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China launches shale oil production in Qinghai for energy security

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(TibetanReview.net, Mar30’22) – China has launched a pilot project to produce shale oil on a large scale from the Qaidam basin in Haixi (Tibetan: Tsonub) Prefecture of Qinghai Province under Beijing’s call to enhance domestic energy supply security, reported China’s official globaltimes.cn and other reports Mar 29. The production of oil from shales is known to have a potentially serious impact on the environment.

The project, which is being carried out for the first time in the Tibetan Plateau region, was established on Mar 28. The report cited Chinese experts as hailing it as an important move to guarantee China’s energy security.

“The current oil-bearing area is 42 square kilometers and is expected to yield considerable reserves and provide long-term support for energy security,” Zhang Qinghui, a manager of the project, has said.

The first shale oil production demonstration zone was officially established in Mangya, located in the prefecture’s Delingha (Terlenkha) County, with the project being developed by the Qinghai branch of PetroChina Co. Petrochina’s parent company CNPC has said breakthroughs in explorations had been achieved in 2021.

The shale oil, which lies less than 5,000 meters below Earth’s surface, has an area of nearly 150 square kilometers, which means the oil can be explored and developed continuously, Zhao Jian, another manager from the project, has said.

While in the pilot phase, the project will provide 100,000 tons of shale oil, it will eventually be developed into a shale oil production zone with a capacity of 1 million tons annually, Zhao has said.

Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, has said this is an important move to guarantee China’s energy security, especially given that 73% of China’s oil was imported in recent years and uncertainties were on the rise due to international geopolitics.

While oil in other reservoirs normally comes out of wells like spring water, shale oil is very dense and concentrated in micro-nano pores, so it will only flow out through a process known as fracking, which is environmentally damaging.

Four specific areas of concern which dominate the discussion regarding the development of this resource include greenhouse gas output, water consumption and pollution, surface disturbance, and socioeconomic effects.

But under Beijing’s call to enhance domestic energy supply security, state energy giants are spending more to develop more geologically challenging formations to compensate for fast declining reserves in mature Chinese oilfields like Daqing, noted Reuters Mar 29.

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