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Chinese companies sanctioned by US to pull a new oil rig to Bien Dong Sea

January 20, 2021 | 15:14

CGTV reports that China plans to pull a semi-submersible deep-water oil rig into the Bien Dong Sea in June.

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An oil platform operated by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is seen in the sea off China's southernmost Hainan province, March 23, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

China's first domestically-built, semi-submersible deep-water oil production unit has been completed after 21 months of construction. The platform is now ready to set off to the country's first deepwater gas field in the Bien Dong Sea. This platform weighs in at an impressive 50,000 tonnes, and its deck is as large as two standard football pitches. With a tank at the bottom and four pillars, the main body weighs 110,000 tonnes, which is equal to three medium-sized aircraft carriers, making it the heaviest of its kind in China, said CGTN on January 18.

"The four pillars are used for oil storage. This is the first of its kind in the world. It can store a maximum of 20,000 cubic meters of oil for 10 days, allowing extra time for delivery vessels to carry the oil back on land 150 kilometers away," said You Xuegang from China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

It'll take a month-long voyage for the platform to arrive in Hainan. Organizers say the trip is environmentally friendly with zero emissions reached. The platform is also designed to resist oxidation and the toughest typhoon and should be able to work in the field for at least 30 years without needing to return to the dry dock. It's expected to begin operation in June, providing 3 billion cubic meters of gas for households in Hainan Province and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area every year, said CGTN.

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China's first domestically-built, semi-submersible deep-water oil production unit has been completed after 21 months of construction. (Photo: CGTN)

CGTN published the news a few days after President Donald Trump imposed a series of further sanctions on Chinese military companies and officials for Beijing's movement on the sea, said Thanh Nien. At the center of the wide-ranging sanctions was China's state-owned oil company, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), which was added to a US Commerce Department blacklist forbidding business with US citizens.

"The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law," said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea." Pompeo said the sanctions were directed against those "responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or (China's) use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources in the South China Sea."

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CNOOC was added to a US Commerce Department blacklist forbidding business with US citizens. (Photo: Energy Voice)

The US Commerce Department said, "CNOOC has repeatedly harassed and threatened offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction in the South China Sea, with the goal of driving up the political risk for interested foreign partners, including Vietnam." The Commerce Department's "Entity List" requires firms to be granted a license before they can receive exports of high-tech items from US suppliers, Bloomberg cited.

Previously, Chinese ships used to follow CNOOC's Hai Duong 981 rig that infringed on Vietnam's sovereignty in 2014 and escorted Hai Duong 8 infringing Vietnam continental shelf in 2019.

Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, researcher fellow of Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation (Philippines) commented to the reporter that: “The new rig can help China pursue its ambition to unilaterally explore and exploit the South China Sea. However, the new US sanctions against CNOOC could affect the import of technology, equipment, and services originating from the US. It is not clear whether the move from the US could affect the operations of the new Chinese mining rig. On the other hand, US sanctions can also prevent countries willing to conduct joint exploration with CNOOC, such as Philippine energy companies PNOC and PXP."

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