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Japanese oil study ‘positive’

7 Preah Vihear temple

The hunt for oil around northwestern Cambodia has unearthed “positive” results for Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), which intends to continue exploring the area in a project that could last at least six more years, a government spokesman said.

JOGMEC’s survey on the area known as Block 17, which spans across Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces, has netted “positive and encouraging” results, said the Council of Minister’s spokesman, Ek Tha. It has also led “to numerous new geological information and understanding of Cambodia onshore petroleum potential.”

Such findings are “a result of a three-year joint study between JOGMEC and the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), which includes Cambodia’s first ever onshore 2D seismic acquisition by way of using explosives,” he said.

Seismic acquisition allows one to study an area’s subsurface geological structures and features. The process analyses waves that are generated from explosives and carom off underground structures such as rocks.

“JOGMEC intends to nominate a Japanese oil and gas company to negotiate a petroleum agreement with CNPA to continue exploration in this Block, which is expected to take another six to eight years to complete,” Tha said. JOGMEC presented its final report two days ago to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is also CNPA’s chairman.

In May 2010, JOGMEC signed a principal agreement with CNPA to study and assess oil potential in northwestern Cambodia. In late January last year, it started the 2D seismic acquisition operation, and drilled 6,000 holes, each with a six-millimeter diameter and a depth of up to 20 metres.

Men Den, CNPA’s deputy director-general in charge of exploration, development and production, said that JOGMEC’s successful initial results do not mean that extraction would definitely occur.

“They just did the seismic process which was not drilled in a long depth. But, they just concluded that it may [have oil]. So, they will do regional study once again to know more about the potential,” he said

“The government welcomes any investments because it benefits our people to have more jobs. If they want to go forwards, they need to sign production sharing contracts that last for about 30 years.”

Men Den added that the exploration has no impact on the renowned temples in the area, as the exploration site is situated far away.

Mam Sambath, executive director of Development and Partnership in Action, said that if petroleum is eventually found and extracted, the company should consider the possible environmental impacts.

Pipelines would have to be installed to transport the petroleum to refineries, he said.

“If the pipeline leaks, it will pollute the environment and affect humans, animals and rice fields nearby,” he said. This is especially true because the area being surveyed is home to many protected areas and sanctuaries, he added.

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