China's annual natural gas consumption will add up to 260 billion cubic meters by the end of 2015, representing 7% to 8% of total energy consumption, according to a five-year plan released by the National Energy Administration.
The nation's natural gas consumption expanded 20.6% to 129 billion cubic meters last year, or 4% of total energy consumption, the plan shows.
By the end of 2015, China will have to produce 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas and import 90 billion cubic meters per year to meet domestic demand.
A strong appetite for cleaner vehicles has driven up demand for natural gas. The number of natural gas-powered vehicles in China has surged from 10,000 in 2000 to more than a million last year, making the country the fourth largest natural gas-powered auto market in Asia and sixth largest in the world.
This growing market will help boost China's natural gas consumption to 400 billion cubic meters annually by 2030, when domestic output is projected to total just 250 billion cubic meters, meaning as many as 150 billion cubic meters need to be imported, predicted Jia Chen, former vice president of CNPC, the parent of China's largest oil and gas explorer PetroChina Co (NYSE: PTR, SHA: 601857, HKG: 0857).
To ease strained supplies, China will step up the development of unconventional resources such as shale gas, coalbed gas and oil sand.
China will also press ahead with the shift from government-set prices to a system based on international fluctuations in a move to better regulate the industry.