Experts: Potential of shale gas huge in China

Updated: 2014-09-12 12:06

By Jack Freifelder in New York(China Daily USA)

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 Experts: Potential of shale gas huge in China

David Sandalow (left), the inaugural fellow at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, fields questions from the audience and chats with Jason Bordoff (right), founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, on Thursday at the Columbia Club in New York. Jack Freifelder / China Daily

China is one of the world's largest markets for energy consumption, but some experts believe China can make significant headway in the natural gas sector by exploiting technology to tap its potentially huge reserves of shale gas.

China Energy 2020, an event that probed China's place in the global energy market, was held Thursday at the Columbia Club of New York. The event was co-hosted by the China Energy Fund Committee, Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

A report published by Columbia's new energy policy center, titled Meeting China's Shale Gas Goals, states that though China has "a huge shale gas resource," production of shale gas in China is "just starting" to take shape and "will not be substantial" in the next few years.

David Sandalow, inaugural fellow at Columbia University's new Center on Global Energy Policy and one of the authors of the report, said that although shale gas has some potential the Chinese penchant for a coal-based fuel supply is readily apparent and not changing anytime soon.

He also said that although China's shale gas resources are vast, the government's role would be a significant factor in the country's ability to realize its shale gas potential.

"There are huge swings in industrial tendencies in China, but the country is actually a fairly small user of natural gas," noted Sandalow. "Natural gas is only a small portion of China's energy consumption, just 4 percent, whereas the world average is 24 percent."

"So China uses much less natural gas on average than the rest of the world, but the Chinese government has established goals to increase that," he said.

Zhang Guobao, chairman of the advisory committee of the National Energy Committee, said structural differences between the United States and China on energy consumption tendencies have produced two very distinct markets.

"Both the US and China are among the largest producers and consumers of energy in the world," Zhang said Thursday through a translator. "China now comprises 22.4 percent of all energy consumption in the world, and the US represents just 22 percent of the world total."

"For the most part, China imports two main products in the energy sector: crude oil and natural gas," he said. "Coal is the primary energy source in China, with 67.5 percent of the market. By contrast, coal supplies less than 30 percent of the market in the US so there are big structural differences between the US and China."

Sandalow said: "Coal is a huge percentage of China's energy mix today, and even if it trends downward it will still remain a huge percentage of Chinese energy consumption."