Petroleum finds in South China Sea to embolden China’s claims

FILE PHOTO - Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION IS AVAILABLE IN OUR ARCHIVE. - RTX2OESQ

Yesterday, the Australian geoscience company Frogtech Geoscience released a comprehensive new basement-focused study of the hydrocarbon-rich South China Sea (SCS) and Gulf of Thailand; a geologically complex region, reported Bernama.

The survey concluded that a redefinition of the Paleotethys suture, a fundamental tectonic structure, gives explorers foundation knowledge and an important framework to understand the development of petroleum systems elements (reservoir/source/seal) and processes through time.

In layman terms, the geological structures uncovered by the survey in the South China Sea, a hotbed of contentions between some Asean nations and China, has significant implications for petroleum explorations.

Speaking to The Independent, security expert Ganesh Sahathevan said there are some doubts as to the real oil and gas potential in the SCS.

“That is why in my article I said it all depends on technological advances. You should see Disputed South China Sea hydrocarbons in perspective,” he told The Independent.

In his article on the potential clash in the SCS over petroleum findings, Ganesh wrote Malaysia may have handed the Luconia and greater Sarawak oil and gas reserves to China.

That loss could exceed former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s deal with Brunei, worth USD100 billion.

He said to The Independent: “Is Malaysia going to do anything about reasserting sovereignty over Luconia Shoals?”

According to him, it now appears that as a result of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Pedra Branca/Middle Rocks gambit (the recent claims by Malaysia of new findings over the Pedra Branca) which gives China effective control of the waters off south-east Johor, China may well gain control of Petronas Block 310.

“Being an “open” block, it does not have to be put out for auction, and while theoretically anyone can propose an exploration programme for the block, anyone who has had to deal with Petronas knows that “anyone” means a party favoured by the UMNO/BN government.” he wrote.

He said these being shallow water blocks and given that the market for oil services is still somewhat depressed it would be well within the means of the Johor Government to explore and possibly exploit the area on its own.

“There is no need for Chinese investment, at least at the early exploration stage,” he said.

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