Published in Mizzima Weekly on 23 July 2015

Ophir's senior adviser in Myanmar, Andrew Chapman

Ophir’s senior adviser in Myanmar, Andrew Chapman

Ophir Energy plc is an upstream oil and gas exploration company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is headquartered in London, with operational offices in Australia, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Kenya. Ophir Energy was awarded the AD-03 offshore block in Myanmar’s Rakhine Basin and signed a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy in December 2014. Andrew Chapman is Ophir Energy’s senior advisor in Myanmar and he talks to Mizzima Weekly’s Jessica Mudditt about the company’s progress to date.

What do you attribute Ophir’s Energy’s success in being awarded a coveted production sharing contract?

Our success is due to a number of factors: our track record in deep water gas plays – [exploration activities elsewhere in the world] and our industry-leading deepwater drilling time and costs – we’ve always been very competitive as compared with other operators. We also have a very strong commitment to ensuring that local communities benefit from our investment. We decided to partner with the local Myanmar company Parami Energy Group, which has strong social and environmental engagements, which is aligned with Ophir’s values.

How would you describe the tender process itself?

The entire tender process from our perspective was excellent. It was carried out in a very transparent and efficient manner and compared favourably with other jurisdictions. The process was very smooth and it was undertaken without any suggestion of impropriety on any level. We were very happy with the speed in which it was carried out, which from start to finish was 12 months.

Please provide an update on Ophir Energy’s activities in Myanmar.

Last week we completed our 3D seismic data acquisition programme. It went without incident and was finished on time and under budget, so we’re very happy. The survey was carried out by [Norway-based] Dolphin Geophysical across the entire 10,000 square kilometre block. The results from the survey will tell us what’s possibly there, but we don’t know at this stage of course. The next step will be the interpretation of the data that’s been collected and that’s a process that will take several months. The data will be sent to either Perth or London for interpretation.

What are Ophir’s Energy medium and long-term goals in Myanmar?

The entrance of Ophir Energy in Myanmar two years ago was its first step in a Southeast Asian footprint. We see our investment in this particular block as a platform from which we hope to build up interests in additional acreage in Myanmar over time.

How is Ophir Energy ensuring that its presence in Myanmar is a positive one?

Ophir regards the local communities where we operate as valuable stakeholders and we treat them responsibly, with sensitivity and respect. Contributing towards the development of the economic and social conditions of these local communities is a key commitment of ours.

We will be funding the doctoral studies of a Myanmar geologist at Oxford University, who will begin her studies in October. Ultimately the idea is that what she will learn will benefit the country.

We are also evaluating a number of corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects in Rakhine State, as our block is located in offshore Rakhine State. The CSR component of Ophir’s activities is a very important one and will be ongoing; whether that means further scholarships or CSR-related projects.

To what extent, if any, has the drop in global oil prices affected Ophir’s enthusiasm for exploration in Myanmar?

The drop in global oil prices is of course affecting Ophir; as it as affecting all oil and gas companies. However our commitment and undertaking to Myanmar remains strong and intact. We have to ride through the storm – as everybody does – and take whatever measures we can to make sure that our costs are managed properly.

Are there any inherent challenges in doing business in Myanmar?

Naturally, each country and region has its own specific challenges. However Myanmar has undertaken a series of remarkable reforms over the last five years which have made doing business here significantly easier than it was previously.

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