A state-owned Japanese company has told the government a survey conducted last year to search for oil and gas onshore in Cambodia has yielded positive results, but that at least six more years of exploration are required, according to a spokesman.
The Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) has been using seismic techniques to map the onshore Block 17—covering parts of Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces—and detect areas where hydrocarbons might be found with further investigation.
Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said in an email Tuesday that representatives of JOGMEC on Monday met with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who chairs the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), to present a report on their study.
“This report is a result of [a] three year joint study between JOGMEC and CNPA, which includes Cambodia’s first ever onshore 2-D seismic acquisition by way of using explosives,” Mr. Tha said.
“The result is positive and encouraging, leading to numerous new geological information and understanding of Cambodia on-shore petroleum potential.”
He added that JOGMEC would nominate another Japanese firm to continue exploration “which is expected to take another 6 to 8 years to complete.”
A statement also issued Tuesday says the survey was conducted between January 31 and September 1, 2012.
Mr. Tha said by phone that it was understandable that JOGMEC would take a long time finding oil on-shore, and that report was “quite encouraging.”
“This is a long-term investment and such a project involves quite technical assessment,” he said. “And we also care about environmental impacts.”
Concerns have been voiced about the extraction of Cambodia’s onshore oil reserves that are thought to be located in the basin of the Tonle Sap lake.
The country is yet to see a drop of oil or gas from the six offshore exploration blocks and two onshore blocks, including Block 17, on which companies have conducted exploration work.
An offshore area where Cambodia’s claims overlap with Thailand has also not yet been exploited, despite plans to jointly develop the area.
A consortium led by U.S. major oil firm Chevron explored offshore Block A and announced that it had found oil there back in 2005, but has not been able to agree terms with government to begin extracting it.
Mr. Tha said that despite numerous missed deadlines, negotiations were still ongoing with Chevron.
“With Chevron, we also want to see the oil and gas come out from the seabed as soon as possible. But Cambodia has a lack of human resources,” said Mr. Tha, explaining that officials had no experience with extractive industries so found it difficult to analyze results presented by companies.
“Of course we trust Chevron, if we didn’t trust Chevron we would not have come as far as we have today,” Mr. Tha added.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)