A rocky energy source

By Yin Xing
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Pictorial, September 28, 2014
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Last May, the U.S. Department of Energy vetoed drilling of 96% of the estimated gas in California's vast Monterey Shale deposits, a move considered to quell the "shale gas revolution," according to insiders. The so-called "shale gas revolution" refers to the huge increase in unconventional gas production, or "fracking," in the U.S. over the last couple of years. In 2000, shale gas production accounted for only one percent of the United States' total production of natural gas, and by 2010, the figure exceeded 20 percent. Consequently, the nation's dependence on imported oil decreased dramatically to 34 percent in 2010 from 60 percent in 2005.

As global feelings about shale gas remain unstable, China's exploitation of the energy has remained tepid. According to Shale Gas Development Plan (2011-2015) issued by China's National Energy Administration, China is still working on researching and evaluating the country's shale gas distribution and potential and the country's production of shale gas is expected to reach 6.5 billion cubic meters per year by 2015.


According to statistics issued by British Petroleum Company, by 2030, 25 percent of China's economic growth will result from increasing demand for energy and the country's energy supply gap will eclipse the U.S. and Europe. In 2012, 68 percent of China's energy consumption came from coal, 15 percent from petroleum and only 4 percent from natural gas, while in the U.S., the proportion was 20 percent, 37 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Actually, China's consumption of natural gas is 20 percent lower than the global average. In 2012, 29 percent of the country's natural gas was imported.

China is rich in coal reserves but poor in oil and conventional natural gas. However, considering estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy, China's recoverable shale gas could reach 36 trillion cubic meters and top the world. But last year, China's Ministry of Land and Resources estimated the figure at 25 trillion cubic meters. Either way, "Shale gas has great potential in China," remarks Liu Yanhua, adviser of China's State Council and former vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology. "An important step for China's energy structure adjustment is to explore and expand usage of natural gas."

"Although global shale gas fever has gradually cooled in recent years, the development of shale gas in the U.S. is still useful to study because it relieved America's energy dependence," opines Zhai Gangyi, deputy director of the Oil and Gas Resource Survey Center at China Geological Survey. He believes that if China can optimize shale gas extraction, the country's shortage of natural gas will be relieved and its growing energy dependence slowed. In addition, natural gas is relatively clean and better for the environment than coal.

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