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Mitsui delivers bid for disputed offshore area

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Mitsui Oil Exploration Co met Tuesday with Prime Minister Hun Sen, shown above at a September 7 conference, to make an official application for overlapping offshore concession Area IV.

Tokyo-based exploration company meets with Hun Sen after submitting application for rights to Area IV in Gulf of Thailand

JAPANESE oil and gas company Mitsui Oil Exploration Co submitted an application Tuesday to Prime Minister Hun Sen for exploration rights in an overlapping offshore area in the Gulf of Thailand, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Ieng Sophalleth said Mitsui Chairman Yoshiyuki Kagawa led a company delegation at a meeting in Phnom Penh that applied for Cambodia’s Area IV off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province.

“Yoshiyuki Kagawa told Hun Sen that the company had already submitted its proposed documents to the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) in bidding for oil and gas in offshore Area IV,” said Ieng Sophalleth, adding that the prime minister welcomed the plan and highlighting the need for transparency in the bidding process.

The application follows bids submitted to CNPA late last month by two other Japanese companies – Inpec and Marubeni Oil and Gas – for oil and gas rights in Cambodia. However, the blocks targeted are not known.

Area IV lies at the southern end of an offshore area that remains at the centre of a dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

In June 2001, the two sides agreed that the zone would be part of a joint-development agreement, meaning the countries would share revenues from its production should marketable energy supplies be found in the area. However, both sides have yet to agree the percentage split on revenues despite years of on-off negotiations.

Phnom Penh has not yet awarded Area IV; however, Bangkok has already done so: Thailand’s state-owned energy company PTTEP has signed a deal on the eastern section, and Mistui and Chevron hold rights to the remaining western part. The Japanese company has been given a 20 percent stake by Thailand in what Bangkok terms blocks B12A, B12B and B13.

Mitsui – under its local name Mitsui Cambodia Co – holds a 30 percent stake in offshore Block A, a Cambodian concession led by Chevron that lies adjacent to the disputed area. The Tokyo-based company also has operations in neighbouring Vietnam.

Mitsui’s move for Area IV comes despite a continuing delay in the signing of the Area III concession between French energy giant Total and the Cambodian government.

Also in the overlapping area, the Total block was supposed to be signed over following a verbal agreement with Hun Sen in Paris in mid-July.

However, the deal has still not been signed, as both sides are trying to work out contractual differences in a deal that would also see the company sign an agreement for onshore Block 26.

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