The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources said 16 companies secured the rights to explore shale reserves in 19 natural gas blocks. The winners, the ministry said, should bring more than $2 billion in investments to shale development in China, reports energy website Rigzone.
Chinese executives during an energy meeting in October said the country is expected to yield as much as 225 billion cubic feet of natural gas from shale deposits.
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said unconventional natural gas deposits in the country have encouraged Beijing to court international investors. EIA said it estimated there are substantial deposits of technically recoverable shale reserves in China. The government there aims to produce 230 billion cubic feet of shale natural gas per year by 2015.
A senior geologist at PetroChina told state-run media Xinhua on background last month that Chinese shale may be in sections of the country were infrastructure development is complex, however.
The government had its first licensing round for shale natural gas acreage in 2011.