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Dylan Mair and Rachel Calvert

This chapter focuses on the oil and gas resources that could drive upstream exploration and production (E & P) cooperation in the South China Sea. In addition to providing an overview of joint E & P agreements in Asia Pacific, this chapter considers the known hydrocarbons remaining in the South China Sea as well as those passing through it, the discoveries that might be made in future, and the impact these hydrocarbons have on the energy supply of regional players. The central finding of this chapter is that a large discovery in the South China Sea faces huge economic barriers – remoteness, water depth and gas quality challenges – that ensure oil and gas shipments through the South China Sea will continue to have a much greater impact on Asian energy supplies. This is even more the case in the context of relatively low international oil and gas prices, which reduce the commercial viability of complex upstream projects, such as those that would be required in much of the South China Sea. Even accounting for expanding overland pipeline capacity, alternate sea routes and methane hydrates, these shipping lanes will only grow in importance to the economic health of the region for the foreseeable future.