China’s Enormous Shale Gas Goals

  • Date: 27/02/13
  • Jeff Tollefson, Scientific American

The Chinese government estimated the country’s reserves at 25 trillion cubic meters, and an earlier estimate from the US Energy Information Administration was even larger.

After more than a decade of spectacular growth fuelled by coal, China finds itself sitting on a bonanza of shale gas. Its reserves are the world’s largest, beating even those of the United States. But developing this vast resource won’t be easy, as a bidding last month for shale-gas leases made clear.

“The resource is huge,” says Jane Nakano, a fellow of the Energy and National SecurityProgram at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “But the shale deposits are more complex than ours, and the above-ground challenges are probably even larger” than the geological ones.

To offset some of the coal use that contributes to its status as the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, China wants to boost natural gas from around 4% of the country’s energy mix to 10% by 2020. Much of that gas will be imported. But in March 2012, the Chinese government estimated the country’s reserves at 25 trillion cubic meters, and an earlier estimate from the US Energy Information Administration was even larger. China’s leaders resolved to boost annual shale-gas production from near zero today to at least 60 billion cubic meters by 2020. The United States, by comparison, produced more than 150 billion cubic meters in 2010.

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