With a population of roughly 1.3 billion, China is the most inhabited country in the world. As the world’s largest consumer of energy, China’s expanding influence on global energy markets is profound.
As China looks to meet its growing energy demand, one of the major offshore resources it lays claim to is the South China Sea. Political and regulatory circumstances make ownership rights to the body of water a hotly contested debate, however there is no doubting its potential as a large offshore energy resource.
The South China Sea covers 1,400,000 square miles and stretches from China to Indonesia and from Vietnam to the Philippines. This vast body of water is a rich natural resource containing oil and natural gas. A US Energy Information Administration report estimates proven and undiscovered oil reserves are as high as 213 billion barrels of oil. This highly optimistic forecast would equate to more than 60 years of Chinese demand.
The South China Sea provides an important avenue for global trade infrastructure, as it is one of the world’s most prominent shipping lanes, allowing more than $5 trillion in ship-borne trade annually. Additionally, the South China Sea is a thriving marine ecosystem that is heavily fished for local seafood markets, providing roughly 10% of the world’s catch.
Before this vast natural resource can produce energy for global energy markets, the ownership rights need to be clarified. The South China Sea represents one of the world’s most exciting natural resource opportunities, in addition to being a key component of global trade infrastructure.
South China Sea Fast Facts:
- 26.7 billion Barrels of Proven Oil Reserves
- 279.1 trillion Cubic Feet of Proven Gas Reserves
- 6,078.9 thousand Barrels per Day in Oil Production
- 8,293 billion Cubic Feet per Day of Gas Production
- 1/3 of the world’s shipping travel through the South China Sea
- 10 percent of the world’s seafood market is caught in the South China Sea