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Australia's Woodside says assessing impact of Myanmar coup on offshore drilling plan

MELBOURNE, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Australia’s Woodside Petroleum said it is working to understand how its exploration drilling plan for offshore Myanmar this year might be affected after the military seized power there on Monday.

Woodside has been working with French giant Total SA and Myanmar-based MPRL E&P to develop Myanmar’s first ultra-deep water gas project, known as A-6. The Australian firm said in January it had started a three-well drilling campaign in a block next to A-6 and in acreage where it hopes to develop a northern hub.

As Woodside reviews the impact of the coup, the threat of sanctions hangs over Myanmar: the United States threatened to reimpose trade curbs lifted over the last decade after the country’s generals seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We continue to monitor the evolving situation in Myanmar,” a Woodside spokeswoman said.

The company has not disclosed financial targets for Myanmar business, but says on its web site that since 2014 it has invested more than $400 million in Myanmar.

The company has fewer than 100 direct employees and dependents in Myanmar, some of whom are expatriates. The company said it would work with the Australian government to protect the safety of its workers and contractors in the country.

“Noting our current 2021 drilling campaign, we are working with our stakeholders to understand how these planned activities may possibly be impacted and preparing our forward plan,” the spokeswoman said in comments emailed late on Monday.

The A-6 gas development is one of Woodside’s medium-term growth projects, with a plan to pipe gas from the ultra-deep water field onshore to Myanmar and Thailand.

Analysts cautioned that the A-6 project, not yet considered by investors to be a major project for Woodside, had already been subject to delays.

“The commercial side of progress had already been dragging on as it is,” Credit Suisse analyst Saul Kavonic said in a note. “It may be premature to determine impact here, but clearly there is a risk of further delay to developments.”

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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