China Has More Shale Gas Than US, But Faces Bigger Technological, Environmental Hurdles

EIA/Public Domain

If you're opposed to fracking for natural gas in the US you well may have enough on your ming that thinking about fracking in other parts of the world would overflow your compassion threshold, but here's a glimpse of the situation in China, which has considerably more shale gas reserves than exist in the US (1.3 trillion cubic feet versus 862 cubic feet, according to the EIA).

As ThinkProgress amply reports (ignoring, as a commenter there points out, that there's probably misplaced talk of natural gas being a good "bridge fuel" away from dirtier fossil fuels), while China has ample shale gas reserves, they are in less-accessible regions than they are in the US and offer significant additional challenges.

China also faces a technology gap at the moment and are heavily dependent on US companies for fracking expertise. However, techniques that work in the US have to be adapted for the Chinese conditions. Water shortages and lacking pipeline infrastructure also constrain development of fracking there.

As for opposition to fracking in China on environmental concerns,

As in the United States, China’s shale market developments are already outpacing legislation. Chinese leaders are working on a major environmental protection bill, the “Technology Policy for Preventing Environmental Pollution from Oil and Natural Gas Extraction.” But the current draft does not include guidelines for shale gas development, and it would be difficult to add in shale-specific guidelines at this point in the drafting process. China’s guidelines for conventional gas will not be adequate for addressing the specific environmental concerns associated with shale.

China faces bigger air pollution risks since its shale gas deposits generally contain more poisonous hydrogen sulfide than US deposits. Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic pollutant, and it is also highly corrosive, so it can corrode drilling equipment and increase fugitive emissions of other pollutants such as methane. Preventing these problems will require strict emission standards and advanced drilling and gas purifying technology—two things China will struggle with.

Read more: Think Progress

Tags: China | Fracking | Natural Gas

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