GE, Australian Firm Plan Power Plant in Vietnam : Trade: $810-million project would include a fertilizer facility. It would be the biggest foreign investment in the nation.

From Reuters

Australia's Broken Hill Proprietary Co. and U.S. industrial giant General Electric Co. are planning an $810-million power and fertilizer project near Ho Chi Minh City, a semiofficial publication said Sunday.

If approved, the project would be by far the biggest foreign investment in Vietnam, which is seeking foreign funds to develop its economy.

The Vietnam Investment Review, published by the State Committee for Cooperation and Investment, said BHP and GE intend to build a power plant run on GE gas turbines near Thi Vai River east of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It would transmit electricity to Ho Chi Minh City and fuel a nearby urea fertilizer plant with an annual capacity of 600,000 tons.

The Review said BHP and GE were setting up an investment consortium for the power and fertilizer plants, in which Japan's Nissho Iwai Corp. and Tomen Corp. had expressed interest.

It quoted a BHP official as predicting the plants could start operating by 1999.

Company executives were not immediately available for comment on the report, which was apparently based on a presentation BHP made to the Vietnamese government last week.

Gas to fuel the projects would come from Vietnam's offshore fields in the South China Sea. BHP Petroleum, a BHP subsidiary, expects to start producing oil from the Dai Hung (Big Bear) field next October.

BHP chief executive John Prescott said in Hanoi recently that Dai Hung was an oil, not gas, field. But some other companies see Vietnam as a major potential gas producer.

British Petroleum has said it has found gas in its offshore Vietnam concessions but has not yet revealed whether it considers the find large enough to be profitable.

Vietnam has made a modest start in developing its natural gas by signing up South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries to build a pipeline to take gas that is now flared off during oil production from the Bach Ho (White Tiger) field--a small part of potential output. Construction started last month.

The government is considering bids for bigger projects, estimated to require $400 million in investment, including a compression station at White Tiger, a liquefaction plant and a pipeline linking the oil industry base at Vung Tau with Ho Chi Minh City.

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