Search for oil, gas set for faster expansion

Updated: 2012-02-24 09:33

By Zhou Yan (China Daily)

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Country spent 120b yuan to explore for ore and fuel deposits during 2011

BEIJING - China plans to accelerate geological exploration and survey work for oil and natural gas to ease its rising reliance on energy imports, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on Thursday.

Search for oil, gas set for faster expansion

Oilfield workers in Panjin, Northeast China's Liaoning province. China will speed up oil and natural gas exploration to fuel economic growth and reduce dependence on imported oil. [Photo/ China Daily] 

The ministry is drawing up strategies to achieve breakthroughs in exploration, energy efficiency and replacements for oil and gas, with the ultimate goal of cutting China's expanding dependency on foreign oil and guaranteeing energy security, said Xia Jun, the ministry's deputy counsel

In 2011, China's new proven geological reserves of oil and gas reached 1.37 billion tons, the highest since the Daqing Oilfield - China's biggest - was discovered in the 1960s, according to Wang Changbo, deputy director of the ministry's department of mineral resources reserves.

New proven reserves totaled 5.74 billion tons during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

Wang said total new reserves during the current five-year plan, which began last year, would likely continue to grow, without giving specific figures.

China's crude oil demand rose 2.7 percent in 2011, while natural gas use rose 12 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which didn't give absolute volumes.

China National Petroleum Corp, the country's biggest oil producer, projected in February that China's apparent consumption of crude oil would reach 454 million tons in 2011, with 3.3 percent year-on-year growth.

Apparent consumption includes domestic production and imports.

China, the world's second-biggest oil user, imported 250 million tons of crude oil in 2011, taking its foreign oil dependency ratio slightly past 55 percent.

Analysts agree that China's oil and gas demand will expand more slowly this year, reflecting a deceleration in economic growth and energy-conservation efforts.

But experts also warn that the nation's high reliance on oil imports will threaten the country's energy security.

China's oil-import dependency rate passed an "alarming level" last year amid increasing industrialization and urbanization, said Xu Dachun, another deputy head of the department of mineral resources reserves.

Xu said the ministry has been working to slow the growth of imports, which might decline as peak energy demand waned and new energy sources were developed.

Xu also said that the ministry is encouraging the public and private sectors to invest in exploration and surveying for natural resources.

He added that of the 120 billion yuan ($19 billion) spent on exploration and surveying for ores and other natural resources last year, only 12.5 billion yuan, or about 10 percent, came from the central budget.

More market-oriented policies to diversify financing channels for exploration and to encourage and protect private-sector investment were being discussed and might be announced this year, Xu said.