The disputed Reed Bank (Recto Bank) in the West Philippine Sea could hold up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, a new report by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.
Data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the territory may contain significant deposits of undiscovered hydrocarbons, the EIA noted in its February 7 report.
“USGS assessments estimate anywhere between 0.8 and 5.4 (mean 2.5) billion barrels of oil and between 7.6 and 55.1 (mean 25.5) tcf of natural gas in undiscovered resources,” the document said.
Most of these resources, the report added, "are likely located in the contested Reed Bank at the northeast end of the Spratlys, which is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.”
The whole South China Sea is estimated by the EIA to contain approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 tcf of natural gas in proved and probable reserves.
Asia should tap into this region for additional sources of energy to meet domestic demand on the back of a growing economy, the report said.
“The South China Sea offers the potential for significant natural gas discoveries, creating an incentive to secure larger parts of the area for domestic production,” the document added.
Exploration delayed by China row
But exploration in Reed Bank has been delayed by the territorial dispute with China.
Forum Energy, headed by influential businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, asked the Department of Energy for 2 more years to kick off the 2nd sub-phase of a $75 million oil and gas exploration project.
The deadline was extended to August 14, 2015.
Forum Energy sought the extension in the government-mandated work program because of delays in their drilling activities due to the row over the South China Sea, now called West Philippine Sea.
The Department of Energy awarded Service Contract No. 72 to a private consortium led by the company as part of government efforts to assert sovereignty rights over the territory.
The Philippines in January decided to take the case to an arbitral tribunal, a process rejected by China, which claims rights over virtually all the South China Sea. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com