China's new oil rig will enhance its oil extraction capacity from deep sea areas such as the South China Sea. (Photo/CFP)
China has inaugurated its most advanced deep sea oil platform capable of operating at up to 3,000 meters below the surface of the ocean, boosting China's offshore drilling capabilities and enhancing its leverage in securing marine resources, according to the official Global Times.
The oil rig CNOOC981 was launched Monday (May 23) in Shanghai, where it was delivered to China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), which spent 6 billion yuan (US$922.37 million) developing the rig.
The 31,000-ton rig was designed to drill deep sea oil fields. It was built over the course of three years by China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC). The rig will enhance China's oil extraction capacity from 500-meter-deep seas to 12,000 meters.
The oil rig will start its voyage from Shanghai on Thursday (May 26) for a trial cruise before starting to drill in the South China Sea in July, according to the state-run People's Daily.
The CNOOC981 rig is "undoubtedly a milestone in China's oil drilling industry," Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told Global Times. "It is always a first-come-first-served game when vying for non-renewable resources in disputed sea areas, as the resources are not infinite."
The capability to drill so far down is a differentiating factor that countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have not yet acquired, Lin added.
By mid-2010, 180 oil and natural gas fields and more than 200 oil-gas-bearing strata had been detected in the South China Sea, with most located at between 500 and 2,000 meters. Though large oil fields have been found in the area, exploitation by Chinese oil drillers seems to have been slow.
In 2009, China inaugurated a project to drill its biggest and deepest offshore natural gas field, the Liwan 3-1 field, at a cost of 35 billion yuan (US$5.4bn). The gas field will begin production in 2013.
China has stepped up efforts to explore and materialize offshore resources. The CNOOC981 oil rig is only part of a 15 billion yuan (US$2.3bn) project to ramp up the deep sea exploration fleet, the Oriental Outlook reported. Following the giant rig, more oil exploitation facilities will be put to use.
The country is seeking more dependence of the marine industries as a strategic development move. The government's 12th five-year plan (2011-2015) advocates greater scientific and systematic utilization of marine resources and coastal areas as energy demand soars and inland resources drop.
Lin Boqiang 林伯強