Oil reserves in Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia is a rich source of hydrocarbon resources—natural gas and petroleum. Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia, in addition to Indonesia, benefit from the latest trend, although recent attention has been drawn inexplicably to the Southeast Asian and China seas for their oil-rich reserves, knowledge of this region’s capabilities has been largely held for more than a century.


The historical records of Southeastern Asian oil started in 1883, when a Dutch planter A.J. Zijiker was exploring the exterior of Sumatra, an Indonesian Island when he was struck by a tropical storm. Seeking shelter on nearby island, Zijiker witnessed a Sumatran local watchman light a fire from wet twigs using a bamboo torch.[1] Naturally curious, the planter inquired about the burning capabilities of the torch and was soon after taken to a small pond filled with the black fluid. In the year following, Zijiker commenced the drilling of the now-well known Telega Tila oil well in Northern Sumatra. It was from this well that Royal Dutch Shell was formed. It is generally understood that Zijilker's endeavor and others similar to it catalyzed the modern petroleum industry in Southeast Asia and connected the region's resources to the world’s energy markets.

Though off-shore drilling was not a practiced first used in South Eastern and in China, it reared its head after petroleum drilling in the Gulf of Mexico proved to a highly lucrative endeavor in the years following World War II. Because of the vast areas of relatively shallow waters surrounding Indonesia and Southeastern Asian countries, drilling in these areas was a clear and easy conclusion to draw. Shell, the first to discover oil in these areas, naturally brought the first offshore drilling rig here, specifically to the Brunei coast in 1958.[2] Brunei would later evolve into a joint venture owned in equal shares by the Brunei Government and the Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies.

Current situation[edit]

Today, Southeast Asia is some of the most active area of offshore exploration in the world.[3] The impetus behind this in recent decades can be largely attributed to three phenomena: technological innovations in the industry, political developments in Southeast Asia and the Middle east, and the emergence of Japan as a hot-spot for petroleum trade operations.

At this moment, Southeast Asia produces nearly 2 million barrels per day (as well as 500 million cub feet natural gas).[4] However, the region's main oil producers, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, are planning for a future as oil importers as their oil output declines and domestic demand rises. As Indonesia became a net importer of oil, the country declared its own suspension from OPEC in 2008.[5]


  1. ^ Michael Morrow; Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 7, 1975
  2. ^ Ranjit, Singh, “Brunei 1834-1983: The Problems of Political Survival,” Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984
  3. ^ Virtual Information Center, “Brunei Primer Report on Petroleum,” 14 February 2005
  4. ^ "South China Sea and Natural Gas." Global Security. 2 Apr. 2008 <http://www.globalsecurity.org>.
  5. ^ http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2008/09/10/afx5406908.html