Fracking: China to promote shale gas exploration

The government will strengthen the survey and appraisal of shale gas this year to speed up the development of the shale gas industry, MLR Vice Minister Wang Min said at a national geological survey conference.

The move comes after the recent approval of the State Council, or the Cabinet, to list shale gas as an independent mineral resource, making the total number of mineral resources discovered in China to 172.

Realizing scale production of shale gas will help ease the country’s natural gas shortage and even change its entire energy supply structure, Wang said.

China has a rich reserve of shale gas resource, which is estimated at 31 trillion cubic meters, equivalent to the total amount of conventional natural gas, according to Wang.

If developed properly, the country’s shale gas output will exceed 100 billion cubic meters in 2020, Wang said.

Shale gas, a clean and high-efficiency energy resource, is produced from shale through a complicated process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking".

Currently, China has no commercial shale gas production, but shale gas has become an increasing important source of natural gas in the United States and Canada.

The MLR said in December that it will formulate a series of supporting policies to bring in diversified investment in shale gas exploration to push forward large-scale extraction of the resource.

Fracking involves injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals into shale formations at high pressures to extract fuel. Critics worry that fracking fluids might get into groundwater-holding aquifers and contaminate them.

The impact from shale gas exploration, which has revolutionized the U.S. natural gas industry, has been put under scrutiny globally. Public health professionals and advocates in the United States called recently for rigorous studies on public health effects.

France banned fracking in July, while Britain suspended the deep-excavation practice near Blackpool after minor tremors in the spring.