The Malampaya offshore gas field located in The Philippines. The production platform is situated in (relatively) shallow water off the coast of Palawan island. It collects gas via a manifold connecting five natural gas wells, all on the seabed at a depth of 820m below sea level. The wells themselves draw gas from a reservoir 3000m below the seabed.

A 500km export pipeline then snakes its way along the coast, around to Mindoro island, before coming ashore in Batangas, where the gas is used to fire a power station -- hence their slogan, Deep water gas to power.

This natural gas powered plant is expected to provide 2,700 megawatts of power to the city of Luzon for 20 years.

The $4.5b (US) Malampaya project went into production in 2001. The field was initially 100% owned by Shell Philippines Exploration (SPEX) and SPEX still operates the field, but during construction they sold a 45% share to Chevron Texaco, and a further 10% to PNOC (the Philippines National Oil Company).

Technologically, the Malampaya project is quite impressive. Water depths of 800-850m are still considered quite deep by 2005 standards, and the 503km pipeline from the wells to the on-shore power plant is an impressive feat of engineering (though after inspecting it over 2 months in a tiny shipping container, it quickly loses its novelty appeal).

SPEX pride themselves, and this project in particular on sustainable development -- as such they claim to have "...made conscious efforts to ensure that the social and environmental aspects of the Malampaya project were not compromised in the process of development and operation.". Despite this, the project is not without its controversies.

The local fishermen of Palawan island make their living by fishing in the waters around the islands. In the early years of the project there were reports that the fishermen raised their concerns by converging on the SPEX headquarters just short of brandishing pitchforks and flaming brands. They were concerned that the export pipeline was disrupting the breeding grounds for the local fish, and therefore depleting fish stocks. An urgent missive to the inspection campaign being undertaken at the time returned 10 minutes of footage of teeming marine life on and around the pipeline, set to music, to help allay their concerns. There is also an exclusion zone surrounding the pipeline to prevent fish traps from becoming tangled on the pipe and becoming a hazard for the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that regularly inspect the pipeline. SPEX has tried to allay concerns, with some success, by conducting yearly environmental surveys using local experts.

Being a significant economic project in The Philippines, there are also political dramas at play. As well as disagreements on revenue sharing between the Palawan local government and the Philippines national government, the construction and development phase of the project was not without its share of bribery and corruption allegations.

Those who find themselves working on the Malampaya Project, will no doubt be introduced to the delightful (and seemingly displaced) Batangas Country Club (BCC) located in Batangas city. Each year the BCC hosts the kick-off party for the annual inspection campaign -- the ice teas are complimentary, and no matter how many times you order the same meal you'll never get the same dish. Of slightly less repute is (are?) 'The Dog's Bollocks', a popular dive for the offshore workers and ships' crew alike during the fortnightly shore leave, a useful 15min stumble up the road from the port in Batangas.

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