China is pulling out all stops in order to increase its oil and gas production, but at the end of the day it will likely not be enough to stop the world’s second largest economy from becoming over reliant on geopolitically charged crude oil and natural gas imports.
On Monday, state-run Chinese oil majors CNPC and Sinopec, also Asia’s largest refinery, they said they were speeding up drilling and exploration from major tight oil and shale gas formations in the country’s western regions. CNPC also said that new exploration in shale gas, tight oil and tight gas will lead to growth in production for the country’s largest oil and gas producer.
The company added that the drilling cycle at the Mahu field in Xinjiang, one of CNPC’s largest findings in recent years, fell around 40 percent the previous year. A Reuters report said this implies that oil wells are being completed and produced at a faster rate.
China’s ambitions to develop more of its own oil and gas reserves is a race against a ticking clock. The middle kingdom has already bypassed the U.S. to become the world’s top oil importer, with much of those oil imports having geopolitical strings attached. China is the largest importer of Iranian oil, and that resource is being jeopardized by fresh U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil sector that went onto effect on November 5. China is also reliant on both Russia and Saudi Arabian crude and just recently pared back crude imports from the U.S. amid ongoing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
China’s dilemma in its gas sector is just as perplexing. The country bypassed South Korea late last year to become the world’s second largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, with projection that it will even pass Japan as the top LNG importer at the beginning to mid part of the next decade, a development unimaginable just two years ago. China’s insatiable gas demand comes as the government mandates that gas, amid record air pollution levels, particularly in its major urban centers, make up at least 10 percent of its energy mix needed for power generation by 2020, with more earmarks set for 2030.