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Environmental, economic shift to transform energy demand

Zheng Yiran
Updated: Jul 3,2018 10:25 AM     China Daily

In the next 30 years, natural gas will be the fastest-growing energy product in China, with demand reaching about 520 billion cubic meters in 2030 and 800 billion cu m in 2050, said the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

According to its recent report on China’s energy prospects, the next 30 years will witness a huge structural change in China’s energy demand, owing to the combined effects of supply-side reform and economic growth path changes. By 2050, coal will account for less than 40 percent of the nation’s energy demand, while the ratio of natural gas will increase sharply to more than 20 percent.

“China’s economy has shifted from a high-speed growth stage to a high-quality development stage. Promoting green development, establishing a sound economic system with green and low-carbon recycling, as well as strengthening energy saving, and environmental protection and clean energy industries are the future trend, which offer great opportunities for the development of natural gas industry,” said Cai Fang, deputy head of CASS.

As the government increases its requirements in environmental protection, the concept of green development is deeply rooted in people’s minds, and the development of the natural gas industry has entered the fast track. Statistics from the National Development and Reform Commission showed that in 2017, China’s natural gas consumption surged by 15.3 percent to 237.3 billion cu m.

China will become the world’s top importer of natural gas in 2019, thanks to liquefied natural gas purchases, as its superpower economy develops and weans itself off coal-generated energy, according to the International Energy Agency, Reuters reported.

In its Gas 2018 annual report, the IEA said between 2017 and 2023, China’s demand for natural gas will increase by almost 60 percent to 376 billion cu m, including a rise in its LNG imports to 93 billion cu m by 2023 from 51 billion cu m in 2017.

In terms of where the natural gas will be applied, the report from CASS predicted that electricity will be one of the major fields. Natural gas power generation will shift from its current position as a power source during peak times to a major form of power generation. It is estimated that by 2020, power generated by natural gas will reach 335.1 billion kilowatt-hours, and the figure will reach 582.2 billion kWh by 2030 and 1 trillion kWh by 2050.

In the meantime, part of the power generated by natural gas will be used in heat supply, making up for the decline of thermal power heating to some extent.

The rapid increase in natural gas demand could bring challenges for energy security. Liu Qiang, secretary-general of the Global Think Tank Forum on Energy Security, noted. “Because of natural gas’ characteristics in production, selling and transmission, it needs large-scale infrastructure facilities to guarantee its stable supply. Besides, natural gas is more vulnerable to external shocks and man-made interference than oil, coal and electricity.”

“In the future, the main factor influencing China’s energy security could come from natural gas, which requires us to seriously work on the energy security of natural gas supply,” Liu said.