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China to fill strategic oil reserve in '06
Updated: 2006-03-06 20:28

China expects to start filling its strategic oil reserves at Zhenhai in the eastern province of Zhejiang by the end of this year, the minister who heads the country's economic planning agency said Monday.

Ma Kai, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said construction of the 16-tank Zhenhai facility was finished. Three more strategic oil reserve facilities are due to be completed in 2007 and 2008, he told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual legislative session.

The additional three facilities would be filled "in due course" once their construction is completed, Ma said. Those facilities are to be located in Daishan in Zhejiang, in Huangdao in Shandong province southeast of Beijing and in Xingang in Liaoning province in the northeast.

The reserve is meant to cushion China against possible interruptions of foreign supplies. Previous reports said Beijing plans to stockpile up to 100 million barrels of petroleum, or the equivalent of almost a month's national consumption.

The United States operates a similar reserve.

Ma heads a government office set up this year to coordinate energy policy and supervise state-owned oil companies and other resources.

China supplied its own energy needs for decades from domestic oil fields, but became a net petroleum importer in the 1990s. Driven by a booming economy, it has quickly risen to become the world's third-biggest oil importer, after Japan and the United States.

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