Natural resources and energy
East Timor’s most important natural resources are the oil and natural gas reserves found in Lake Timor, which separate the country from Australia. The soil in East Timor is mineral-poor, but marble is mined and there are small deposits of silver, manganese, gold, copper and plaster.
The production of oil and natural gas began on a small scale in 2001. Revenues then increased rapidly and in 2005 the government set up an oil fund in accordance with the Norwegian pattern to ensure that the money will also benefit future generations.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by East Timor with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
According to an agreement with Australia, East Timor is entitled to 90 percent of the revenues from the fields in a sea zone closest to East Timor. The other 10 percent in the zone is due to Australia. Negotiations on the profits from the fields in a sea zone further out, including the larger fields Greater Sunrise and Bayu-Undan, became long and hard. It was not until 2006 that an agreement was signed between Australia and East Timor to settle the conflict and divide the revenue in that zone equally for 50 years. But when leaked secret documents showed that Australia had used telephone interception during the negotiations, East Timor in 2013 turned to the United Nations International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) to try to have the agreement annulled, which happened in 2017.
One problem is that the development of oil and natural gas production requires huge investments. East Timor does not have its own refinery, nor is it possible to receive natural gas on its own land. The gas is instead transported in liquid form to Australia, from where it is shipped on. Several foreign oil companies participate in the extraction of East Timor’s oil and gas assets.
- Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, TP stands for East Timor. Visit itypeusa for more information about East Timor.
The energy supply was severely affected by the 1999 wave of violence and has not yet reached sufficient capacity to give all residents access to electricity. In the countryside many still lack electricity and in the cities there are electricity outages. Electricity is generated mainly in power plants powered by imported diesel. An expansion of hydropower is ongoing. The first hydropower plant was ready at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
60 kilograms of oil equivalent (2007)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
469,000 tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
0.4 ton (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
18.2 percent (2015)
International court will resolve the dispute with Australia
The Permanent Arbitration Court (PCA) in The Hague, not to be confused with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), agrees that at East Timor’s request, the conflict with Australia be examined on the Timor Sea oil fields. (26/9)
Prolonged drought leads to food shortages
Drought as a result of the weather phenomenon El Ninjo affects all parts of the country starting in the spring. In the worst affected areas, the crops fail completely, in other parts the yield is lower than normal. Livestock dies due to lack of feed and water. Also, many people are forced to survive on one or two meals a day. More than 100,000 inhabitants are estimated to be suffering from moderate food shortages and in every quarter households have been forced to seek a new water source, usually further afield. (22/9)
Representatives are appointed to the UN panel
East Timor and Australia present two negotiators each to sit on the UN panel that will investigate the conflict in the Timor Sea. (9/5)
UN panel is formed to resolve the border dispute with Australia
East Timor appeals to the UN for the appointment of a special UN panel, which in a report will provide non-binding recommendations to East Timor and Australia on how to finally resolve the conflict at sea. (11/4)
Mass demonstration outside Australia’s embassy
Thousands of East Timorians gather in Dili in one of the largest demonstrations since independence in 2002. Students, old guerrilla warriors and others join the Australian embassy and demand that the oil and gas agreement be renegotiated (see Economic overview). (22/3)