ChevronTexaco to Begin Drilling for Gas, Oil Off Cambodia

ChevronTexaco will soon start looking for oil in Cambodian waters by drilling five exploration wells, the head of Cambodia's petroleum authority said.

The company will likely start work in October on the wells, about 140 kilometers off the port city of Sihanoukville, said Te Duong Tara, director general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.

Exploration results are expected early next year.

The drilling comes two years after the government and ChevronTexaco signed a deal allowing exploration of 6,278 square kilometers in Cambodia's portion of the Thai Gulf.

The company has since done some preliminary work to find the right places to drill. Cambodia is expecting "some good news" from the exploration, Te Duong Tara said late Tuesday.

"The good news is that we can prove how much gas that we have (in the area) much reserve we have in oil," he said.

Cambodia, which relies heavily on fuel imports and has expensive electricity, could greatly benefit from having its own supplies, Te Duong Tara said.

The area will be developed for production if deemed commercially viable, he said.

ChevronTexaco officials in Bangkok, where the company's regional office is based, were not immediately available for comment.

It will be the first time that there has been so much drilling in Cambodian waters since the late 1990s. Te Duong Tara said the new effort was made possible by cheaper equipment, improved technology and ChevronTexaco's experience in the Thai section of the gulf.

A preliminary estimate for the surveyed Cambodian area shows about 3 trillion-5 trillion cubic meters of gas and 400 million barrels of crude oil, said Te Duong Tara.

There are 2,000 wells on the Thai side of the gulf and nearly 1,000 in Vietnam's portion.