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Blending may fuel energy sector

A container storage facility off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province that allows Cambodia to blend oil before export could hold the key to sustainable growth in the country’s nascent energy sector, according to a Danish oil and gas expert.

With Chevron positioned to lead offshore oil extraction in the Gulf of Thailand by as early as 2016, Tommy Christensen, chief executive of Denmark-based Go4 Bunker Cambodia, presented his “energy roadmap” to government officials and industry experts at the Sunway Hotel on Friday.

Go4 Bunker’s expertise is in the storage and shipment of fuels post-oil extraction, particularly the development of bunkers that can serve as gas stations at sea to supply passing vessels.

“The crude oil in the Southeast Asian region is not a standalone crude oil, it’s a crude oil that needs to be mixed up with another crude oil to meet the demand both in Thailand, which has the largest petrochemical industry in Asia, and also Vietnam and China,” Christensen said.

If he had his way, the storage facility would be stationed around the Koh Wai islands in the Gulf of Thailand, acting as an initial link allowing Cambodia to retain more value from oil extraction.

While Christensen’s roadmap does include future plans for an oil refinery, the $2.3 billion Chinese-backed oil refinery slated for Preah Sihanouk and Kampot Provinces in 2015 is too much, too soon, he said.

“Before you consider a refinery, you have to consolidate your off-shore first, otherwise your economy will never work,” he said.

At the point of development where a “smaller’ refinery does make sense, Christensen says the next steps are to consider piping oil north to the nation’s capital, with benefits flowing on to smaller power plants being built in Cambodia’s provinces.

As wishful as his ideas may sound, they have backers, including Danish Ambassador to Cambodia Mikael Hemniti Winther.

“It is something we have a lot of comparative advantage in, not in the big oil drilling, but we have the technology to support a lot of the processes ” Winther said, referring to Denmark’s success in the maritime industry and oil industry technology development.

Winther said that Danish companies offer a sustainable approach to development in Cambodia, citing Danish brewer Carlsberg, which partners with Angkor brewery, as one such example.

“They provide this high-quality input; they cooperate with partners; they do a lot of training of staff; they are here for the long haul,” he said.

Men Den, a spokesman for the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority, said that, while there’s potential in the Danish concept, more needs to be done to understand what the available options are for both economic development and environmental protection.

“This one depends on technology; we need to study the alternatives and consider which is best,” he said.

The storage facility is one link in Christensen’s breadth of interconnected ideas for the energy sector’s role in society. He also envisions a not-for-profit Danish technical training facility to support the educational requirements the industry demands, and an oil pipeline that would cut down on the need for transportation, taking trucks off the road and reducing road fatalities.

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