South Korea is pushing for the construction of a new oil exploration ship to replace the existing outdated vessel, a state-run geology and resources research center said.
The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) said it has obtained government approval to conduct a six-month preliminary feasibility study on the construction of the 5,000-ton vessel, dubbed Tamhae 3, starting this month.
If the project passes the feasibility study, construction will likely begin in 2018 for completion in 2022, the institute said, adding it would cost 198.5 billion won ($167 million).
The envisioned exploration vessel will be armed with state-of-the-art gas and oil exploration equipment using 3D and 4D technology and will explore gas and oil in the country’s continental shelf.
The ship will also conduct research and exploration missions in the waters of Southeast Asia, Russia, North Korea and the polar region.
“KIGAM will try to win final approval for the construction of the vessel, which will help implement national policy projects more effectively and boost national technological capabilities,” said KIGAM chief Kim Kyu-han.
KIGAM has been seeking to build a new oil exploration ship to supplant the existing 2,000-ton Tamhae 2, which was constructed in 1996.
In 2007, the Tamhae 2 found a pool of gas hydrate 100 kilometers south of Ulleung Island and 135 kilometers northeast of the industrial city of Pohang. Gas hydrate is a crystallized mixture of gas and water molecules. Gas can be extracted by combustion or heating.
It is usually found deep underwater where cold temperatures and extreme pressure cause natural gas to condense into a semisolid form. When brought to the surface it can be used as liquid natural gas.
Resource-poor South Korea depends entirely on imports for its oil and gas needs.