China to launch its first ultradeep water drillship for worldwide oceanic oil and gas exploration

It'll be able to drill deeper than 32,800 feet.
Deena Theresa
Representational picture of an oil storage tank in the port in Tsing Yi, Hong Kong
Representational picture of an oil storage tank in the port in Tsing Yi, Hong Kong

CHUNYIP WONG/iStock 

China's Ministry of Natural Resources commissioned the country's first ultradeep water drillship for worldwide oceanic oil and gas exploration, South China Morning Post reported.

State media reports said on Sunday that the vessel can drill deeper than 32,800 feet (10,000 meters) and operate in any water around the globe. The ministry's Geological Survey Bureau will be in charge of the operation.

"This ship is … a 'pillar of power' that supports the building of a strong maritime country," state broadcaster CCTV said. "It represents a key step forward in the development of deep-water exploration equipment."

The ship will also take up international scientific projects in oceanic drilling, along with national missions.

China's offshore oil and gas output has great potential

The launch comes at a time when the resilient Chinese market is all prepped to expand their offshore oil and gas development.

According to Li Ziyue, an analyst with BloombergNEF, China's offshore oil and gas output has great upside potential in the upcoming years. China's energy transition will further accelerate the development of its offshore energy production.

But Beijing's earlier attempts at energy exploitation have not been the smoothest, considering political difficulties due to territorial disputes with its neighbors.

Rival claimants: Rife with conflicts

For example, in the East China Sea, there are a number of underwater natural gas fields that are about 2,700 meters deep, but China and Japan have not been able to arrive at a consensus over who has exclusive economic rights over the area.

In the South China Sea, underwater natural gas fields are about 5,600 meters deep and are rich in fossil fuels. But China and rival countries, especially Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines, are often embroiled in disputes over drilling rigs and survey ships in the area, SCMP reported.

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In 2014, nationwide protests erupted in Vietnam when a Chinese oil rig went into a disputed area of the South China Sea.

And in 2020 and 2021, a drill ship hired by Petronas, Malaysia's national oil company, to survey for oil in the South China Sea, was harassed by Chinese boats regularly throughout its mission.

Fitted with advanced equipment and nine laboratories

This time, their ship's reach extends far beyond regional waters.

The drillship, which will be fitted out with advanced equipment, can carry out both oil and gas drilling, and oceanic scientific drilling on the high seas across the world's oceans.

There's more. The ship will be loaded with nine laboratories designed for several areas of oceanic sciences, including China's first shipborne paleomagnetic lab to study magnetism in samples, and ultra-clean lab, "making it a world leader", the report said.

The ship is being built in the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and is expected to be fully operational in 2024.