China's Coming Shale Gas Bonanza—in One Map

The energy-hungry country has enormous reserves—but still lacks the technology to take full advantage. 
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Natural gas workers at an appraisal well of Sinopec in Langzhong county, Sichuan province (Reuters)

More evidence that the U.S. shale gas boom is changing the nation’s energy landscape: Shale gas accounted for 39 percent of total natural gas production in 2012, according to statistics released today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Shale gas 2012 by nation

That makes the U.S. the world’s biggest shale gas producer, with 25.7 billion cubic feet a day flowing from its wells.

Canada is the No. 2 shale gas nation, obtaining 15 percent of its natural gas from hydraulic fracturing, the controversial practice of injecting chemical-laced water into wells under high pressure to fracture rock formations so oil and gas can be extracted. The chart below shows the steep spike in Canadian shale gas production over the past five years.

shale gas Canada

But forget North America. China holds the world’s largest potentially recoverable reserves of shale gas, according to the EIA. China’s possesses estimated reserves of 1,115 trillion cubic feet versus 665 trillion cubic feet for the U.S.

shale gas ChinaTapping that treasure won’t be easy. Shale gas currently represents less than 1 percent of China’s natural gas production and the country needs to acquire the technology and know-how to exploit its reserves. Water may be another obstacle. As we’ve written, China’s growing water shortages already threaten the country’s coal-fired power plants, which along with coal mining consume 15 percent of freshwater supplies.


This post first appeared at our sister site Quartz.

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Todd Woody is an environmental and technology journalist based in California. He has written for The New York Times and Quartz, and was previously an editor and writer at FortuneForbes, and Business 2.0.

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