China is expanding shale gas exploration and production into new regions this year as Beijing’s 2020 deadline for achieving 30 bcm per year of shale production approaches.
A survey of shale gas potential will be carried out in the River Yangtze Economic Belt by the China Geological Survey (CGS). In addition, a pilot production operation will go ahead in central Hubei Province, the CGS’ deputy director, Wang Yan, told a conference.
The CGS is part of the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR), which handles all exploration and production licences for shale gas.
Wang did not specify where along the Yangtze the shale survey would be carried out. The economic belt extends inland from Shanghai along much of the river’s route through several provinces. This includes Sichuan Province, where most of China’s shale gas production has come from to date.
In July 2017 the CGS announced the discovery of a major shale gas reservoir near Yichang in Hubei Province, saying it estimated reserves there to be above 500 bcm. Yichang is located along the middle section of the Yangtze.
A test well drilled in the discovery zone used hydraulic fracturing for the first time along that river section and recorded a gas flow of 60,000 cubic metres over one day, the Beijing-based Global Times reported.
Earlier this month Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli, who is in charge of environmental conservation issues, said it was “overwhelmingly important” to improve water resource protection and pollution control in the Yangtze economic belt, according to state news agency Xinhua.
China’s shale gas production grew more rapidly in 2017 after stuttering results in the preceding years. Most of the output came from Sichuan Province, with Sinopec’s Fuling project yielding 6 bcm over the year, and PetroChina saying its Changning-Weiyuan block had produced 3 bcm.
Despite this progress, NewsBase Intelligence (NBI) believes China could still struggle to reach the government target of 30 bcm per year by 2020, a figure that is only half of the original output target set for that date.