Although China's natural gas output rose by 7.7 percent last year, it was still not enough for ever rising domestic demand, data released by an industry association said.
The country produced 83 billion cubic meters of natural gas last year, while consumed 87.45 billion cubic meters, up 11.5 percent year on year, according to figures released by the China Petrochemical Industry Association.
Natural gas consumption has been surging at a double-digit growth rate annually since the start of this century. China saw a rise of 12.3 percent in gas output to produce 76.08 billion cubic meters of gas in 2008, but its consumption stood at 80.7 billion cubic meters that year. The country became a net importer of natural gas in the same year as the gap between supply and demand approached 5 billion cubic meters.
Gas shortages have become even more frequent in recent years as a result of more bone-chilling cold days in winter.
The natural gas import is expected to rise significantly in the future with the operation of a pipeline designed to send the energy from Central Asia to economically developed areas in eastern and southern Chinese regions via the recently completed western section of the No.2 west-to-east gas transmission pipeline in China, alongside completion of more liquefied natural gas facilities.
As China's first large pipeline project to import natural gas, the China-Central Asia gas pipeline, 1,833 kilometers in length, starts at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border and runs through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to China.
From Xinjiang's Horgos, the pipeline is connected with China's No. 2 West-East gas pipeline, which extends 8,653 kilometers through 14 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and special administrative regions, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Natural gas from the pipeline reached Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on Dec. 31, 2009.