China has categorized shale gas as an independent source of energy and plans to boost its annual output to 100 billion cubic meters by 2020, close to the current level of natural gas output, according to a national geological prospecting conference.

Recoverable reserves of shale gas in China are projected to total 31 trillion cubic meters, similar to the amount of natural gas reserves, official data show.

Rapid development of shale gas, a nascent industry in China, will help ease the nation's strained energy supply and restructure the makeup of its energy consumption to reduce dependence on polluting resources.

The United States is leading the way in extracting shale gas – it rolled out 180 billion cubic meters last year.

It is estimated by PetroChina that China's production and consumption of natural gas grew 6.9% and 20.6% to ¥101 billion cubic meters and 129 billion cubic meters respectively in 2011.

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