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Pacific Petroleum Company expands after BP buyout

By Helen Greig RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Aug. 21, 2010) - Tahiti-based Pacific Petroleum Company (PPC) is looking to expand its operations in the Cook Islands considerably just two months after buying the Juhi aviation fuel depot.

PPC’s strategy and development manager Patrick Moux and Pacific Energy SWP Ltd managing director in Fiji, Roko Nabalarua, and another representative have been in the country this week talking to government officials about its plans.

The company purchased Juhi as part of buying up BP Oil Southwest Pacific’s regional operations.

CI News contacted finance minister Wilkie Rasmussen who confirmed he had met with the PPC reps along with energy minister William Heather and deputy Prime Minister Robert Wigmore.

PPC is known as a new ‘giant’ in the region as it sells more than 460 million liters of fuel a year. The company was formed in 2006 after the takeover of Shell’s activities in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. The Tahiti-based business is majority owned by Patrick’s father Albert Moux.

The take-over of Juhi coincides with PPC’s purchase of 67 of BP’s operations across the region, including those in Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, which cost PPC a total of US$70 million (over NZ$95 million). It already operated four fuel depots and a retail network with more than 60 petrol stations in New Caledonia, Tahiti and Vanuatu.

CI News understands that PPC is looking at options such as building a pipeline and obtaining land to build an extensive fuel storage facility.

The company would look to store diesel and petrol here as well, but not to compete in the retail market with Toa and Triad. It is understood the company is also negotiating for a new lease on the Juhi land, and may pitch a proposal to supply the fuel needs of Te Aponga – currently contracted to Triad. PPC is also rumored to be looking at whether it can purchase Triad’s facility.

The company has reportedly told government that Avatiu Harbour would have to be dredged much deeper to allow a fuel tanker to berth there before it would go ahead with an expansion of its operations. But even the planned multi-million dollar upgrade for the harbor won’t deepen the harbor enough.

PPC is set to produce a written proposal to government very soon.

CI News asked Rasmussen what his views are on the talks so far. He said he was reluctant to say much at this point but believes a proposal from PPC will soon be put before cabinet.

Rasmussen said the talks with PPC are part of government’s ongoing mission to look at ways to provide cheaper fuel to the consumer. He said the company has already indicated potential savings that could be made to the consumer of fuel and power in the Cook Islands and that the projections look attractive.

Rasmussen says he is mindful of the mistakes made in the Toagate scandal and expects that when the PPC proposal is put forward more details can be revealed by government.

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