AROUND 50 local and international oil and gas exploration and production companies have shown interest in participating in the bidding for the exploration of various energy resources in the Philippines.

The Department of Energy (DoE) on Monday launched the bidding for coal, petroleum, and native hydrogen exploration in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and other parts of the country.

“We are very pleased that known oil and gas exploration and production players in Asia, North America, and Europe, including local players, have come to this event and displayed a keen interest in evaluating our country’s petroleum potential,” Energy Undersecretary Alessandro O. Sales said in a statement.

Some of the companies that were present during the launch include Baseline Unlimited, Inc.; The PhiloDrill Corp.; Helios Aragon Pte. Ltd.; V1 Countrywide Realty Corp.; Asia Axis, Inc.; PXP Energy Corp.; and Western Sulu Gulf Oil Corp.

Also attending the event were representatives from ExxonMobil Corp.; Prime Energy Resources Development B.V.; Minsupala Energy and Mineral Resource Development Corp.; Oriental Petroleum and Minerals Corp.; Freedom Renewable Energy Corp.; and Triangle Energy Ltd.

The DoE unveiled four pre-determined areas (PDA) for coal and petroleum exploration in the BARMM.

The only pre-determined area for coal exploration is located in the municipalities of Kapai and Tagoloan, Lanao del Sur covering a total area of 14,856 hectares.

For the Bangsamoro petroleum exploration, the first area covers Cotabato City and the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Norte. It spans 229,240 hectares and is situated in the Cotabato Basin.

“Petroleum exploration in the basin dates back to the presence of oil in a water well drilled in Datu Piang, Maguindanao del Sur in 1916. A total of 14 wells have been drilled in the area, 10 of which had oil and gas shows,” the DoE.

The PDA-BP 2 and 3 are both located in the Sulu Sea Basin with areas of 780,000 hectares and 532,083 hectares, respectively.

To date, six wells have been drilled within PDA-BP 2, of which three are gas discoveries, and one with evidence of oil and gas, the DoE said. 

On the other hand, seven wells have been drilled within PDA-BP 3, of which four had gas shows, and one had oil and gas shows.

“Some of you might ask, why insist on petroleum and coal. Are we ignoring the renewable energy resources of Bangsamoro? Let me explain that with respect to petroleum and coal, this is a joint responsibility of the national and BARMM government,” Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said in his speech.

“For the renewable energy resources, these are within the framework of the BARMM government, and we will be working with them. We commit ourselves and give them full support in the development of renewable energy resources of the region,” he added.

Under the 2024 Philippine bid round, two pre-determined areas are being offered for the development and production of petroleum, which are situated in northwest Palawan and southern Cebu.

The first area in the offshore northern Palawan covers 100,000 hectares. It includes five wells, which led to the discovery of the Calauit and Calauit South oil fields, with an estimated reserve of 5.5-6.1 million barrels of oil (MMbbls).

The second area, or the Visayan basin, covers 58,638 hectares with an estimated resources of 26.3-31.9 MMbbls.

Meanwhile, two pre-determined areas for native hydrogen exploration adjacent to the northern portion of the Zambales Ophiolite Complex and the western portion of Central Luzon were also up for bidding.

Both are located in the provinces of Zambales and Pangasinan which covers an estimated 134,096 hectares and 96,439 hectares, respectively.

Edgar Benedict C. Cutiongco, president of the Philippines Petroleum Association, said that it is time to open the exploration to all investors.

“In general, oil and gas is high risk, but high risk would give you high rewards, right? That’s the business plan of upstream oil and gas companies… we invest, and we are risk takers,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the launch.

As an example, Mr. Cutiongco said that the drilling well in an offshore area would cost at least $10 million, depending on the water depth.

“In the future, we want, in fact, to be able to export, right? If we are able to find more gas, and they will be more than enough for our production, if we are able to find more gas for our domestic consumption, then we can aspire to even export,” DoE’s Mr. Lotilla said.

The deadline for the submission of bids for coal PDA is on April 26, while the bids for PDAs for native hydrogen and petroleum should be submitted on Aug. 27.

The Energy department said that companies can submit their application for a petroleum service contract (PSC) within the prescribed 180-day period following the publication of the PDAs on Feb. 26.

Submission for coal operating contract (COC) application is within the 60-day period.

The notices of qualification for the BARMM COCs will be announced on July 24, while those for BARMM PSCs will be announced on Nov. 21.

Meanwhile, the list of qualified bidders for the development and production of petroleum and hydrogen exploration will be released on Sept. 24.

“I encourage you to further evaluate these petroleum potentials. We have the best contractual terms to offer that could match and compete with other countries,” Mr. Sales said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera