Despite being Southeast Asia's third largest crude oil producer of 320,000 barrels per day, Vietnam relies almost entirely on oil product imports as it lacks major refineries.

"Because of the very rapid increase in demand, oil and gas exploration must be stepped up, including oil searches in oil-rich areas overseas," the report quoted the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which is responsible for the sector, as saying.

The report, part of a draft development plan for Vietnam's energy sector, highlighted energy-related environmental issues and national energy security in the period until 2025.

It also quoted Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai as saying concerned authorities should help to develop Petrovietnam, the national oil group, into an international oil major to meet domestic fuel demand.

Vietnam's first refinery, the 140,000-bpd Dung Quat plant, is expected to come onstream next February, meeting about 40 percent of the country's total demand for refined products.

Vietnam aims to be self-sufficient in oil products by 2015 when three key refineries are completed.

By Nguyen Nhat Lam - Reuters - September 11, 2008