Where China gets its natural gas from

Jun 02, 2014 12:00 AM

For all the talk about Russia moving in on the China gas market, and the U.S. becoming the world’s biggest producer of natural gas thanks to shale drilling technologies, energy hungry China doesn’t count either of these among its top suppliers.

Russia has been touting its ties with China for the past month. Though most of it has been state media snubbing Americans and Europeans for sanctioning the Russian economy after it annexed Crimea, a former Ukrainian peninsula.  And the U.S., for all its talk of becoming a natural gas exporter to Europe and — indeed — the world, China imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas aren’t even on the radar.

What the import data from last year show is that China’s investments in Africa and the Middle East have paid off.  And a little known country that was once a Soviet stronghold is far and away China’s most important supplier of natural gas.  In fact, the U.S. has exported any natural gas to China this year, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA).  The most recent U.S. gas export to China was in May 2011, when 1.12 million cubic feet were sent via LNG tanker from Alaska to China.

Currently, Russia’s entire natural gas pipeline exports flow to Europe, with the exception of small volumes to Armenia, in Eurasia. However, if all goes according to plan, newly signed Russian and Chinese energy agreements for 30 year supply contracts of Siberia gas will pipe in around 3.7 billion cubic feet (107 million cubic meters) of gas to northern China. The EIA expects trade volume eventually reaching 6.4 billion cubic feet (181 million cubic meters).

Last year, China’s total consumption of natural gas reached 167.6 billion cubic meters. Of this huge amount, imported natural gas accounted for 31.6 percent of the total, or 53 billion cubic meters.

An LNG tanker. China is one of the world's biggest energy consumers. Natural gas is a growth market there, but so far Russia and the U.S. are barely involved. Turkmenistan accounts for nearly half of China's gas imports.

An LNG tanker. China is one of the world’s biggest energy consumers. Natural gas is a growth market there, but so far Russia and the U.S. are barely involved. Turkmenistan accounts for nearly half of China’s gas imports.

The Top 10
Data compiled by China Daily and pulled from government figures.

Country                          2013 Imports                 Percent of Total Gas Imports
Nigeria                              510 mln ft3                     0.96%
Equitorial Guinea                560 mln ft3                     1.05%
Egypt                                600 mln ft3                     1.14%
Yemen                               1.16 bln ft3                    2.94%
Uzbekistan                         2.9 bln ft3                      5.50%
Indonesia                           3.5 bln ft3                      6.59%
Malaysia                             3.6 bln ft3                      6.77%
Australia                               5 bln ft3                      9.33%
Qatar                                  9.5 bln ft3                   17.76%
Turkmenistan                     24.7 bln ft3                    46.48%

Nearly all of China’s natural gas imports come from the Samantepe gas field in Turkmenistan. The two countries signed an agreement in 2012 which plans on delivering around 65 billion cubic meters of Samantepe gas to China per year over the next several years.

Of that quantity, state run Turkmengaz supplied nearly two-thirds, while the China National Petroleum Corporation’s subsidiary in Turkmenistan has supplied the rest.

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