CNOOC defends oil rig's operation off Vietnam coast

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 1:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 1:52am


CNOOC chairman Wang Yilin says the company's exploration activity in South China Sea waters near Vietnam is authorised by Beijing and is not in disputed territory.

Wang also says the company is open to co-investment in disputed areas.

In his first public comments on the controversial project, the head of China's dominant offshore oil and gas producer denounced actions that had disrupted its exploration operation.

"Our exploration activity is within an area legally authorised by Beijing, and we believe it is not under territorial dispute," Wang said after the company's annual shareholders' meeting. "We oppose attempts to disrupt our activity and cause damage to our facilities."

A deepwater rig owned by CNOOC's parent China National Offshore Oil Corp was deployed early this month about 240km off the coast of Vietnam.

At the launch of the rig in May 2012, Wang described the vessel - capable of operating at a depth of 3,000 metres - as a "strategic weapon" that would "safeguard the interests" of China's marine resources and territorial waters.

Vietnam says the rig is operating within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as defined by the United Nations convention.

CNOOC's exploration work is scheduled to continue until August 15.

Vietnamese boats tried to stop the rig's installation, and six Vietnamese sailors were injured after a clash with Chinese ships.

Anti-China protests a few days later escalated into riots that saw more than 20 people killed as Chinese factories in Vietnam were set on fire and looted.

Asked yesterday if CNOOC would co-operate with neighbouring nations or international oil firms to avoid conflicts and disruptions, Wang said: "We have always adopted an open policy on cooperation with foreigners, especially given the South China Sea is so big.

"We have always stuck to the principle of allowing each side to dispute territorial issues, but at the same time striving to achieve cooperation on resource development."

Separately, chief executive Li Fanrong said state-owned China National Petroleum Corp's deal signed this week to buy US$400 billion of natural gas - equivalent to 10 per cent of the mainland's estimated demand in 2020 - from Russia for 30 years would not affect CNOOC's talks to invest in gas production and export projects in Canada.

Li said any deal in Canada must be "economically feasible" and "competitive", adding talks over the terms of investment would take a few more months.