Fracking Sweeps Into China

(Shutterstock/Anton Watman)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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China has turned to hydraulic fracturing to decrease its dependency on foreign natural gas, according to state-run media.

China has been trying to use fracking to shifts away from traditional sources of energy such as coal power. Shale gas production has risen by 50.4 percent compared to last year, according to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics.

China produced 3.8 billion cubic feet of shale gas in March. To put this in some perspective, the U.S. currently produces 1,476 billion cubic feet annually.

U.S. experts expect China will continue to push fracking, but don’t see the communist country becoming energy independent any time soon.

“It makes perfect sense for Beijing to push as hard as it can to rely on new domestic sources of energy wherever possible,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And increased shale gas output very much fits into such a strategy.”

China aims to boost natural gas’s share of the energy supply from 6 to 10 percent by 2020. In March, Beijing became China’s first city to have all natural gas-fired power plants.

Fracking hasn’t gone very far in China because its shale reserves, though large, are expensive and technically difficult to extract. China doesn’t have as favorable geology for fracking, so it will rely on imports for the time being. China’s shale oil could be economically recoverable with oil prices at $345 a barrel.

“We must keep in mind that China is highly dependent on external energy supplies to power its growing economy,” Kazianis said. “In times of crisis on the high seas or war, if such energy flows were disrupted or cut off, the economic damage that would result could be quite severe.”

China is expected to buy roughly 70 percent of its oil from foreign sources over the next few decades, largely from unstable parts of the world. Sudan provides 7 percent of China’s oil imports, and over one-third of Chinese oil imports come from sub-Saharan Africa. Some of China’s largest oil suppliers — Angola, Sudan, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea.

“While China’s gains in shale gas output are certainly impressive, Beijing’s oil production actually fell compared to this time last year by 6.9% while importing a record amount of crude,” Kazianis concluded. “So if we look at China’s overall energy picture, it is clearly a mixed bag in the realm of domestic production.”

China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest net importer of petroleum in 2013. The country is now the largest foreign buyer of U.S. oil.

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