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Sea change in China's energy sector in 70 years

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-09-05 15:54
A night view of Daqing Oilfield in Daqing, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, on Aug 11, 2014. [Photo/VCG]

BEIJING - To mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), 28 outstanding individuals have been nominated for national titles of honor. They include an educator, economist, scientist, and the new "Iron Man" Wang Qimin.

A leading oil drilling expert, 83-year-old Wang is honored for his lifelong contribution to the high output of Daqing oilfield, which witnessed China's rise from destitute energy production to a leading market of traditional and new energy.

When the Communist Party of China founded the PRC on Oct 1, 1949, it faced a daunting task of revitalizing a broken nation long battered by foreign imperialist exploitation and wars. One of the stark truths was this: China's annual output of crude oil barely surpassed 120,000 tons in 1949, far from enough to meet domestic demand.

It was Sept 26, 1959 when workers successfully achieved stable and adequate daily output at an oilfield in Zhaozhou County of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. The oilfield was later named Daqing, which literally means grand celebration, to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.

Soon more than 40,000 demobilized personnel, oil workers and technicians gathered in the remote Daqing oilfield and worked tirelessly to increase output. Three years into Daqing oilfield's operation, its output accounted for over half of the country's total.

Their endeavor against all odds to win was later enshrined as the "Iron Man" spirit, named after model worker Wang Jinxi who has been well-known in the country for saying "Get ahead when we have the means, and when we don't, create the means and push ahead."

Wang Qimin joined the early workers in Daqing after college graduation and started exploring new possibilities for stable and long-term oil drilling. "At that time, foreign experts asserted that China could not develop such a complex oilfield on its own," he recalled.

Still, he kept forging ahead. His hard work led to breakthroughs in stabilizing oil production and controlling water cut, or the ratio of water produced compared to the volume of total liquids produced from an oil well, which helped Daqing maintain an annual output of over 50 million tons for 27 years in a row, a rare feat as oilfields normally go down in yield within five years.

Six decades on, Daqing oilfield has produced a total of about 2.4 billion tons of oil and acted as a key domestic lifeblood for China's industrial development.

The oilfield and its workers have inspired and symbolized the sea change in China's energy sector. In 2018, the country's crude oil output reached 190 million tons, over 1,500 times that in 1949, while the production of coal, natural gas and electricity also recorded explosive growth over the period.

The country is now the world's largest producer and importer of fossil fuels. At the same time, it has kept enhancing efforts on cutting emissions, improving effciency and making its energy structure greener.

A new research published in the journal Nature Sustainability suggests that China could see its carbon dioxide emission peak between 2021 to 2025, nearly a decade sooner than its target set in Paris Agreement on climate change.

China's energy sector is accelerating its transition to a clean low-carbon mode, said Zhang Jianhua, head of the National Energy Administration.

"China has made breakthroughs in a number of key technologies and equipment, including nuclear power, unconventional oil and gas, and gas turbines," he said, adding that innovation in areas such as smart grids, electric vehicles, large-scale energy storage and energy big-data are becoming increasingly dynamic.

Renewable and nuclear energy have accounted for more than half of China's annual increase in installed capacity since 2013, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

In terms of renewable energy, China ranks the first in the world in installed capacity of hydropower, wind power and solar photovoltaic power, the report showed.

China has actively promoted its green and low-carbon transition through practical actions, which include promulgating the strictest air pollution prevention and control law in history, overhauling the energy and economic structure, and fostering new growth momentum, said Zou Ji, president of Energy Foundation China.

"China has become the most exciting stage for the global energy revolution and development path innovation," Zou said.

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