France Ready for Talks on Gas Power Plant

Utilities giant Electricite de France (EdF) is preparing to en­ter negotiations with Cambodia over the construction of a power plant to use up natural gas locked up in disputed waters off the country’s coast, France’s ambassador-in-waiting to Cambodia said on Tuesday.

Serge Mostura, who is still awaiting confirmation as ambassador, said that French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Prime Minister Hun Sen during a private meet­ing on Sunday that EdF was ready to sign a memorandum of intent to enter negotiations.

Mr. Ayrault was in Phnom Penh for a two-day visit to attend Monday’s cremation of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

“Electricite de France is interested in building, through a contract with Cambodian authorities, a power plant that uses natural gas,” Mr. Mostura told reporters at a press briefing at the French Embassy.

“The plant will enable the city of Phnom Penh to get the energy it needs,” he said of the capital, which goes through regular blackouts during the hottest months of the year due to a lack of supply.

The challenge will be getting at the natural gas.

As the embassy explained, the plant intends to draw its natural gas from offshore blocks where ex­traction is currently prohibited until Thailand and Cambodia figure out how to divide the contested area.

French oil firm Total has exploration rights in the area and is anxiously awaiting a resolution to the dispute.

But on that front, Mr. Mostura said Mr. Hun Sen reported no significant progress during Sunday’s meeting.

“He said there were grants for some of the oil block [to Total] for conducting oil exploration, but they [Cambodia] need to talk with Thailand before the company can start exploration,” he said. “Total has one block, not all the blocks, so it cannot explore unless the overlapping area has been settled.”

He said EdF hoped to build its power plant along the coast but did not specify where.

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