Cambodian officials are in the US this month learning how to manage their country’s hoped-for oil riches, US officials and an industry representative said Tuesday.
The 10-day trip, which includes meetings with oil company and government representatives in Washington, New Orleans, and Houston, is the second part of a $361,000 program paid for by the US Trade and Development Agency, according to officials with the US embassies in Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
“They’re meeting with public and private sector experts to look at best practices relating to resource exploration and production,” said John Johnson, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. He added that the visit, which ends March 22, follows about two weeks of training in Phnom Penh held in December.
One of the firms hosting the delegation in the US is Chevron, according to a spokesman for the company, which owns a majority stake in the 6,278-sq-km offshore Block A in the Gulf of Thailand.
In November of last year, the government complained that failure to reach a tax agreement with Chevron had delayed oil extraction, and Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone wrote by e-mail Tuesday that the company was “working hard to find a solution to develop the complex reservoir.”
“Chevron is not in a position to discuss start-up dates until the evaluation process has been complete,” he added, a response that has not changed since November.
Pen Nguon, adviser to the council of ministers, said he did not know the status of negotiations with Chevron, and officials with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority and the Finance Ministry could not be reached for comment Monday.
But Ou Vichet, vice chairman of the CNPA, on Friday told The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, that it was too soon to predict when the country will begin production. However, he was also quoted as saying, “Cambodians are ready to begin oil production.”
The group who accompanied Ou Vichet included other officials from the CNPA and government, according to the website of Koeppen, Elliott & Associates, the Washington-based firm hired to coordinate the training.