OFFSHORE Block 5 will be opened to tenders from oil exploration firms in the
next four months, Industry Ministry Under Secretary of State Nhep Bunchin said
on June 11.
Eight companies have already expressed interest in the block
and they along with other interested firms will be invited to submit formal
proposals to the ministry for the concession, said Bunchin.
government is now working to finalize its requirements for the block before
opening up for bids.
Bunchin said: "We want to make it attractive for the
investor and keep the government happy at the same time."
He said a
decision on the successful bidder would be announced only one month after the
offer closed, adding: "We want to push the development of the oil and gas
industry in Cambodia as fast as possible."
Block 5 is one of seven
offshore concession areas in Cambodian waters off the southwest coast.
Successful bidders for concession blocks sign a petroleum sharing
contract with the government under which commercial oil and gas finds are
divided between the two parties.
The government repays some of the
company's exploration costs from oil revenues.
Three other blocks may
soon also be opened for bidding, said Bunchin, after the failure of the Dutch
companies Marimex and Technitrade BV to fulfill their contracts to explore the
Fourth and final letters have been despatched to the companies
asking them to explain why no work has been carried out since the concessions
were awarded in 1992 in an agreement signed with the State of Cambodia regime.
Bunchin said: "Under the contract we only had to send out three letters
before the agreement became void but the co-prime ministers have asked us to
send another so as to be as fair as possible to the investors." The companies
will have 30 days to reply.
Technitrade holds the concession on Block 6,
the northernmost, while Marimex has Block 7, the closest to the coast and Block
10, an onshore area abutting the southern end of the Thai border.
Bunchin and oil industry sources expressed optimism that a commercially viable
oil field will be found in a Cambodian concession area.
followed successful initial non-commercial strikes this year by the British
company Enterprise Oil in Block 2 and the Japanese consortium Campex in Block
Bunchin's optimism was not dampened by Campex failing to strike any
deposits with its second well Devada 1.
Drilling by the ship Ocean
Clipper began on Feb 6 and had been planned to run for 80 days but was
terminated on March 16 after depths in excess of 3,200 meters were reached
without any success.
Bunchin said he expected Campex would opt for a
third wildcat, or exploratory well. Looking at the overall picture with three
companies drilling he added: "I expect there will be a commercial find in
Cambodia after two or three more wells."
Referring to the concession
areas, one industry source added: "There is not less than one commercial oil
field out there."
Campex is now expected to conduct detailed seismic
testing of its block before making a decision by November on whether to drill a
With each well costing $8 million to drill, the company, a
consortium of four Japanese firms, may seek to spread the risk by bringing in
Enterprise Oil is also expecting to conduct detailed
seismic surveys as the next stage of its exploratory operations.
Petroleum Camboya is running the third drilling operation in its Block 4 and has
the Japanese company Idemitsu and the Australian concern Ampolex as equal
Boring on the first well in Premier's block, Koh Tang 1, began
on May 19.
Country coordinator Jeremy Martin refused to comment on the
success of Premier's operation to date but he described the Enterprise and
Campex initial strikes as "encouraging."
All three companies are
increasing their chances of a significant discovery by following normal industry
practice and exchanging well and seismic data.
A second oil industry
source cautioned that Cambodia was relatively low in the pecking order for
exploration investment with proven fields in countries such as Kahzakstan
providing attractive alternatives.
The source said: "No real decisions
are made by the companies' offices in Cambodia, they are made at headquarters
and on a global basis.
"Data from each stage in the investment process
is evaluated before deciding to go onto the next, with all the partners'
approval being needed.
"Companies investment in an unknown quantity like
Cambodia can be seen as money put aside for a flutter on the races."
Enterprise and Campex finds spurred the oil industry's interest in the waters
off Cambodia and led to speculation that the Royal Government would reach an
agreement with Thailand for the exploration of contested areas.
Bunchin said his department was still waiting for the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs to make the initial approach to Thai authorities, adding that it was "a
very good opportunity for Cambodia."
The undersecretary said he expected
a bilateral Industry Ministry working party would be set up after the initial
approach to the Thais by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
area has been divided into19 concession blocks for oil exploration and the
government is considering offers from up to four different companies to conduct
aerial surveys. Firms contracted to do so would then be allowed to sell the data
to oil companies, possibly sparking further interest in
Bunchin said: "It is just a matter of time when this will