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Highest in SE Asia
Negritos (Pygmys) had lived in the region for thousands of years before Chinese and Indian traders arrived in around 50 AD, introducing Hinduism and Buddhism. In the north the Kingdom of Langkasuka arose whilst the south was part of the Srivijaya Empire, replaced by the Islamic Javan Majapahit Empire from 1293.
In 1400 the Malacca Sultanate was founded, conquered by Portugal in 1511, the Dutch in 1641, and then ceded to the UK in 1874. Along with Penang (1786) and Singapore (1819) they became the Straits Settlements. By 1900 all other states were British protectorates, including Sarawak (1842) and Sabah (1878).
After occupation by Japan in World War 2 the peninsula states were briefly unified. In 1948 The Federation of Malaya restored state autonomy under British protection whilst Chinese communists launched guerrilla operations (the so-called Emergency, which ended in 1960).
The country achieved independence from the UK in 1957 and, in 1963, was united with Singapore (which left in 1965), Sabah and Sarawak. After a period of racial tension the economy grew strongly, dependent on natural resources but with a growing manufacturing and service sector.
The two parts of Malaysia are separated by the South China Sea and both comprise coastal plains rising to hills and mountains. The peninsula is linked to Singapore by a narrow causeway and bridge. The country also has maritime boundaries with Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, many of which are disputed. The Strait of Malacca, between Sumatra and the peninsula is an important maritime trade route.
West Malaysia is divided by the heavily forested north-south trending Titiwangsa Mountain range. Comprising granites and other igneous rocks they rise to 2,183m at Mount Korbu and erosion has created a karst landscape.
East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, also has a mountainous interior. The Crocker Range extends northwards through Sarawak and includes the 4,095m Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. Sarawak also contains the Mulu Caves, the largest system in the world. Malaysia has numerous islands, the largest of which is Banggi, off Sabah.
Although the Miri field produced oil in Sarawak, near Brunei from 1913 to 1972, all oil and gas in Malaysia is now produced offshore from basins east of West Malaysia and north of Sarawak and Sabah since 1968. Output from shallow waters has been supported by deep waters off Sabah since 2007 when the Kikeh field came onstream.
Although the Globalshift considers that the Malaysian shallow waters are near peak, there is new output available from joint development areas with Vietnam and Thailand, as NGLs associated with gas, and from deep water areas off Sabah.
Gas production, to fuel an increasingly affluent population, as well as export capacity at Sarawak’s LNG plant in Bintulu, is increasing with new reserves being developed in all regions.
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Malaysia is a federal elective monarchy. The ceemonial head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or King, elected to a 5-year term by and from the 9 hereditary rulers of the Malay states. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, led by a Prime Minister.
The bicameral parliament consists of the elected 222-member House of Representatives and the 70-senator Senate. Each state also has a unicameral State Legislative Assembly with governments led by Chief Ministers.
Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Malaysian National Oil Company Inc (Petronas) is the NOC, established in 1974 and vested with the entire oil and gas resources in Malaysia and the responsibility of developing and adding value to these resources.
Its operating arm is called Petronas Carigali. Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corporation (MPRC) was formed in 2011 as an agency to the oil and gas services sector.
Malaysia was a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967.
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