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Central Luconia is a geological province on the Sarawak Shelf characterized by a widespread occurrence of carbonates of (largely) middle to late Miocene age. These carbonates have been a target of petroleum exploration since the late 1960s, leading to the discovery and development of a world-class gas resource mainly supplying the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) market.

Carbonate growth in Central Luconia was initiated during a major regional transgression related to accelerated subsidence from crustal stretching associated with the formation of the South China Sea. Similar carbonate developments are seen elsewhere along the margins of the South China Sea, but the scale of Central Luconia, in terms of the large number of carbonate edifices, is unique. After a short “learning” phase, exploration in Central Luconia readily became extremely successful in the early 1970s, although the hoped-for “big oil” did not materialize; instead, large quantities of, almost exclusively nonassociated, gas were found. Being an export gas play, exploration in Central Luconia has been dictated strongly by market demand and therefore has been discontinuous over time, with fairly long periods of only piecemeal activity or even complete inactivity. In recent years, through growing LNG demand and improved commercial incentives, the play has seen a remarkable revival in terms of both activity and success.

Despite its maturity with over 100 exploration wells drilled, the play still has important gaps in understanding, notably with respect to prospect specific charge and retention issues, and as a result, some very significant late-stage discoveries were possible. The carbonates proper have been the least of the concern in the total exploration effort to date; virtually without exception, wells drilled found carbonate reservoir rock of adequate quality for production of gas.

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