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5 Nov2008
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Cambodia's first oil unlikely before 2010

US major Chevron Corp has yet to submit a plan for what was slated to be Cambodia's first oil development, Reuters quoted a senior Cambodian official as saying Tuesday. This would mean first oil is unlikely until the next decade.

The impoverished Indochinese country has been keen to tap its hydrocarbon resources like its Thai and Vietnamese neighbours but Chevron-operated Block A, once touted as Cambodia's route to riches, is unlikely to be onstream before 2010 at the earliest.

"Chevron is planning to do more exploration and appraisal. By the end of the year, they will submit a development plan," Ho Vichit, vice-chairman of state-owned Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Singapore.

The time lag between a development plan and first oil is usually at least a year and often take several years.

But Ho said the field would be developed, rejecting the suggestion that development could be shelved.

Chevron issued last year a downbeat assessment of the offshore block, after a second drilling campaign showed the block presented challenges, with hydrocarbons being dispersed rather than in one core field.

The company also said at the time it planned a third drilling campaign for late 2008-2009.

Chevron operates the block with a 55 percent interest, while Mitsui Oil Exploration, a unit of Mitsui & Co, holds a 30 percent stake and South Korea's GS Caltex a 15 percent stake.

Cambodia has since toned down its oil ambitions and initial estimates of 400-700 million barrels are no longer discussed.

"We are still at the early stages of exploration," Ho said, when discussing plans to establish a national oil company.

For the time being, CNPA, which is regulatory body, acts as the government's representative in contracts.

Ho said it was too premature to discuss finds on other blocks as companies had just completed drilling.

Thai PTT Exploration and Production PTTE.BK said in a statement in July that exploration well Vimean Morodok MahaNorkor-1 on block B resulted in non-recoverable oil shows. The company said it would continue technical work to evaluate the block, which it operates.

Cambodia is keen to attract investors to develop both the upstream and downstream sectors, as it has no refinery and imports about 1 million tonnes of refined products a year.

The lack of geological data has limited interest in onshore blocks, with several yet to find takers.

But offshore, the continued border dispute with Thailand is preventing exploration in some areas.

Ho declined to comment on when the dispute could be resolved and whether the latest flare-up over the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple with Thailand was making things worse.

"This depends on politics," he said.




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