News & Events

March 22, 2016

Malampaya natural-gas field to remain highly productive

THE Malampaya offshore natural- gas field in northwest Palawan will remain highly productive for several more years, but this early, a senior member of the House of Representatives wants concerned agencies to plan ahead and identify possible uses for the two massive oil rigs in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) once supply runs out.

“The Malampaya gas wells are bound to dry up, be plugged and abandoned, along with the platforms,” said Party-list Rep. Arnel Ty of LPG-MA, a senior member of the House Committee on Energy.

Once vacated, he said, the rigs could be converted by the Navy into an outpost.

Ty, a deputy minority leader, has been urging the government to invest in modern warships to secure the West Philippine Sea’s oil and gas deposits, amid the country’s long-running dispute with China over territorial waters.

At present, the Philippine Marine Corps is using what is left of the World War II vintage BRP Sierra Madreas, a makeshift garrison 150 kilometers off northwest Palawan. The ship is grounded atop an atoll in the Spratly Island Group.

The Malampaya rigs are two large adjacent structures with facilities to extract natural gas and oil from undersea reservoirs. The platforms are built to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. One of the rigs can house 60 workers and has a helipad.

“The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources could also use the rigs for a marine-research hub. Even the Bureau of Corrections can opt to transform the platforms into a high-security prison,” Ty explained.

The lawmaker prefers the eventual use of the rigs as a naval station and marine-study center.

Besides its vast hydrocarbon deposits that could help assure the country’s long-term energy requirements, the West Philippine Sea is also home to 20 percent of the country’s fisheries catch, and serves as a breeding ground for high-value aquatic resources that have to be protected to sustain the local commercial fishing industry, according to Ty.

Discovered in 1991, the Malampaya gas field began commercial production in 2002. The field’s gas is delivered through a 504-km, 24-inch pipeline to Batangas City, where the fuel drives three power plants with a combined 2,700 megawatts in full generating capacity.

Located 80 km off northwest Palawan, Malampaya has proven reserves of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is expected to last until 2024, depending on how aggressively the fuel is extracted.

Based on geological surveys, the United States Energy Information Administration estimates that the West Philippine Sea may contain up to 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.4 billion barrels of oil, “with the bulk of the resources likely in the contested Reed Bank at the northeast end of the Spratly Islands.”

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