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China-Central Asia gas pipeline yet to provide stable supply

Updated: 2010-01-07 14:04
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A 1,833-km pipeline carrying natural gas from Central Asia to Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang, will take another 10 days to provide a stable supply, said a city official Wednesday.

"The pipeline's pressure is still low, and we are unable to increase the supply," said Wu Jianmin, of the municipal natural gas office.

As China's first large pipeline project to import natural gas, the China-Central Asia gas pipeline starts at the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border and runs through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to China.

Natural gas from the pipeline reached Urumqi on Dec 31.

Wu said the pipeline was well connected with the municipal gas network. By Tuesday, the line's daily output to Urumqi reached 50,000 cubic meters.

He said Urumqi expected to extract from a supply of 3 billion cubic meters a year, which meant more than 8 million cubic meters a day, but the supply might not reach the planned amount this year.

"The line could help ease the city's energy shortage, estimated at 500 million cubic meters a year if severe weather hits," he said.

He had been told that the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the major developer of the pipeline, was still researching potential demand in Chinese cities.

Urumqi is the first Chinese city to benefit from the pipeline.

From Xinjiang's Horgos, the pipeline was connected with China's No 2 West-East gas pipeline, which extends 8,653 kilometers through 14 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and special administrative regions, including Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Beijing would benefit from the China-Central Asia pipeline from mid-January, as the line from Xinjiang had been linked with a gas pipeline from northwest China's Shaanxi to Beijing, said a statement from CNPC Wednesday.

The company declined to disclose the exact amount Beijing would get from the pipeline's supply.

The statement said CNPC had addressed the capital's weather-induced fuel shortage by expanding upstream production and diverting its network resources to guarantee the city's energy supply.

Beijing's daily natural gas consumption hit a high of 53 million cubic meters this month, compared to the maximum 44 million cubic meters daily high set last winter, it said.

The company said it has increased the daily gas supply via the Shaanxi-Beijing pipeline from the Changqing Gas Field in Southwest China from 40 million cubic meters to 43 million cubic meters.

It will divert one more million cubic meters of gas a day, on the basis of 5 million, from its pipeline networks to the Shaanxi-Beijing line in order to ease Beijing's energy shortage.

The Central Asia gas supply is seen as an important energy source for Beijing, which has been gripped by a cold snap. After the snowfall on Sunday, temperatures plummeted by 7 to 8 degrees to minus 16 C, the lowest in decades.

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Mu Bingjie, deputy director of the municipal affairs committee, said Beijing on Tuesday embarked on an emergency scheme to cope with the energy shortage, under which residential gas use was deemed a priority, while shopping malls, office buildings and industries were rationed.

Elsewhere in China, cities like Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, Changsha in Hunan province, and Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang province have reported shortages of fuel for power generation and heating.

Wang Dong, deputy manager of Hangzhou Natural Gas Group Corp, said Hangzhou would get access to the supply from the China-Central Asia pipeline in 2011.

"We can only cut supply to industrial and commercial users to save energy," he said.

President Hu Jintao attended a ceremony marking the inauguration of the pipeline in Turkmenistan in December. He said the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline was "a model of sincere solidarity and mutually beneficial cooperation of China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan."