Friday, October 23, 2009


The Petroleum Ministry under Murli Deora seems to be more interested in the dispute between Mukesh and Anil Ambani than to even think about other vital energy security issues affecting India. The following case involving Mynamar Yetagon field shows how our Oil ministry sleeps over issues when it involves anyone remotely connected to USA. Indian Media would have made a hue and cry when China scores over India but not when other countries in the region make a sucker of India. Our Media is so obsessed with Kareena Kapoor or tantrums of Shaoib Akhthar that it has not bothered about another vital problem which is building up in our neighborhood. I am talking about the troop buildup at Myanmar/Bangladesh border especially at the trijunction of these two countries with India.
According to different sources on the border, Myanmar has deployed nine military battalions in its border with Bangladesh. They were deployed last Friday along the border from Maungdaw to Paletwa. They are: Light Battalions 55 and 20, and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) 234, 263, 344, 233, 289 and 538.
The LIB 538 based originally in Rathidaung has been shifted to the Paletwa border and posted at the triangular position facing Bangladesh and India borders.Bangladesh on its part has moved 3 brigades to the Myanmarese border. The root cause is the effort by Myanmar to push 10,000 Rohingya Muslims who have crossed into its territory from Bangladesh back into Bangladesh. China is supporting Myanmar covertly as it has enormous economic stake in Myanmar.What about India? Does Indian media care for the stories affecting its security vitaly. In the last 6 months our trade with SriLanka has shrunk by half from its heady growth of 10% after the FTA . Does even pink papers bother about these?

Thai and Japanese interests snatch a contract out from under the nose of India's Larsen & Toubro

Petronas, Malaysia's state-owned energy company, appears to have caved in to Thai and Japanese interests over a contract to build a platform worth up to US$190 million to compress gas in Burma's Yetagon field, freezing out the Indian energy giant Larsen & Toubro.

Informed industry sources in Malaysia
told Asia Sentinel that Petronas Carigali, the Petronas unit holding a wet gas franchise in Burma's Yetagun field, had earlier disqualified Thai Nippon Steel because the bid by the company, a subsidiary of Japan's Nippon Steel, contained a conditional clause limiting liability in the event of losses, but ultimately gave in under pressure from the Thais.

"This creates a problem because now the end-users of the products can dictate how and to whom sub-contracts are awarded," the souorce said. "Competitive bidding is thrown out the window and Petronas and the (Malaysian) Ministry of Finance can end up paying more just to please the Thais."

Besides the liability clause, there were other concerns. Prior to the Yetagun bid, Thai Nippon Steel had never built a full gas compressor platform, which compresses gas so that it can be pumped to storage tanks at lower volumes, although it has built other components for gas fields in the area. Volume is critical so high compression is required. Thai Nippon Steel's bid, at US$120 million, was some 30 percent below internal estimates provided by Petronas's consultants, and wasn't enough to cover the cost of steel and other materials.

The other contactors bid between US$160 and US$190 million. In addition to Larsen & Toubro, the other bidders were Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea, SMOE, a subsidiary of Singapore's Sembawang Marine Industries, Sime Darby Bhd and Kencana Bhd, both of Malaysia.
Petronas, the source said, usually awards turnkey construction contracts to its own licensed contractors. However, because the project is outside of Malaysia and because no fabrication facility exists in Burma, Petronas turned to the outside companies.

Petronas is said to have disqualified Thai Nippon from bidding because of the limitation on liability, making Larsen & Toubro, a US$8.5 billion technology, engineering and construction group, the front-runner. But, the source said, when Thai Nippon learned they had been disqualified, they promptly dropped all conditions, which was not allowed under the bid rules. It is not permissible to change the bid after the deadline.

Petronas then recommended Larsen & Toubro to Malaysia's Finance Ministry. To counter this, Thai Nippon brought in PPT Public Co of Thailand, the end user which also owns the rights to 19.32 percent of the gas in the tract along with Nippon Oil of Japan, which owns another 19.32 percent, to lobby.

Despite being aware that the Thai Nippon Steel bid was below material cost, the source said, Petronas caved in from the pressure. Petronas, the source said, did so without telling the Burmese ministry after the state-owned PTT of Thailand pressured it to do so.

"MOGE (the Burmese energy ministry) is in the dark about this," the source said. The Burmese junta is highly dependent on gas exports, which account for as much as 40 percent of the country's export income. Very little of the funds are believed to be distributed to the government. Rather ,large amounts of export earnings are believed to go into the pockets of the generals.

The project, which is to sit in water at a depth of about 100 meters, includes 6,150-metric ton topsides in three modules for the platform, which are to be built by Thai Nippon Steel in Thailand, while the 4,650-ton steel jacket will be fabricated by a subsidiary of Nippon Steel Batam Island. A 100-meter bridge weighing 760 tons will connect the compression platform to the Yetagun-B facility, according to Upstream, the international oil and gas publication.

Production from the rich Yetagun field, which lies in the Gulf of Martaban, an arm of the Andaman Sea in the southern part of Burma, is expected to average 400 million cubic feet per day of gas and 10,220 barrels per day of condensate. Average output in 2008 was 391 MMcfd of gas and 10,817 bpd of oil, the newspaper said.

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