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Oil shale: Game changer for China?

(Xinhua)

08:18, August 21, 2012

BEIJING, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Tourists flock to the Changbai Mountain Range in northeast China during summer for refreshing weather and marvelous natural landscapes. But to oil developers, its beauty lies beneath the surface, in massive oil shale reserves.

Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that contains shale oil, considered a substitute for conventional crude oil. It can be refined into gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel and diesel fuel.

With China expected to consume 500 million tonnes of oil this year, up five percent from last year, the country's search for new energy sources is intense.

In 2011, the country produced just 204 million tonnes of crude oil, up only 0.3 percent from 2010, based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

"We imported 240 million tonnes of crude oil from foreign countries last year, equivalent to about 57 percent of our entire demand," said Ding Shubai, chief expert with the Beijing-based Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration Development. "This number is continuing to increase."

To reduce dependence on imports, new energy alternatives such as oil shale are becoming attractive.

China has about 240 billion tonnes of accessible oil shale reserves. About 10 million tonnes of oil can be produced from these reserves using a chemical process called retorting, according to figures from China's National Energy Administration (NEA).

Liu Tienan, head of NEA, said promoting China's oil shale industry is an important task, which will increase domestic oil supplies and ease the nation's energy strain.

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