the number of exploratory wells drilled. Peninsular Malaysia set a record for oil production. These highlights for the region were dampened slightly by a rapid decline in production in the Philippines and failure of the People's Republic of China to follow through with exploration contracts along their east coast. Overall, however, 1980 was a banner year for petroleum exploration in the Far East.
Several countries renewed activity in 1980. Sri Lanka saw its first foreign contractor interest in several years. India made major moves toward increasing exploration by offering offshore and onshore blocks to foreign contractors. Bangladesh and even Burma signed exploitation contracts with Japanese investors in order to increase production. Malaysia offered new acreage blocks for the first time in several years. Indonesia and the Philippines also actively encouraged exploration by offering new contract areas.
One country in the Far East that did not participate in the 1980 oil boom was China. Although two foreign contractor groups did begin offshore operations, China remained very quiet because of its inability to consummate offshore exploration contracts with foreign contractors. Taiwan also carried on, as in previous years, with the Chinese Petroleum Corporation as the only operator. No significant success was recorded. Japanese and South Korean activities were at approximately the same level as in previous years, although drilling did start in the joint development zone. No major discoveries in these countries were announced.
Total production of the Far East reporting region declined slightly. Most of the countries reported slight declines. Indonesia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, Philippines, and India recorded significant declines. The reasons for these declines varied. For example, India's problems were political. Production from Assam fields was curtailed for most of the year because of political unrest in the Assam area. In the Philippines, water incursion in the Nido reef caused a dramatic decline in production. Other countries showed decline due to the aging of fields. Production statistics graphically point out that in spite of a recent flurry of exploratory activity in the region, no major new producing areas have been found and brought on-stream.
One significant aspect of 1980 petroleum activities throughout the Far East region is the growing acceptance by various Far East countries of Asian investment for developing and exploring for hydrocarbons. Japan is the major investor, but South Korean interests and the Chinese Petroleum Corporation also began to invest in petroleum rights in other Asian countries. During 1980, Burma and Bangladesh also signed assistance deals with Japan. The main area for investment continued to be Indonesia. The Philippines, however, also saw investment by the Chinese Petroleum Corporation and Japanese companies. Development deals were signed with Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese interests.
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