Kuwait mulls investing in Cambodia’s oil, gas

The Kuwaiti ambassador learned of the progress of oil and gas sector development in Cambodia and discussed potential avenues for cooperation.

May Kunmakara

May Kunmakara

The Phnom Penh Post


Kuwaiti ambassador Mohammad Saeed al-Hajri (centre left) pays a courtesy call on energy minister Suy Sem (centre right) on February 20. MME

February 22, 2023

PHNOM PENH – Kuwait has expressed interest in investing in Cambodia’s oil and gas sector, which has been recognised as a promising market for investors and businesses.

This came during Kuwaiti ambassador Mohammad Saeed al-Hajri’s February 20 courtesy call on Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem, the energy ministry said in a statement later that day.

Al-Hajri learned of the progress of oil and gas sector development in Cambodia, and discussed potential avenues and opportunities to strengthen cooperation, the statement noted.

The ambassador also expressed his keenness to provide scholarships in the field of oil and gas to Cambodian students, as well as job opportunities for graduates to gain relevant work experience in Kuwait.

He advocated for investment in Cambodian energy and mineral resources, noting that current levels of peace and political stability enable work to be carried out even in remote areas.

The statement noted that four of the six offshore blocks and 18 of the 19 onshore blocks primarily earmarked for oil and gas exploration are open to private investors.

The meeting comes on the heels of al-Hajri’s February 15 courtesy call on Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) president Kith Meng, in which the former conveyed Kuwait’s interest in buying Cambodian milled rice and strengthening energy cooperation with the Kingdom, as part of a broader push to increase bilateral trade and investment, according to a CCC notice.

Al-Hajri said that Kuwait wants to work with the CCC – the apex Cambodian trade body – to promote relations and commerce between the business communities of both countries, especially as concerns energy, milled-rice exports and other key areas, the notice said, adding that Meng proposed looking at promoting tourism between the two countries.

For the record, the Ministry of Tourism tallied just 123 Kuwaiti visitors to the Kingdom last year, up from 12 in 2021 but down from 1,121 in 2013 – respectively the lowest and highest annual figures given for the 2006-2022 period. The next highest numbers were 916 in 2015, and 876 in 2014.

The Ministry of Commerce reported the January-October 2022 Cambodian-Kuwaiti trade volume at a comparably strong $0.64 million, listing major goods traded as garments, travel goods and other textile-related items; tobacco; machinery and electronic components; polymers of ethylene; and glass and glassware.

According to Trading Economics, the two-way trade stood at $0.3739 million in full-year 2021 – increasing by 18 per cent from $0.3167 million a year earlier – and has remained heavily tilted in Cambodia’s favour over the last several years.

The Kingdom’s exports to and imports from Kuwait in 2021 clocked in at $0.30393 million and $0.06993 million, respectively, expanding by 13.2 per cent and 45.3 per cent versus a year earlier, the statistics website indicated.

In 2021, “tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes” accounted for the largest share of Cambodia’s exports, at 54.9 per cent or $0.16675 million (up 76.9 per cent over 2020), while “plastics and articles thereof” – which includes polymers of ethylene – made up the overwhelming majority of the Kingdom’s imports, at 96 per cent or $0.06682 million (up 103 per cent).

In early October, the government gave the nod to EnerCam Resources Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Toronto-listed Angkor Resources Corp, for oil and gas exploration, development and production on southwestern Cambodia’s roughly 7,300sq km onshore Block VIII in the Kampong-Som Basin.

“Initial phases of exploration on Block VIII will include the acquisition of available seismic [data], which will then have comprehensive analysis completed. Preliminary magnetics on the targeted areas will also be part of the first phase work plan,” according to a press release issued by Angkor Resources, which is based in Sexsmith, a town in western Canada’s Alberta province.

“The permitting is for an initial three-year exploration term and two further renewal terms of two years each. Development and production terms are for 25 years with additional renewals.

“Exploration will be undertaken outside of park areas, part of EnerCam’s ESG [environmental, social and governance] mandate so the company assists in protecting Cardamon Mountains National Park and Preah Monivong and Kirirom National Parks,” it added.

EnerCam president Mike Weeks voiced optimism that the company’s operations in the licensed area would stimulate development of the Cambodian oil and gas industry.

“We are excited about moving oil and gas forward in Cambodia as we believe this is a monumental change for the entire country,” he said in the release.

“Having its own long-term source of energy for LNG [liquefied natural gas], for fuels and a whole variety of products currently imported into Cambodia will advance this country to a new level.

“It starts with exploration on Block VIII – we see gas shows, oil seeps, and other indications on the licence that point us in a potential direction for discovery,” Weeks added.

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