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NEWS UPDATES 3 July 2010

Petronas may export Ethiopian natural gas

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Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) may begin exporting natural gas from Ethiopia in five years, when production starts at a plant it is building in the country, a Mines Ministry official said, according to Bloomberg.

Fields being developed by Petronas in Ethiopia contain as much as 4 trillion cubic feet of gas, Eshetu Chala, senior economist at the Addis Ababa-based ministry, said in an interview on Thursday in Kampala, Uganda. Annual production figures have yet to be determined, he said.

"After five years Ethiopia will become a producer of natural gas," Chala said. "Our focus is on the export sector since the local market will consume little."

Petronas paid US$80 million (RM258 million) in 2007 for the rights to develop the Calub and Hilala gas fields in Ethiopia's Ogaden basin, according to the Reporter, an Addis Ababa-based newspaper. It may also build a gas-treatment plant and a gas pipeline to a port in neighbouring Djibouti at a cost of US$1.9 billion (RM6.2 billion), the newspaper said.

"Drilling is going on, but the output capacity will be determined after an appraisal of reserves," said Chala.

The Reporter said last month that Petronas suspended work in the Ogaden basin because of security problems. The suspension came after a British geologist was killed in April by bandits, it said. In May, the rebels said they had captured the Hilala gas field. The government denied the attack, saying the fighters were "fabricating rumours".

Azman Ibrahim, a spokesman for Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, didn't respond to a voicemail request for comment when called outside normal business hours. Rizan Ismail, Petronas's country manager for South Africa, didn't return a call seeking comment.

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