China's quest for deep-sea oil

Updated 2017-12-14 10:04:12 Global Times

Major industry growth prompted by high prices, govt support: experts

China, one of the largest consumers of oil in the world, has become more and more dependent on mass imports over recent years. But as oil prices rose several years ago and demand continued to grow, under the support of a government strategy to ensure energy security, Chinese companies have been focusing on deep-sea energy explorations. They have also made milestone technological breakthroughs and have expanded across the world.

Ten years ago, China was lagging behind other countries in terms of developing technologies and equipment for the purposes of exploring and extracting oil in the deep ocean, but now, it is a leader in the field.

In 2016, China launched its first major deep-sea oil exploration project, and currently, it is taking on many projects both at home and abroad.

Prompted by rising oil prices and a national drive to ensure energy security in the long run, China has embarked on an incredible journey over the past 10 years to feed its big appetite for deep-sea oil - one that has seen major technological breakthroughs and vast geographic expansion.

"It has truly become a remarkable decade for China's ability to explore and extract deep-sea oil. We started from zero, but now we are at the top," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Lin pointed out that within just a decade or so, China has been able to develop some of the world's most advanced technologies and equipment for deep-sea oil exploration, with Chinese companies leaving their footprints in many oil-rich deep seas around the world.

Technological breakthroughs

On February 13, Yantai CIMC Raffle Offshore Ltd (CIMC Raffles) unveiled a semi-submersible drilling platform named the "Blue Whale One," CIMC Raffles' parent company China International Marine Containers Group (CIMC) announced in a statement on its website.

The statement said the Blue Whale One was the most advanced semi-submersible drilling platform in the world, breaking records with its operating depth and drilling depth capabilities.

With a length of 117 meters, a width of 92.7 meters and a height of 118 meters, the platform has a maximum drilling depth capability of 15, 240 meters, according to CIMC. It has also improved efficiency by 30 percent and saved fuel consumption by 10 percent compared with some of the other platforms currently being used across the world, the company noted.

The Blue Whale One made its debut on May 18 and successfully extracted natural gas hydrate, also known as combustible ice, in the South China Sea, according to a separate statement from CMIC.

"China has successfully extracted natural gas hydrate at sea for the first time," Jiang Daming, Minister of Land and Resources, was quoted as saying in the statement.

The platform will be operated by Tianjin TEDA Bluewhale Offshore Engineering Technology Co and China National Petroleum Offshore Engineering Co, the statement noted.

But China's technological advances did not stop there. Right after the Blue Whale One went into operation, CIMC Raffles completed sea trials for a new-generation ultra-deep-water semi-submersible drilling platform, aptly dubbed the "Blue Whale Two," CMIC announced in August.

"Equipped with highly efficient dual-derrick rigs, the platform boasts the greatest operating depth and drilling depth capabilities in the world and is therefore suitable for 95 percent of global deep-sea operations," CMIC said in a statement.

Han Xiaoping, chief analyst at energy industry website china5e.com, said that exploring and drilling in such deep-water areas are very challenging and require very advanced technological capabilities and expertise.

"Not only do you need to put a lot of investment [into the project], but you also need to have advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities," Han told the Global Times on Tuesday, adding that China's fast progress in these areas "could be unprecedented."

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