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Disputed Drilling: Beijing Announces First South China Sea Deepwater LNG Site

© AP Photo / Bullit MarquezChinese structures and buildings on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are seen 18 kilometers (11 miles) away from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea
Chinese structures and buildings on the man-made Subi Reef at the Spratlys group of islands are seen 18 kilometers (11 miles) away from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea - Sputnik International
The first Chinese-manufactured and operated offshore drilling platform has started operations in the South China Sea in recent days, according to the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

The deepwater rig, drilling down to 4,660 meters, will be used to supply liquified natural gas (LNG) to the Greater Bay Area, referring to a megalopolis of nine cities and two administrative regions in South China: Hong Kong and Macau connected to the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. 

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According to Han Xiaoping, chief of industry website China5e.com, speaking recently with the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the completion of the drilling platform is a "breakthrough for China because it was very challenging for CNOOC to drill a well with such a depth [for the first time]."

"This is a common drilling operation used by the world's top offshore drilling companies in the United States, Britain and other Western countries. The completion of a deep-sea well like this indicates China is narrowing the gap with these Western countries," he added, cited by SCMP.

Once the rig starts producing LNG, it will be transported from the Gaolan port in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, around the region. 

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"If LNG can be directly transported to the Greater Bay Area by pipeline from CNOOC's terminal in Zhuhai, it will save a lot on transport costs for the power companies — and residents will also benefit," Han added.

Construction on the platform started in May 2012 in the South China Sea, which contains many islands, reefs and shoals presently controlled and occupied by China but also claimed by several other nations including Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Brunei and Philippines. Aside from the enormous amount of international sea trade that passes through the area, it is also believed to contain large amounts of as-yet unexplored oil and natural gas deposits.

The platform was originally located near the Paracel Islands in South China Sea claimed by Vietnam, but was later moved to its current location after it caused violent anti-Chinese protests across Vietnam in 2014.

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