Potential discovery of oil, gas reserves in East Sea ‘highly prospective’: Act-Geo adviser

June 7, 2024

A potential discovery of oil and gas reserves off South Korea’s East Sea is “highly prospective,” Vitor Abreu, the owner and adviser of the U.S. geoscience research company Act-Geo behind the country’s oil exploration project, said Friday, citing the presence of “key elements.”

“So to summarize … the basin is highly prospective,” Abreu said during a press briefing in the central city of Sejong, noting that the location “has presence of all the key main elements,” including the possible existence of hydrocarbon.

Abreu highlighted the spot contained geological factors indicating the existence of gas and oil, namely reservoir, seal and source rock, as well as trap.

“Not only that, the early results are already (drawing the) attention of important international companies,” he said.

The briefing organized by the state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC) came after President Yoon Suk Yeol announced Monday that Act-Geo’s study suggested significant gas and oil deposits may be buried in the deep sea off the coast of Yeongil Bay in Pohang, about 260 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Act-Geo estimated that the deposits could hold between 3.5 billion and 14 billion barrels of gas and oil. Once confirmed, the quantity would be theoretically sufficient to meet the country’s gas and oil demand for up to 29 years and four years, respectively.

Abreu added that the estimated success rate of 20 percent is a “very good” figure, noting that the comparable figure for a project in Guyana, which had 4 billion barrels, came to 16 percent.

“Don’t get me wrong. It is still risky,” Abreu said. He added that the success rate means “there’s an 80 percent chance they do not work.”

“If there was one prospect out there, I probably didn’t want to drill it,” the adviser said. “If I have five that look like that one, I will find oil in one of them. So far, we have seven.”

“The final step was basically to base on that analysis to rank different prospects and select the top ones because they show geological and geophysical evidence for the presence of possible accumulations,” he added.

“The only way to test that now is for drilling,” noting that the move is the only way to “unrisk” such uncertainties.

Abreu’s visit to South Korea came as there has been growing skepticism over the potential discovery, including its feasibility. Some even said that the address of the company headquarters was that of a residential house in suburban Houston.

Responding to questions about the company’s background, Abreu said small businesses participating in such major projects is “industry standard practice,” as the company focuses on interpreting data instead of carrying out drilling operations.

“The only thing that we need to do our job are computers, software and cameras,” he said, noting that his workers are spread across the world, including in Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland.

Later in the day, Abreu met Industry Minister Ahn Duk-geun and discussed the prospects of the deep sea project.

During the meeting, Ahn noted the project’s importance for energy security and the national economy, considering that South Korea relies entirely on imports for its oil and gas needs.

Ahn said his ministry will hold a strategic meeting encompassing domestic and foreign experts sometime this month to discuss ways to develop the potential oil and gas reserves.