TAHITI GAS COMPANY EYES COOK ISLES EXPANSION

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Pacific Petroleum seeks regional growth

By Florence Syme-Buchanan RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 5, 2011) - Regional fuel giant, Pacific Petroleum Company (PPC), has indicated that the government can expect to receive a formal proposal on plans to expand their operation even further in the Cook Islands.

Tahiti-based PPC has been holding talks with Cook Islands governments since 2009 in its ambition to gain a foothold here.

Last year the company acquired ownership of local aviation fuel depot, Juhi, when it bought out the regional operations of Fiji-based BP Oil Southwest Ltd.

In 2009 the former government was in negotiations with BP to buy Juhi, but these ceased when the company turned down the purchase offer made at the time, reported to be as high as NZ$5 million [US$.

Office of the Prime Minister Chief Executive Officer, Edwin Pittman, says PPC representatives met with Prime Ministe Henry Puna and government officials about two weeks ago for further talks about expanding operations. "They verbally conveyed to government what they would like to do."

Pittman says he couldn’t reveal details of the discussions as it would be premature and the matter is commercially sensitive.

Representing PPC at the talks was Patrick Moux, son of Albert Moux, a Tahitian millionaire who owns 51 percent of the fuel company. Patrick Moux has not responded to questions emailed by Cook Islands News concerning the company’s intentions in the Cook Islands.

Pittman confirmed that Pacific Petroleum Company has completed a technical investigation into what would be feasible here. The investigations have included having scuba divers survey and assess the underwater structure of Rarotonga. It is understood the area surveyed is between Avatiu wharf to just past the airport.

Pittman says this data will need to be examined by PPC before the company presents government with a formal proposal.

He confirmed that during discussions with government, no suggestion was made by Moux that PPC will seek any financial contribution from government to expand operations.

Pittman says if found to be feasible, PPC is prepared to fund its entire Cook Islands expansion project.

It is understood the company is proposing to service the Cook Islands with a fuel tanker that would be too large to enter the port of Avatiu. This would require a buoy for mooring offshore and fuel would be pumped ashore from a pipeline. It can’t be confirmed whether the pipeline will be submerged or floating.

Pacific Petroleum Company was established in 2006 after acquiring Shell Group activities in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

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