Analysis of resource potential for China’s unconventional gas and forecast for its long-term production growth
China is vigorously promoting the development of its unconventional gas resources because natural gas is viewed as a lower-carbon energy source and because China has relatively little conventional natural gas supply. In this paper, we first evaluate how much unconventional gas might be available based on an analysis of technically recoverable resources for three types of unconventional gas resources: shale gas, coalbed methane and tight gas. We then develop three alternative scenarios of how this extraction might proceed, using the Geologic Resources Supply Demand Model. Based on our analysis, the medium scenario, which we would consider to be our best estimate, shows a resource peak of 176.1 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2068. Depending on economic conditions and advance in extraction techniques, production could vary greatly from this. If economic conditions are adverse, unconventional natural gas production could perhaps be as low as 70.1bcm, peaking in 2021. Under the extremely optimistic assumption that all of the resources that appear to be technologically available can actually be recovered, unconventional production could amount to as much as 469.7bcm, with peak production in 2069. Even if this high scenario is achieved, China’s total gas production will only be sufficient to meet China’s lowest demand forecast. If production instead matches our best estimate, significant amounts of natural gas imports are likely to be needed.
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