HAI YANG SHI YOU 981: another for Petrochina

The $30 billion behemoth, Marine Oil 981, is designed to drill 800 deepwater wells that will produce $50 billion worth of oil annually by 2020. A similar floating rig is being built for PetroChina.

Deputy director Zhong Ziran of the national Geological Survey told reporters in January that his agency's annual spending for oil and gas exploration will rise tenfold, to 500 million yuan ($60 million). Sixty percent of that amount will support offshore projects, he adds. That's money to deploy platoons of scientists or defray the cost of dives by China's Jiaolong, a submersible capable of exploring to 5,000 meters' depth. A year ago the Jiaolong planted a Chinese flag in a South China Sea canyon 3,759 meters below sea level.
In November 2010, CNOOC told reporters that it has budgeted 200 billion yuan for development in the South China Sea. Leveraging the skills of foreign partners Devon Energy, Husky Energy and Anadarko Petroleum, CNOOC explained, it aimed to build up its capacity to drill in ever deeper water.

Beijing has warned Exxon-Mobil and BP to give up any thought of drilling in concessions granted by Vietnam close to the Spratly or Paracel archipelagos - though well within Vietnam's EEZ. BP chose not to drill; Exxon says it is going ahead. US Government analysts put the potential hydrocarbon bounty of the South China Sea area at 14 times China's current oil reserves and 10 times its gas reserves.

Whatever oil and gas turns out to be beneath the waves, hard evidence is mounting that China aims to find and secure by far the lion's share.

Another 30 billion yuan annually for "domestic" exploration is reportedly funneled through the national oil companies - CNOOC, Sinopec and PetroChina.

Up until now, China's offshore drilling has been limited to relatively shallow waters near its coast, employing 'jack-up rigs' that are planted on the seabed. In May, however, CNOOC announced plans to deploy its first floating drilling platform to waters within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claimed by the Philippines.

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