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Oil Revenue Not Likely Until 2013: Ministry

Cambodian needs at least four more years of preparation before revenues from offshore oil begin to flow, senior officials say.

“We hope to receive income from natural gas and oil between 2013 and 2015,” Hang Chuon Naron, director-general of the Ministry of Economic and Finance, told VOA Khmer.

The new estimates roll back the time originally predicted by the government, for 2011, thanks to the falling prices of oil worldwide, said Men Den, director of the department of oil exploration at the National Petroleum Authority.

“It is not an easy thing to do…the oil is inside the stone,” he told VOA Khmer. “We would not see it until 2013, depending on oil prices.”

At present, upstream petroleum exploration is progressing slowly, said Michael McWalter, an oil and gas expert at the Asian Development Bank and an adviser to the petroleum authority.

Slipping prices last year surprised everyone, he said, and coincided with the global economic crisis. That has caused many companies to scale back investments, surveys and exploration drilling.

“Cambodia with an as-yet-unborn petroleum producing industry will find it hard to make its petroleum contractors fully perform their work obligations,” McWalter wrote in an email.

Cambodia has divided its offshore oil into six blocks and has one block onshore.

Block A, which is offshore, has seen investment from the American firm Chevron, in cooperation with Japan’s Mitsui Oil Exploration and South Korea’s Caltex Corporation.

That block, worth an estimated 400 million barrels, has seen the most work so far, McWalter said, with Chevron finding indications of oil in nine out of 15 exploration wells.

Some analysts say Cambodia could have as much as 2 billion barrels of oil and10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Oil production could one day reach 200,000 to 250,000 barrels per day, with an annual value of up to $7 billion.

The International Monetary Fund in 2007, before the crisis, gave a more modest forecast, predicting $174 million in revenue by 2011 and a maximum of $1.7 billion by 2021.

But with no revenue yet to appear, a group of five non-governmental agencies on Friday officially launched the Cambodians for Resources Revenue Transparency Coalition.