In recent years, natural gas prices in the United States have gone from historic highs of over $12 per mmBtu in the summer of 2008, to under $2.50/mmBtu in 2012. While demand side factors – such as the crisis in global financial markets – were partially to blame, many would argue that the real story is on the supply side, where increased production of shale gas – a form of unconventional natural gas trapped in leafy shale rock – drove gas prices down across the continent. The impact of low gas prices was felt in the form of cheap electricity, heating, and feedstocks to consumers and industry, which in turn bolstered the economic recovery. As an added bonus, cheap gas displaced dirty coal in power generation, reducing carbon emissions and pollution.
It is no wonder then, that when a recent U.S. Energy Information Administration publication on world wide reserves of shale gas crowned China as the holder of the world’s largest shale gas reserves, many inside and outside the Middle Kingdom were intrigued and enthralled by the possibilities of what shale gas could mean for China – in terms of climate, pollution, quality of life – and what it could mean for the broader international gas trade.
In this upcoming EWG talk, we will highlight some of the current activities and future plans for unconventional gas development in China. We will focus on the political, institutional, and commercial forces at play, and discuss some of the potential upsides and pitfalls that China will encounter on the road to realizing its unconventional gas potential.