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China to reconsider shale target?

July 1, 2013 at 12:05 PM   |   Comments

BEIJING, July 1 (UPI) -- China is likely to reconsider its target for shale gas development, says a Chinese energy sector expert.

China's 12th five-year plan calls for natural gas to provide 8 percent of China's energy mix in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020. China, the world's top energy user, also aims to produce 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas a year by the end of 2015.

"The lack of investment from developers -- utilities, oil companies and other energy groups -- will push the government to reconsider its target and be more realistic, though to date, it has not changed its official target number" for shale development, said Junda Lin, a Beijing-based analyst at the China Greentech Initiative, Greentech Media reports.

But Zhang Dongxiao, director of Beijing University's Oil & Gas Research Institute,speaking recently at China's fifth Unconventional Oil & Gas conference, said China's chance of meeting its 2015 shale gas target is "zero."

The Energy Information Administration says that China has an estimated 1.1 quadrillion cubic feet of shale natural gas reserves.

But EIA said in a May report that development is a challenge as most Chinese shale basins are tectonically complex with numerous faults -- some seismically active – and not conducive to shale development.

EIA's report also cites the high cost and "rudimentary state" of China's domestic horizontal drilling and fracturing services.

"Significant commercial production appears some years in the future," states the EIA report, noting that "considerable" work is needed to define the geologic sweet spots, to develop the capacity to effectively and economically drill and stimulate modern horizontal shale wells, as well as to install the extensive surface infrastructure needed to transport the product to market.

So far PetroChina and Sinopec are the only Chinese companies with notable natural gas development experience and pipeline capacity, the China Greentech Initiative's Lin said. PetroChina has a domestic shale gas production target of 1.5 billion cubic meters by 2015 and Sinopec's is 0.13 bcm.

"Those two numbers will not help the government meet its 6.5 bcm shale gas target," Lin said.

Lin said the Chinese government also had a similar overreach in its 11th five-year plan's target for coal-bed methane development. When the coal-bed methane targets could not be reached, the goals for China's wind and solar sectors were revised upward, the Greentech Media report notes.

Yet Lin doesn't think China's gas consumption target will significantly impact the development of renewables in the short and middle term.

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