South Korea, one of the world’s largest energy importers, has announced it will begin a program of offshore exploratory drilling for potentially vast oil and gas prospects.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol gave the go-ahead on Monday for searches to start off the country’s east coast, with finds expected in 2025, according to CNBC.

Commercial production is scheduled to start in 2035.

Yoon said in a press conference that the possibility of the area, situated in the East Sea, containing as much as 14 billion barrels of oil and gas is “very high”. He was citing a peer-reviewed industry study.

The project is estimated to cost more than $363m (500bn won), and will start before the end of this year.

A government official said around 75% of the area to be assessed is thought to contain natural gas, with the remainder holding oil.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Yoon said Pohang, a south-eastern industrial port city, would be the centre of the operations.

He added that South Korea has already conducted a series of explorations, starting back in 1996, and had already tapped a gas reserve — commercial production of which was completed in 2021 — equivalent to 4.5 million barrels.

Yoon said the potential new reserve is more than 300-times larger than the diminishing Donghae gas field.

Should the new exploration areas be fully developed, they could provide enough power to the Asian nation to last almost 30 years, added Yoon.

South Korea is the fourth-largest buyer of crude and gas in the world, according to the Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC).

The highly industrialised nation is also one of the world’s largest energy consumers.

A government official said that KNOC will lead the drilling and exploration process, with up to ten wells possibly needed to determine the full scope of the reserve.

South Korea imports almost all of its oil and natural gas requirements, with OECD data indicating it is the second-largest importer of LNG and the fifth-largest importer of oil.