Gov’t to redraw East Sea blocks to reflect potential discovery of oil, gas reserves

June 10, 2024

The industry ministry said Monday it plans to redefine the deep-sea blocks in the East Sea to reflect the recent potential discovery of gas and oil in the region, as it seeks to select a location for the first exploratory drilling in July.

Second Vice Industry Minister Choi Nam-ho said that the government will reconfigure the deep-sea areas of the East Sea, currently divided into three sections, to facilitate efficient development and attract investment.

The announcement follows South Korea’s recent discovery of seven locations with potential oil and gas reserves in the East Sea.

“We plan to divide the area by considering the seven potential sites,” Choi told reporters during a briefing held in the central city of Sejong, noting the division is crucial for future investment attractions.

The government estimates that the deposits could hold between 3.5 billion and 14 billion barrels of gas and oil. If confirmed, this quantity would be sufficient to meet the country’s gas and oil demand for up to 29 years and four years, respectively.

As part of this adjustment, the state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) plans to return its stakes in the deep-sea reserves of the East Sea, with the government planning to reallocate the development rights.

“To cut costs and reduce risks, the government will proactively review attracting investment,” the ministry said in a statement. “We will seek to attract investment in phases for each redefined block.”

Choi noted that multiple companies have expressed interest in participating in the deep-sea exploration.

“As there are risks, we cannot only think about the potential high profits in successful scenarios,” Choi said. “We also need to review ways to utilize major companies in the exploration and drilling sector.”

Meanwhile, the government plans to select the area for the first drilling operation, scheduled for December, in July.

“Under the plan of starting the drilling by the end of December, we need to find the exact location in July to meet the schedule,” Choi said.