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China Seeks New Breakthrough in Oil, Gas Exploration
China will boost the exploration for large oil and gas fields to ensure the security of petroleum supply in the new century.

Tian Fengshan, Minister of Land Resources, said Thursday in Beijing that China will select a number of the most prospective areas as target oil exploration regions, and push forward the development of petroleum resources.

At China's first national symposium on the selection of strategic regions of oil and gas resources, Tian said that China will focus on the research of key energy base in the oil-rich Ordos Basin in northwest China. A state level oil and gas resources data bank will also be built.

China has listed petroleum, food and water as the three strategic resources which have great influence on the sustainable development of the economy and society, said Tian.

"If no effective measures are taken to strengthen petroleum exploration, China will become more dependent on importing petroleum and the risks to oil supply will be greatly increased," warned Tian.

He said that China will increase investment in geological exploration, research modern oil-detection theory and technology and expand the exploration regions of oil and natural gas.

China's consumption of crude oil has grown at an annual rate of nearly six percent over the past decade, while the growth rate of crude oil supply was less than two percent during the same period.

China's petroleum consumption exceeded 200 million tons in 2001, ranking the third in the world after the United States and Japan, and the figure by 2010 is estimated to reach 300 million tons.

China became a net importing country of petroleum in 1993. The net import volume surpassed 65 million tons last year, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the total oil demand that year.

Li Yizhong, general manager of China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec), China's biggest oil producer, said that domestic oil makes up less than one third of the total processing volume of Sinopec. The turbulence in the international oil markets has restricted the development of his corporation.

"Only when the exploration for new oil and gas resources is strengthened, can the risks be reduced and competitiveness improved for Sinopec," said Li.

He suggested the government offer policy and funding support for risk exploration, improve the utilization rate of petroleum resources and reduce waste.

Great Potential in Oil Exploitation

Although the growth of China's oil production has slowed in recent years, the country still has great potential in oil and gas exploitation, Tian pointed out.

"As long as new exploration research, technology and systems are adopted, we have reason to believe that new breakthroughs will be made in petroleum exploitation therefore ensuring the safety of a sustainable development," he said.

China has more than 500 oil-rich basins with about 150 evaluated. According to a recent survey and evaluation, China's total petroleum resource is estimated at 110 billion tons, and the total volume of natural gas is about 53 trillion cubic meters.

At present, only 28 percent of land petroleum and six percent of natural gas had been explored, far below the world exploration rate, said Tian.

"The exploration rate in the oil-rich basins in central and western China is lower, which means there may be greater oil potential," Tian said.

He added that compared with many other countries, China's exploration of offshore petroleum was still at the beginning phase, and about 80 percent of oil resources were waiting for further exploration.

Experts pointed out that the traditional key oilfields are nearing exhaustion. More work was needed on the selection and long-term survey for new petroleum resources.

During the four-day symposium, experts from the Ministry of Land Resources, China National Petroleum Corp., China Petrochemical Corp., China National Offshore Oil Corp. and geological research institutes will help offer scientific grounds for new petroleum exploration and seek more support from the government.

(People's Daily April 19, 2002)

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