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US oil giant UNOCAL to begin Cambodian testing

A MERICAN oil company UNOCAL - spurred by the initial success of other foreign oil companies in Cambodia - is working to bid on four blocks soon to be offered for exploration by the government.

UNOCAL president John Imle said Dec 13 that if data analysis and geological surveys proved fruitful, the company would be prepared to invest "for many decades".

UNOCAL - nominally worth about $9 billion - is a Californian company "about a tenth the size of Exxon," Mr Imle said. UNOCAL ranked about 12th largest of the American oil giants and had extensive interests in Asia, including deals in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines.

UNOCAL, as with other American firms, had been unable to bid for the first off-shore blocks offered by the government because of the US embargo.

"We are delighted we can now be active, particularly now. We are getting acquainted with the leadership and the country... we like what we see," Mr Imle said.

He said UNOCAL was willing to invest for the long term if its current tests proved there was enough oil and gas to be profitable.

While UNOCAL was primarily involved in oil and gas exploration and refining, it did have a marketing arm and "was willing to consider other investment opportunities in Cambodia," he said.

When asked whether the success of Cambodian-based expat companies such as Premier and Enterprise had boosted UNOCAL's interest, He said: "Other companies have had success but our interest in Cambodia existed long before that."

UNOCAL's initial investment, to buy data and finish tests, "was very little, not enough to worth mentioning. If our seismic surveys are successful our investments could be measured in hundreds of millions, billions of dollars," he said.

He said he could not divulge exactly which of the three off-shore and one on-shore block UNOCAL would be bidding for "for competitive reasons."

Cambodian oil exploration was "warming up" and competition would soon be keen, he said. "It might be comparable to some areas of Thailand, but less active than Indonesia and Malaysia because there have yet to be any large discoveries."

Mr Imle said UNOCAL expected to receive the government's bidding instructions within the week.

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