(Reuters) – Chinese offshore oil and gas specialist CNOOC Ltd will drill its first deepsea exploration well in a northern area of the South China Sea in coming weeks, a company official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Although missing an earlier schedule by nearly half a year, the wildcat, an exploration well drilled in an unproven area, marks the beginning of the company’s long-planned foray into the geologically challenging deep waters offshore China.
“981 will start drilling late this month or in January,” said a company official, referring to the country’s first and only homemade deepsea rig Offshore Oil 981, which is designed to operate at a water depth of 3,000 metres and to drill up to 10,000 metres.
Hong Kong-listed CNOOC and international partners including Canada’s Husky Energy Inc and U.S. company Chevron Corp will step up exploration of the deepsea waters in the South China Sea in coming years, with the first major production from the Liwan gas project operated by Husky.
The companies would mostly drill in the northern part of the South China Sea, industry officials and analysts have said, staying away from politically sensitive waters to the south to avoid territorial rows with neighbors such as Vietnam and the Phillippines.
The CNOOC official did not say where the first well would be drilled, but over recent years the offshore major had carried out seismic work in the Qiongdongnan basin and the Pearl River Mouth Basin and identified “big oil and gas structures”, Chinese geologists said.
Husky Energy, which struck the sole major deepsea discovery offshore China in 2006, said in September that its Liwan gas project would begin production in 2014, with daily output to reach 500 million cubic feet in 2015.
By Chen Aizhu (Reuters)
Source: Reuters, December 7, 2011; Image:CNOOC