At a time when many foreign businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to investment in Cambodia, an Australian company, Woodside Petroleum Ltd, announced Wednesday a $4.5 million research project in the waters off of Sihanoukville.
The chief executive officer of the Power Investment Group, the Cambodian firm representing Woodside, called the project a “vote of confidence in the region.”
“We do believe in certain key people,” Tep Rithivit said. “We have faith that this government will not change.”
Meas Sophea, deputy chief of RCAF general staff, whose Navy boats are providing protection for the research vessels, praised Woodside’s venture.
“We have to appreciate Woodside for coming to Cambodia during this situation,” Meas Sophea said.
The $4.5 million study, which began in August but was officially inaugurated Wednesday, will collect seismic data for four months to determine the likelihood of oil or natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand. If hydro-carbons—compressed organic materials—are discovered in the ocean floor, it may be a sign the area holds oil or natural gas.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd, in partnership with Cambodian Resources Co and Veritas, the operator of seismic research vessels, will perform the preliminary study of more than 13,000 square km of ocean floor off the coast of Sihanoukville.
Woodside has an agreement with the government for rights to the sale and commercial development of any discovered oil or gas.
“Today marks a new era of cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and Power Investment Group,” said Peter Grange, foreign operations officer for Woodside.
The project has a production-sharing contract with the government, in which the company and the government each win a certain share of the profits of any fuels. Grange declined to disclose the exact figures, but said they were competitive with others in the region.
If oil or gas is discovered, Woodside would be the first company in Cambodia in commercial oil or gas production, said the representative of Power Investment Group. The Cambodian shore of the Gulf of Thailand is considered under-explored.
The research phase of the project employs seismic vessels to chart layers of ocean floor. Every 25 meters, the boats send out sound waves. A 6-km long, microphone-equipped cable floats behind the boat. As the sound waves bounce back from the ocean floor, the microphones record the reverberations and signal them to computers on board. The computers record the data, producing something like maps of the composition of the sea floor.
After November, the initial data will be analyzed to determine the likelihood of oil or natural gas reserves. If the prospects for oil are promising, Woodside would begin drilling in 2000.