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Shale Goes Global
Good News for Greens: Chinese Fracking Ahead of Schedule

Everyone is jealous of America’s shale boom, but China may be best situated to imitate it.

China has the world’s largest reserves of shale gas, estimated to be more than twice those of the United States. The country’s smoggy skies, in part a result of heavy reliance on coal (China accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal use) are wreaking havoc on public health and economy alike. Natural gas could displace much of this coal and help combat urban smog in the process. Both the supply and demand are there.

Now, as the FT reports, one Chinese oil major is ahead of schedule in its bid to catch up to its American counterparts:

Chinese oil company Sinopec will put its first shale gasfield into commercial operation sooner than expected, aiming for annual production of 10bn cubic meters by 2017 as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on imported oil and gas. […]

Sinopec engineers were excited by initial results at wells drilled this year at Fuling, near the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. The company plans annual capacity at Fuling to reach 1.8 bcm by the end of this year, rising to 5 bcm by 2015, well above its earlier target of 2 bcm by next year from all its shale plays. Media reports say it could spend $4bn on Fuling, a number the company did not confirm.

Up to this point, China’s shale ambitions have been hamstrung by a number of complicating factors. Fracking is a water-intensive process, a big sticking point considering China’s struggles with water scarcity. The country’s geology is more faulted than that of the United States, making it harder both to site and to drill horizontal wells. Moreover, China lacks the infrastructure and robust oil and gas services industry that helped expedite American shale production.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Beijing most certainly has the will to tap shale. Clearing urban skies would be both a political and economic win for China’s leadership. It would also give China what every country on the planet covets: a steady domestic supply of energy. And for greens, to the extent that shale gas displaces coal, China’s success or failure with fracking will have a large impact on climate change.

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  • free_agent

    You write, “on public health and economy alike”. Do you mean “on public health and environment alike”?

    • B-Sabre

      No, since as widely reported the level of smog in some Chinese cities has caused shut-downs similar in effect and scope as some of the major winter storms that have been socking the US, with burning eyes and nostrils thrown in. All that mandatory ceasation of activity to keep breathing comes at an economic cost.

  • emersonushc13

    American beatniks only care about American crimes against humanity and Mother Earth. They call it Nuance.

  • Andrew Allison

    There you go again, with “And for greens, to the extent that shale gas displaces coal, China’s
    success or failure with fracking will have a large impact on climate
    change.” There is no, repeat no, evidence that this statement is true. May I remind you that, despite a two orders of magnitude increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past hundred years there has been NO increase in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events, only in their cost. For example, despite the accelerating increase in CO2, US landfalling hurricane frequency has been trending down since 1941 (

    • Dan

      Stop It Stop It Stop It!! Your facts are ruining my ideology!! (shakes fist, runs away sobbing)

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