September 30, 2022
PHNOM PENH – Cambodia expects to receive millions of dollars next month in proceeds from the sale of nearly 300,000 barrels of crude oil stolen by the Bahamas-flagged tanker MT Strovolos last year following a payment dispute with the Apsara oil field’s Singaporean developer, KrisEnergy, according to a senior energy official.
This, after long-running discussions came to a close on September 10, with the concerned parties reaching a settlement, Ministry of Mines and Energy Cheap Sour told The Post on September 29.
Speaking at a September 28 event at Kep Provincial Hall, energy minister Suy Sem recapped that, in June last year, the MT Strovolos – while on lease by KrisEnergy for oil storage – left Cambodian waters with the roughly 47 million litres of oil without obtaining customs clearance or the required permission from the authorities, before traversing across the territorial waters of many Asian countries.
Indonesian authorities seized the tanker and its crew over a month later, and confirmed that 297,686.518 barrels of oil were onboard.
The minister confirmed that his ministry was able secure a 70 per cent portion of the sales’ proceeds for Cambodia after complicated negotiations and legal proceedings. Sem put the dollar amount of the Kingdom’s share in the broad $10-20 million range, saying that this sum would “contribute to the state budget”.
Meanwhile, Sour confirmed that the oil had been sold, and transferred from the MT Strovolos to an undisclosed buyer on September 10. “Payment will be made 30 days after the purchase, so we expect to receive the money around October 11,” he said.
Speaking at an August 8 press conference, ministry secretary of state Meng Saktheara had said Cambodia’s 70 per cent share was expected to amount to “more than $25 million”.
However, given the volume confirmed by the Indonesian authorities, the crude would need to be sold at an average of no less than $119.98 per barrel to reach Saktheara’s prediction, far higher than the currently downtrending prices of global crude oil benchmarks.
For reference, KrisEnergy Group in 2014 bought a controlling stake in the offshore Block A concession from US oil giant Chevron for $65 million, and in 2017 entered into a petroleum agreement for exploration and development from the government.
However, just 157 days after it extracted Cambodia’s first drops of crude from the Apsara oil field, KrisEnergy Ltd filed for liquidation on June 4, 2021, confirming that it was unable to pay its debts. The Apsara area is located in the northeastern part of offshore Block A in the Khmer Basin of the Gulf of Thailand.
KrisEnergy pumped a total of nearly 300,000 barrels from Cambodian waters, leaving almost 200,000 barrels’ worth in the five wells drilled by the company.
However, a team at the energy ministry and Canadian-owned company EnerCam Resources Co Ltd (EnerCam) are looking into picking up where KrisEnergy left off and studying the possibility of investing in oil extraction from Block A, using equipment seized by the ministry.