Zhou Yan and Cui Haipei –
A vow to boost oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea accompanied the launch of the country’s first domestically manufactured deepwater drilling rig.
The semi-submersible Haiyangshiyou 981, with an operating water depth of 3,000 meters, drilled its first well on Wednesday.
The well, Liwan 6-1-1, is located 320 kilometers to the southeast of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region with a water depth of 1,500 meters.
Wang Yilin, chairman of rig operator China National Offshore Oil Corp, said that the rig will also protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial waters.
The deployment of the rig marks a significant step for the country’s deepwater strategy, Wang said.
“Our company will strive to protect the nation’s offshore oil interests,” he said.
Most of the company’s domestic oil production and exploration had previously been limited to a depth of about 300 meters.
Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources, told a drilling ceremony in Beijing on Wednesday that the rig will play a strategic role in protecting China’s marine interests and guarantee its energy security.
The rig began operations as China and the Philippines continued a standoff over Huangyan Island.
On April 10 a Philippine warship entered the island’s territorial waters to harass Chinese fishing boats and attempted to detain Chinese fishermen.
Chinese patrol boats came to the aid of the fishermen and are continuing to protect other fishermen from harassment.
The South China Sea is estimated to have about 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and up to 30 billion tons of oil, accounting for one third of China’s total oil and gas resources.
The surging demand for oil in countries around the South China Sea has escalated tension in the region.