Chinese bullying won't scare OVL in Vietnam

Vol 15, PW 7 (06 Oct 11) People & Policy

ONGC Videsh is forging ahead with plans to begin drilling at Block 128 offshore Vietnam despite Chinese anger at Indian exploration in the South China Sea.

PETROWATCH learns OVL plans to hire an anchor handling tug boat to carry out field tests at the proposed drilling location, which sits in water depths of 400 metres in the South China Sea. “Our contract obliges us to hire these services from (PetroVietnam subsidiary) PTSC Marine,” confirms OVL.

“We want the tug at the earliest but must wait till one is available.” OVL reckons it will take 30 to 45 days to carry out anchoring tests, which if successful, will precede the hiring of a rig that will spud a well in April next year, despite some high-wire political posturing by China, which claims large parts of the South China Sea as its own.

In the latest tit-for-tat, China’s state-owned People’s Daily criticised Indo-Vietnamese exploration efforts in waters west of the disputed Spratly Islands in an article on September 22. “Two sections (of Block 128) enter waters under China’s jurisdiction,” reads the report.

“This constitutes a violation of Chinese sovereignty.” If Vietnam and India persist in pursuing any joint interest, adds the newspaper, it could damage relations with China, “and the stability and peaceful economic development of the entire South China Sea region.

” A week earlier on September 15, Vishnu Prakash, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, said Delhi “strongly believes” in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and will continue to explore the region as part of its “quest for energy security.” OVL has spent $46m at its 7000-sq km Block 128, which it has operated with a 100% stake since May 2006.