Vietnam sees oil output in 340,000 barrel range for "few years'

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Vietnam is likely to maintain its current oil production level of about 340,000 barrels per day "for the next few years," according to an official from state-owned Vietnam Oil & Gas Group.

Vietnamese oil production rose 10 percent last year to 348,000 barrels per day, the highest level of output for the country since 2006, according to figures from BP Plc. Vietnam has the second-highest level of oil reserves in East Asia, with its 4.4 billion barrels exceeded only by China, based on BP estimates.

About 40 percent of Vietnam's output comes from fields operated by the Vietsovpetro joint venture, said Le Ngoc Son, general manager of oil and gas production for Vietnam Oil & Gas, known as PetroVietnam. The Vietsovpetro venture between PetroVietnam and Russia's OAO Zarubezhneft operates Vietnam's oldest field, known as Bach Ho, which began production in 1986.

"To maintain the production at a stable level, that's our key mission, our key objective," Son said at an industry conference yesterday in Ho Chi Minh City. "First, we need to bring new fields into production, to add new production. Second, we need to find a way to improve the recovery factor by drilling additional wells, trying to find new oil from the old field."

Soco International Plc (SIA), a London-based company operating the Te Giac Trang field that averaged 45,132 barrels of oil per day production in the first 10 months of the year, said in October that an exploration well drilled on the Vietnamese field tested more than 27,600 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Deeper plays

Soco Chief Executive Officer Ed Story described the well in a stock exchange statement as "one of the most prolific individual wells ever tested in Vietnam." The well increased the likelihood that the Te Giac Trang field holds as much as 1 billion barrels of oil, Story said in an August interview.

Vietnam's oil production comes from fields in the South China Sea off the country's southern coast. Recent discoveries in Vietnam have tended to be smaller and within reservoirs with complex geological and geophysical conditions and in more remote and challenging waters, according to a written summary of Son's presentation to the conference distributed at the conference.

"I don't think anyone really knows whether the deeper plays are going to be gas or oil," said David Thompson, a Singapore-based senior vice president for research and consulting company Wood Mackenzie, in an interview at the conference.

"For Vietnam, it's the deep water that's going to be interesting in the future," Thompson said. "If they want to have a kick up in production, they need to get more activity, more exploration going in the deep water."

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