China poised to increase gas imports, production as demand rises - analysts

With China’s natural gas consumption set to almost treble over the next eight years, the Asian giant will draw from all available sources to keep up with demand, according to a new report from energy industry analysis firm GlobalData.

According to the company’s latest research, China’s natural gas consumption was 131.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, already a steep rise from the 2000 figure of 24.5bcm.

However, consumption levels are predicted to soar even higher to reach 375bcm by 2020, thanks to the country’s desire to increase the share of natural gas in its energy mix, the analysts said.

China has substantial natural gas reserves of its own, but demand has already outstripped production, making imports essential.

In 2011, China consumed approximately 131.7bcm of natural gas, though it only produced 100.9bcm - a disparity that will only grow in the future.

Accordingly, major Chinese national oil companies such as China Petrochemical Corp. and its subsidiary China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), China National Petroleum Corp.(CNPC) and its subsidiary PetroChina Co. Ltd. (PetroChina), and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) are actively involved in the partial or full acquisition of overseas assets in an attempt to guarantee long-term national gas security.

The importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is also set to be an important strategy in fulfilling China’s natural gas needs, the analysts said.

In 1998, the country approved its first LNG project in the Guangdong province to meet the energy shortages in the country’s south-eastern coastal area.

By the end of 2011, five LNG terminals were operating in China with a total re-gasification capacity of approximately 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf). This will climb to 2.8tcf by the end of 2016 at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 19.7%, due to the introduction of a further 11 terminals.

In March of this year, the Chinese government announced a new shale gas development plan, one of the stated aims of which is to produce 6.5bcm of natural gas by 2015.

The government also announced that the country has onshore shale gas reserves of 134.4tcm and exploitable shale gas reserves of 25.1tcm (excluding the Qingzang Plateau area in the Tibet region) - a declaration that confirms China as one of the largest holders of shale gas reserves in the world.

Previously in December 2011, China stated the aim to produce 30bcm of coal-bed methane (CBM) by 2015. 16bcm of this is expected to come from ground-based projects and the remaining 14bcm from coal mine projects.

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