Campex, a consortium of Japanese petroleum companies, is expected to start drilling
test wells off Cambodia's southern coast in October, a high ranking State of Cambodia
official said May 19.
Ith Praing, vice minister in charge of petroleum and mineral resources, said the
Japanese group had completed seismic and site surveys and planned to drill two wells.
He said two other European-based consortia would follow with test drilling in adjacent
zones early next year.
"After siesmic interpretation those companies are very happy. The results of
those seismic surveys were very encouraging," he said.
Praing said he was confident contracts for oil exploration awarded by his Vietnamese-installed
government would be honored even if it fails to win the election currently being
held in the war-torn country. The result of the U.N -organized election is expected
to be announced in the first week of June.
"If the next government is from the Khmer Rouge or parties that are very close
to \the Khmer Rouge I don't know what will happen but if a liberal government or
our government wins there will be no impact on the contracts they signed because
our petroleum agreements meet the international standard of the oil industry,"
Roger Ottenheym, general manager of Shell Cambodia, one of the losers when the first
round of bidding for offshore blocks was held in 1991, acknowledged the process had
been fair and said it would be unwise for a new government to scrap or demand changes
to existing contracts.
Petroleum exploration in Cambodia resumed last year after an interval of almost 20
years. In the early 1970s ELF and Esso sunk offshore test wells but were forced by
an escalating civil war to halt their search before they found commercial quantities
All exploration activity was abandoned during the 1975-79 reign of the Maoist Khmer
Rouge which was ousted from power by a Vietnamese invasion.
In Sept 1991, the State of Cambodia introduced investment incentives and divided
the country up into 26 blocks, seven offshore and 19 onshore for bidding.
In addition to Campex, which groups JNOC (Japanese National Oil Co.) Nissho Iwai
Corp. and Taiyo, two other successful bidders, British-based Premier Oil Pacific
Ltd. and Enterprise Oil began exploratory work on Cambodia's continental shelf in
The Premier Oil-headed venture links Repsol Exploracion of Spain and two Australian
companies, Ampol Exploration and Santos Ltd. Enterprise Oil is operating in partnership
with British Gas, Total and Campaignie Europeane des Petroles (CEP) of France.
A fourth consortium, comprising Marimex and Technique trade International, Dutch
firms with Romanian government backing were awarded two offshore blocks and one onshore
zone in December but have yet to begin work. Praing said they were "waiting
for the (political) situation to become clearer".
The remaining offshore bock, which was originally awarded to Hungarian firm Nawa
Oil, is being re-offered after the company failed to meet contractual deadline to
begin exploratory work.
"There has been much interest because Block V is next to blocks already surveyed
and so the contractors of III and IV (Campex and Premier) are interested. They know
where there is an extension of the basins. The might not be sure but they can estimate
what is happening in Block V," Praing said.
The vice-minister said several newcomers were also bidding for the block but declined
to name the contenders. He said his ministry expects to begin evaluation of bids
in one or two months.
Praing said earliest indications based on seismological data and coparisons with
oil production in the neighboring waters of Thailand and Vietnam showed Cambodia's
oil reserves were "medium".
"Maybe half oil and half gas. This is only a comparison because on the Thai
side they have drilled and produced a lot. It has similar geological structures but
at the moment it is anybody's guess."
He said no survey work had been done on the two onshore blocks but noted primary
"indications are good for commercially viable oil and gas deposits."
In addition to the officially listed offshore zones, a further 27,500 sq. kilometers
lies in disputed waters claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia. Another 8,000 square
km area is at the center of overlapping claims made by Vietnam and Cambodia.
Praing said the government hoped to work out a joint exploration and development
agreement similar to the one struck by Malaysia and Thailand.
"We have to negotiate with the Vietnamese and the Thai," he said.
"On the Thai side they have a lot of big fields such as the Erawan Field already
in production and also on the Vietnamese side they have Big Bear, Wild Tiger. Only
Cambodia has none. It remains white, virgin," he said.