BG Group has secured a foothold in Myanmar after winning rights to explore for natural gas off the Asian country’s coastline.

“This award is in line with BG Group’s strategy to focus on securing prospective frontier acreage and enter, on average, one new basin each year,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Myanmar, which was closed off to foreign investments for decades due to sanctions and the authoritarian military government is finally opening up after years of isolation. Official estimates suggest the country has up to 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available to exploit.

The European Union last year recognised Myanmar’s transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule after it released thousands of political prisoners and eased rules on the freedom of expression.

Finding new sources of energy is vital for Myanmar to meet the needs of its population of 60m people and rapidly growing economy. Statoil and ConocoPhillips have both recently established a presence in the country.

Natural gas is the world’s fastest-growing fossil fuel, with annual consumption expected to increase to 185 trillion cubic feet by 2040, from 113 trillion cubic feet in 2010, according to the US Energy Information Administration. In Asia, gas consumption is expected to climb by an average of 1.3pc a year through to 2040.

BG, which is extending its global exploration and production drive into areas such as Tanzania and Brazil, will operate two blocks in Myanmar. The company said that it has also secured non-operated acreage, located in the Rakhine Basin in the western offshore area of Myanmar. The blocks were awarded as part of the government’s 2013 Offshore Bid Round.

The company and its bidding partners will carry out a 3D seismic programme in each search for exploitable quantities of gas in each block. Work is expected to begin this year with options for future drilling.