Migration of oil, gas, and fish

By: Engr. Edgar Mana-ay

BEFORE we discuss a very revolutionary and mind-boggling theory on fish migration from China to the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal and the Recto Bank (vice versa) by an equally intellectual pygmy, no less than Senate President Tito Sotto, let’s settle on a lesser intellectual issue on oil and gas migration underground.

In my previous article, I stated that oil and gas originated from organic matters (remains of ancient plants and animals) in marine sediments. Burial deep underground subjected it to high pressure and temperature at a period of millions of years, which converted the organic matter into oil and gas. They are formed in a source rock where it occupies the pore spaces of the sedimentary source rock. After being formed, oil and gas do not stay there but MIGRATE until it is blocked by a geologic structure where it cannot move anymore. Oil and gas now accumulate in the reservoir rock, a rock that is porous and permeable.

Geologic structures that block oil and gas migration hence favors its accumulation and retention are mostly geologic faults especially the “anticlinal trap.” Anticlines are wave-like folds underground shaped like an arch with the oldest rock in the center of the fold. Inside the arch-like fold is where oil and gas accumulate. Therefore, the search for oil and gas is really a search for geologic structures underground whether on land or beneath the sea where oil and gas are trapped and accumulates.

Oil companies rely on detailed and sophisticated geologic studies for determining by indirect methods the subsurface structural geology that traps the migration of oil and gas. When preliminary studies show that conditions are excellent for oil and gas to be present underground, there is no guarantee that oil and gas will indeed be found. Eventually, an oil company must commit millions of dollars to drill a deep test well (as deep as 8,000 feet in the middle of the sea at Recto Bank). There are also called “wild cat” wells and unknown to many, there were already many wells drilled in the area which can produce natural gas but was capped with cement for the time being. This info came from fellow drillers who had done the drilling.

Statistics indicate that the chance of a test well yielding a commercial quantity of oil and gas, thus becoming a production well, is much less than one in 10! Oil and gas do fill in caves underground, it simply occupies pore spaces of certain sedimentary rock such as poorly cemented or compacted, hence void space exist between grains. Natural gas (less dense) often occupies the pore spaces above the crude oil.

A new and mind-boggling migration theory this time for fishes undersea from China to Scarborough Shoal and Recto Bank in the Philippines (and vice versa) came up recently. Unlike oil and gas migration theory which scientists, geologists, and physicists took 40 years to establish, this fish migration theory took only minutes to conceive. No less than a comedian-turned-senate president was the author of this profoundly insane, not hydrology, but gagology theory to justify the incursion of Chinese fishermen into the Recto bank which is only 80 nautical miles from the shores west of Palawan.

This deranged theory says that fishes under the sea can go anywhere from the Philippines to China (and vice versa) so there is no definite ownership, therefore everybody can fish anywhere!

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) have clearly defined an Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) for all countries in the world, the rationale of which is that all countries will have their own exclusive sovereign rights on the seas 200 nautical miles from its land mass. It is NOT the fishes under the sea that is being defined, as what comedian Sotto’s migration theory postulates (that’s what you get for voting showbiz people to the Senate), but the distance from a country’s shoreline! Even China’s claim of the entire South China Seas was nullified by the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague last July 2016.

According to the Hague Tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines: “There is no historical evidence whatsoever that China owned, possessed or controlled the South China Sea at any time in China’s history”. If from the international court perspective, China is NOT the owner of China Sea, how much more Recto Bank which the UNCLOS clearly defined as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone as it is way way inside the 200 nautical miles limit. Chinese fishermen (actually militia units in steel-hulled boats) have no legal rights to fish at Recto Bank.

As I have written earlier, the natural gas and oil deposits at Recto Bank is our only replacement to Malampaya LNG source that fuels 40% of Luzon power but will run out in 4 years time.

I’ll say it again. We must secure and defend Recto Bank at all cost. We will not allow China’s illegal protest and pestering to disrupt our efforts to harness Recto’s Bank oil and gas deposit as a replacement for Malampaya.

For according to a Persian proverb: “He who wants the rose must not be afraid of the thorn”.

Note: The author is a retired Exploration Drilling Manager of PNOC Coal Corporation