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The discovery of the Seria Field

The story of the discovery of the Seria field by Harper (1975) and as included in history books of Brunei Darussalam (Ministry of Education, 1993) tells us about two men who smelled oil while resting from a cycle trip:

"In late 1926, F.F. Marriot, in those days the British Malay Petroleum Company Field Superintendent and T.G. Cochrane, the General Manager of Sarawak Oilfields Limited, cycled along the beach from Kuala Belait to visit a Swiss geophysicist working on a gravity survey in the Lumut area. They had a rest near the mouth of Sungai Seria where Cochrane suddenly smelled oil. According to the story he later discussed this with the geophysicist in Lumut and instructed him to extend his gravity survey to the south".

The technical report by Straub, the Swiss geophysicist in this story, which is still preserved in BSP archives, takes a bit of the romance away. Gravity survey work, supervised by Straub, started in September 1925 from the Belait river. According to his report he noted during his work a peculiar H2S smell between Kuala Bera and Kuala Seria.

core drilling at Seria, 1926The smell came from the sea. He also noted patches of blackish sand along the shore from which the smell emanated. Straub reported his findings to the Chief Geologist in Miri. At that time he could not go on to the sea by boat because of the strong Northeast Monsoon swell. The report mentions that Cochrane and Marriot, when visiting his camp in December 1926 also noted the smell. In this respect, the bicycle story is confirmed. Cochrane and Straub must have indeed discussed the matter in the camp. Straub subsequently focused his work to the Sungai Bera and Seria area. He identified the first gas seepages in April 1927 in the sea off Kuala Seria. Further gravity surveying in the Sungai Bera and Seria by Straub revealed a possible structure. He mentions: "fortunately gas seepages were found which directed the attention to the place". The gas-seepages in connection with the gravity results induced the management of the Sarawak Oilfields LTD. to send a drill outfit to Padang Berawa.

core drilling at Seria, 1926The first corehole was placed close to the most important group of seepages. Drilling encountered gas saturated sand, with a blowout at 107 ft and 300 ft. Just below 300 ft an oilsand followed. Straub filed his report in April 1928, when the second corehole encountered gas (blowing) and oil shows.

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