Central Asia is now supplying nearly half of China's needs for imported gas, with the majority sourced from Turkmenistan, according to a new report from BP. However, Beijing continues pushing to raise its imports from the region.
Turkmenistan supplied 24.4bn cubic metres (cm) of gas to the world's largest energy consumer in 2013. Uzbekistan delivered 2.9bn cm but Kazakhstan managed just 0.1bn cm, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014. The news comes just days after China inaugurated a third line of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline.
China also imported 24.5m tonnes of liquefied natural gas last year, which translates as 33.81bn cm. However, gas supplies by ship from suppliers such as Brazil, Australia and Indonesia are seen as an increased risk to energy security on the back of an increase in tension with neighbours and the West in the South China Sea.
The figures show Central Asia accounted for 45% of China's gas imports in 2013. However, it wants more gas from the region, and on June 15 inaugurated a Line C of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline. Running from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China's western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region it will eventually carry 25bn cm. A fourth line with similar capacity is due to see construction start later this year.
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are reported to be pumping 30bn cm of gas per year into the 1,833km Lines A and B, which were completed in 2009 and 2010 respectively. They are due to pump 10bn cm each into Line C, with Kazakhstan contributing 5bn cm. The new line will increase the total capacity of the pipeline to 55bn cm per year.
That leaves Beijing to help the countries of Central Asia boost production. According to BP, Turkmenistan's gas output rose by a meagre 0.4% to 62.3bn cm last year. Kazakhstan managed 0.8% to 18.5bn cm, while Uzbekistan saw production fall by 2.8% to 55.2bn cm.
In May, Turkmenistan commissioned a gas-processing facility with a capacity of 9bn cm at the Bagtyyarlyk field. He also launched the construction of a gas-processing plant with a capacity of 30bn cm at the giant Galkynysh field. Overall, Ashgabat has agreed to increase gas supplies to China to 65bn cm by 2020.
Beijing needs all it can get. China accounts for 22.4% of the world’s total energy consumption and 49% of net global growth. While consumption rose 4.7% in 2013 that was well below the ten year average of 8.6%. By volume, it added more in 2013 than Australia's total energy demand (116m tonnes of oil equivalent), the report points out.
On top of that, at 67.5% of its energy mix, coal remains the dominant source. While gas has doubled its share of consumption over the past decade, it still only came to 5.1% in 2013. That does little to stem the chronic pollution that stalks the country's urban centers, and is seen as a potential source of social unrest.
Therefore it's looking to expand gas use. Last month it signed a $400bn deal to import 38bn cm per year from Russia, after over a decade of haggling. However, Central Asia - where it has found much success in using its large cash reserves to gain influence - remains central to its strategy. Gas consumption saw the strongest growth of any fossil fuel last year at 10.8%.
In 2013 China consumed 170bcm of natural gas, and expects to need up to 250bcm in 2015, according to the government. That's a cumulative increase over five years of 19% a year, if the economic growth targets are met. By 2020, China should be consuming 420bcm in total, of which 120bcm needs to be imported.
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