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Petronas has big Sabah plans

Published on: Sunday, June 30, 2024

By: Sherell Jeffrey

“Sabah is a land full of opportunities. This is demonstrated with the conclusion of the Malaysia Bid Round (MBR) 2023 where SB403 was awarded to PCSB, EPMV and SMJ Energy and the Bambazon Cluster was awarded to EPOMS,” Bacho said. 

KOTA KINABALU: National oil company, Petronas, has aggressive plans to boost the country’s oil production and expand its energy sector with particular emphasis on Sabah. 

“As a reliable energy supplier to the world, especially through LNG, Petronas remains steadfast in our ambition for Malaysia to achieve a production of two million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2025 and beyond,” said Petronas Malaysia Petroleum Management Senior Vice President Datuk Bacho Pilong.

He said this in his keynote address at the 11th Sabah Oil, Gas and Energy Conference and Exhibition 2024 held at the Sabah International Convention Centre. 

“This year’s investment commitment by the Upstream Industry in Malaysia is set to reach a record high of over RM60 billion and Sabah is poised to play a crucial role in this expansion, housing the only two floating LNG facilities in the country, with a third under construction. 

“These investments are not just about our typical investments, they focus on energy that is reliable, low cost and low carbon,” he said. 

“This commitment is underscored by the various projects slated for 2025 and beyond, which include opportunities in late-life assets, deepwater development and exploration.” 

Several major projects are planned for Sabah, including the ambitious Gumusut-Kakap-Geronggong-Jagus East Phase 4, SF30 Water Injection Phase 2 and Block H Phase 1B projects.

“Sabah is a land full of opportunities. This is demonstrated with the conclusion of the Malaysia Bid Round (MBR) 2023 where SB403 was awarded to PCSB, EPMV and SMJ Energy and the Bambazon Cluster was awarded to EPOMS,” he said. 

“We have two exploration blocks and three DRO clusters on offer in Sabah for MBR 2024, namely: Block SB304 and Block SB306. This time around, with modern technology and more data – I believe we can make it happen … ini kalilah,” he said expressing optimism about these prospects. 

He said Petronas is also investing in improving data quality to attract investors by spearheading seismic studies to improve subsurface imaging quality. 

“With better data, new and emerging plays in these focused areas can be turned into drillable prospects, unlocking further opportunities,” he said. 

He said Petronas is also working closely with the Energy Commission of Sabah (ECoS) to jointly develop the Sabah East Coast Energy Development Blueprint. 

He described this as a strategic initiative that would not just outline the potential energy development plan in East Coast Sabah, combining both fossil fuel and renewable energy solutions, but would also further unlock the oil and gas potential in the region.

“I genuinely believe that with all these efforts, together we will be able to continue making Sabah an attractive investment destination for capable and reputable investors,” he said. 

Bacho said Petronas’ effort to open its data to potential investors through the myProdata platform has been a game changer. 

“This open data platform allows for direct access evaluation of upstream opportunities, and successfully positioned Malaysia as an attractive upstream region for growth. 

“With more data being collected and shared, we have more successful discoveries – 19 successful findings last year from 23 wells drilled. This shows this matured basin, is becoming more prolific,” he said. 

He also acknowledged areas needing improvement. 

“Number one is on pace and being transparent, I admit that there are rooms to improve in Malaysia Petroleum Management as well, and how we work collaboratively as an efficient ecosystem,” he said. 

He also identified technology adoption as another area for growth, particularly the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

“I still believe we have not exploited the full power of AI to extract and monetize hydrocarbon molecules in the safest, reliable, cost-optimized and emission-abated manner,” he said. 

On development of capable ecosystem and talent, he acknowledged the successful partnership with Sabah particularly in developing the local oil and gas services and equipment (OGSE) vendor ecosystem. 

“I thank the perseverance of SMJ Energy in driving this forward with dedicated support from Sabah Oil and Gas Service Council (SOGSC) and the Malaysian Oil, Gas and Energy Services Council (MOGSC). 

“Last year alone, Petronas invested about RM46 million in education and human capital development, benefitting over 136,000 Sabahans.

“This investment includes various programs focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and technical and vocation education and training (TVET) education, as well as digital literacy,” he said.  A notable initiative is the Petronas’ BeDigital Bootcamp. 

“Since the first bootcamp at UiTM KK in 2022, Petronas has successfully rolled out seven cohorts nationwide – upskilling more than 500 students, with close to 200 boot campers being offered employment opportunities,” he said. 

He said Petronas has also intensified human capital development through the award of grants worth close to RM6 million through the Petronas Academia Collaboration Dialogues programmes. 

These grants fund research in green energy and operational efficiency through data science and artificial intelligence.

“Together with Petronas and the industry players, I am sure we can make a difference. A reminder to the local players – continue to upskill to ensure delivery excellence.

Be prepared to play a long game - good and bad times will come and go but excellence will ensure success in the short and long run,” he said. 

Reflecting on his own journey, Bacho said “I believe I am where I am today because of the education opportunities that were given to me many years ago by Petronas. 

“Forty years since I left my hometown (Sebatik Island), I have grown to be a strong believer that education and talent development will uplift lives and communities,” he said. 



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