Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged a Chinese firm to expedite the construction of what will be Cambodia’s first oil refinery, and to have the facility operational by 2018, later than previously anticipated, according to an assistant to the prime minister.
Eang Sophalleth, a personal assistant to Mr. Hun Sen, said the prime minister made the request during a meeting at his office building Monday with Cai Xiyou, the visiting senior vice president of the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec.
“First, what Hun Sen wants is that the company make an effort to reduce the environmental impact as much as it can,” Mr. Sophalleth told reporters after the meeting. “Second, the company has to push the construction of this oil refinery, which should be able to produce oil in 2018.”
Mr. Cai, Mr. Sophalleth said, replied that the refinery would be a success “very soon” and that Sinopec would strive to mitigate the impacts.
“His company will use new and high-end technology to reduce the factory’s impact on the environment and to produce oil to international standards,” he said.
According to state news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse, Sinopec was one of several Chinese firms that signed a memorandum of understanding in April to invest $1.67 billion to build a refinery in Kampot province capable of refining up to 5 million tons of oil a year.
Another Chinese firm, the Sinomach China Perfect Machinery Industry Corporation, had signed a deal with the state-owned Cambodian Petrochemical Company to build a 5-million-ton-capacity refinery at the same site for $2.3 billion in December. It was unclear Tuesday whether Sinomach was still involved in the project.
At the time, government and company officials said the refinery would break ground in early 2013 and take as little as three years to build.
Ter Chimnarith, deputy director of Kampot’s department of industry, claimed that work on a refinery had started a year ago but had no idea who was involved and referred questions to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.
Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Huor declined to comment and referred questions to the ministry, while Secretary of State at the ministry Ith Praing, in charge of energy, declined to comment.
Cambodia presently uses more than 1 million tons of oil a year and imports all of it. Efforts to extract oil from potentially lucrative but contested reserves in Cambodian waters in the Gulf of Thailand have been long delayed.
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