Roc Plans to Bid for Myanmar’s ‘Frozen in Time’ Oil Fields

Roc Oil Co., an explorer focused on China, Australia and Southeast Asia, is planning to bid for oil and natural gas fields off the coast of Myanmar and is talking with potential local partners to develop the prospects.

Roc is looking to lodge its interest in shallow-water fields by a June 14 deadline set by the government after qualifying earlier this year to bid for onshore licenses, Pierre Eliet, general manager of exploration and geoscience for the Sydney-based company, said today in a phone interview. He declined to name any possible Myanmar partners.

Roc joins a line of global energy companies, from Woodside Petroleum Ltd. to Oil India Ltd., seeking a share of Myanmar’s oil and gas resources as the nation connects to the global economy after years of isolation. Investment in Myanmar, wedged between China and India, largely dried up during almost five decades of military rule that ended last year.

“Myanmar is a country with huge potential that has been frozen in time in many regards,” Eliet said. “There’s an opportunity to revisit a well-established oil and gas heartland with new technologies and perhaps a new approach.”

Shares of Roc fell 3.1 percent today to 47.5 cents in Sydney, valuing the company at A$325 million ($307 million). Roc has increased 44 percent over the past 12 months.

President Thein Sein has allowed more political freedom and loosened economic controls since coming to power two years ago, prompting nations including the U.S. to ease sanctions and attracting companies such as Ford Motor Co. and MasterCard Inc.

‘Significant Prize’

Roc, Total SA, Eni SpA and Oil & Natural Gas Corp. are among 59 companies that qualified earlier this year to bid for onshore fields in Myanmar, according to the nation’s energy ministry. Myanmar is also offering 30 offshore blocks.

Myanmar’s potential gas resources are estimated at as much as 45 trillion cubic feet, Roc said in February, citing a U.S. Geological Survey report. Myanmar has 7.8 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, according to BP Plc data.

“That’s quite a significant prize, and clearly the industry feels that as well given the appetite,” Eliet said.

Woodside, Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, is evaluating bids on offshore blocks after reaching two exploration deals last year in the country, Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman said in a May 28 interview.

Roc, which gets about three quarters of its production from China and Australia, also wants to expand in Malaysia after entering the country about two years ago, Chief Executive Officer Alan Linn said today in the phone interview. Roc’s operations include the Cliff Head oil field off Western Australia and the Zhao Dong oil fields off China.

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