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Maldives (the Republic of Maldives) is a country in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of India. It is an archipelago of 26 coral atolls.

Immigrants from India and Sri Lanka settled from around 500 BC followed by sailors from the Indus and Austronesians on their way to Madagascar. Various dynasties ruled until the 11th century when the northern atolls became part of the Tamil Chola Empire. In the 12th century a Maldivian kingdom was established.

Visitors converted the locals to Islam and the islands acted as a trading stop for Arabs until the 16th century when Europeans began to dominate. In 1887 the Sultan asked to become a UK protectorate with self-rule. The UK used the southernmost atoll as an air base but, needing to reduce its global financial commitments, it gave full independence to the islands in 1965 and the airbase closed in 1976.

The Sultanate continued until 1968 when the islanders voted to become a republic. A tourist industry was developed but the autocratic president built up large debts and his rule was disrupted by a series of failed coup attempts.

In 2008, after the 2004 tsunami, a new president was finally voted in but unrest has continued with regular arrests of political opponents. The economy is still dominated by tourism and fishing.

The Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double north-south chain of 26 atolls. The atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, situated above the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a submarine mountain range 960 kms long that was created as the Indian Oceanic plate moved over the Reunion hotspot.

This geology is not suitable for the generation and accumulation of commercial volumes of oil and gas and the Maldives have no indigenous oil or gas resources, either onshore or offshore. Globalshift believes they are very unlikely to achieve any production in the future. One dry offshore exploration well was drilled in 1976 near Male atoll.

The atolls are spread over 90,000 sq kms of ocean but the Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of land area and population. They have an average elevation of just 1.5m with a highest natural point of 2.4m. At the end of 2004, following an Indian Ocean earthquake, the Maldives were devastated by a tsunami with only 9 islands escaping flooding. The government is trying to make the Maldives a carbon-neutral country due to concerns about rising sea-levels and is campaigning for more global action on climate change.


Map and National Flag


Coral atoll islands

South Asia


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Oil and gas summary Brief history of the country



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)



0.3 mm






The Maldives is a democratic republic with the elected President as head of government, appointing the cabinet.

The unicameral legislative body (Majlis) is composed of 77 members serving a 5-year term.

There is no department of government in the Maldives specifically responsible for oil and gas resources but 31 protected areas are administered by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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