Drilling platform a breakthrough in South China Sea

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/14 20:33:40

Discussions over joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea could soon be stirred up once more, as China's first self-developed semi-submersible drilling platform completed its first deep-water well, a breakthrough for China's exploration of deep-water oil and gas in the South China Sea.

Previously, all deep-water oil or gas wells in Chinese territory were drilled by using foreign-produced platforms. The completion of a deep-sea well like this indicates China has achieved substantial progress on deep-water oil and gas drilling.

The South China Sea oil and gas resource issue is one of the key factors triggering disputes in the region. Some statistics show the South China Sea holds about 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Countries bordering the South China Sea comprise one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world, and they have an increasing energy demand. If oil and gas resources in the region can be exploited, not only China but also the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and other neighboring countries can gain sustainable benefits.

Breaking through the technical difficulties involved in deep-water oil and gas drilling is the first step in energy development in the South China Sea. 

Due to territorial disputes, China so far has been relatively restrained in deep-sea exploration in the South China Sea, but the completion of the new well means China has mastered the most advanced technology in deep-sea development and exploration. This will help break the Western technology monopoly to weaken US influence in the South China Sea issue, promoting cooperation of economic exploration in the South China Sea among Asian countries.

 China's exploration of deep-water oil and gas in the South China Sea is not about expansion or preempting resources, but providing information to solve scientific puzzles and promoting the joint development of humanity. 

The drilling platform, called the Haiyang Shiyou 981, was at the center of 2014 standoffs between China and Vietnam. However, further development of the drilling platform has added to evidence that China and Vietnam can properly solve the issue. Although the project has encountered various challenges, China's breakthrough in deep-water oil and gas drilling could lay the foundation for regional exchanges in deep-sea research technologies.

Some Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines have territorial disputes in the South China Sea with China. It is wise for those countries to put aside sovereignty disputes and seek joint development instead of engaging in confrontation. Success of the Haiyang Shiyou 981 can be taken as a starting point to promote joint development of the South China Sea oil and gas resources, although that is not an easy thing.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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