Petronas sets aggressive targets for overseas ops as local production dwindles

Petronas sets aggressive targets for overseas ops as local production dwindles

MALAYSIA - PETROLIAM Nasional Bhd (Petronas), facing dwindling production at home, is in a race against time to scour for new oilfields beyond Malaysia's shores.

But with depleting hydrocarbons on the homefront, where oil has been extracted for well over a century, and stiff competition abroad, how will Petronas fare in the new age of energy?

For Datuk Wee Yiaw Hin, the oil giant's executive vice-president of exploration and production, this is exactly what Petronas has planned for.

A relative newcomer to Petronas, Wee has helmed the group's core business since 2010.

He has set his team up for some aggressive targets, among them an average production growth of 3.5 per cent per year up to 2020 and a reserve replacement ratio (RRR) of 1.1 times.

RRR is the amount of oil and gas added to a company's proven reserves versus what it produces during the year. A ratio of 1.1 indicates that Petronas has a good balance between hydrocarbons produced and discovered. Petronas achieved a RRR of 1.3 times in 2013.

Wee, who says he runs the upstream operations with all the rigour of a listed company, tells StarBizWeek that Petronas places fifth on the global ranking of oil and gas (O&G) firms, which is topped by the super-majors Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil.

"We want to maintain this position, and even move up, perhaps into the top four," he quips.

To be sure, that isn't an apple-for-apple comparison. Petronas is a national oil company (NOC), while the others are independent oil companies (IOC).

As an NOC, Petronas owns the hydrocarbon deposits in Malaysia. IOCs, meanwhile, act as specialist operators extracting oil and gas, typically in profit-sharing ventures with state oil firms via agreements called production sharing contracts.

That doesn't mean Petronas hasn't made headway in the international market, where it competes side by side with the world's top IOCs.

According to Wee, Petronas is often looked upon as a case study by other NOCs.

It is understood that countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are now learning from Petronas in the area of marginal oil fields.

Another feather in Petronas' cap is the deal it struck with Progress Energy for the Canadian firm's shale gas assets. Petronas now controls shale gas deposits even larger than Shell's, Wee notes.

On the domestic side, Malaysia has been "lucky" when it comes to gas reserves, he says.

"Over the past three years, we have found gas fields that were huge, for instance, Kasawari offshore Sarawak. It's never been so hot. We've got so much gas."

Petronas now boasts gas reserves totalling 100 trillion cu ft (tcf) - no mean feat considering it had just 60 tcf some three years ago.

Those discoveries were a boon for exploration activity, with the number of drilling rigs in operation jumping to 30 from less than 15 previously.

The volume of its gas production has blown past expectations, so much so that Petronas is mulling additional processing facilities at its Bintulu liquefied natural gas (LNG) complex.

Gas makes up more than 50 per cent of Petronas' total production, which last year grew 5.8 per cent to 2.13 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

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