The Middle East and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are set to lose the most politically from US and Chinese energy independence, according to a recent study published by UK think tank Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
According to the report, China’s fracking revolution could see the superpower reduce its gas imports by up to 40 per cent by 2020 — a move that would significantly affect some of the world’s exporters in much the same way the US energy revolution has previously done.
The country currently produces very little shale gas but is on its way to reducing its international dependence, the report suggested. “Shale gas has been identified and listed as a priority in China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). By 2015, the Chinese government aims to produce 6.5bcm (billion cubic meters) of shale gas production, rising to 60-100bcm by 2020,” the report said.
Shale gas is natural gas trapped within rock formations known as shale, and is different from conventional gas in that it doesn’t easily flow from the earth.
It is recovered through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a process by which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped at high pressure into shale formations to loosen gas reserves.
The US and China are ranked first and second, respectively, in terms of recoverable shale gas reserves, the report said.