Opportunities and challenges of natural gas development and utilization in China

  • Guojie ZhangEmail author
  • Lizhen Dou
  • Ying Xu


In the background that the China government robustly advocates low carbon and green energy, China has turned to focus on natural gas, both production and consumption of which are soaring high these days and the role of which is gradually prominent in energy sources. But it also faces many problems. With the rapid development of natural gas in China, it has gradually formed a system of natural gas industry chain. With the aims to help promote more healthy and sustainable development of natural gas industry in the future, it is very valuable to think deeply about the past development process. This paper reviews and analyzes China’s natural gas resources, pipeline layout, and industry development status. Based on China’s specific conditions and resource characteristics, it analyzes China’s future natural gas development opportunities. Simultaneously, the analysis shows China’s natural gas production will reach 236.5 billion cubic meters by 2030 and the proportion of natural gas in the primary energy structure will reach about 15% in 2030. But in terms of current natural gas production, the supply gap is very large. Moreover, the dependence on foreign natural gas imports has continued to increase in recent years. Thus, China should continue to improve its natural gas layout and utilization system, increase investment in domestic natural gas exploration and development, strengthen core technology research, and improve its relevant laws and regulations in order to better maintain the rapid development of natural gas.

Graphical abstract


Natural gas Utilization Development China Resources 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 21878200, U1610115 and 21676174), International S&T Cooperation Program of Shanxi province (No. 201703D421038), Shanxi Scholarship Council of China (No. 2017-036) and Joint Fund of Shanxi Provincial Coal Seam Gas (No. 2015012019).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Babaee S, Loughlin D (2018) Exploring the role of natural gas power plants with carbon capture and storage as a bridge to a low-carbon future. Clean Technol Environ Policy 20:379–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chen L, Tian H, Zhang X (2012) Public attitudes and perceptions to the west-to-east pipeline project and ecosystem management in large project construction. Int J Sust Dev World 19(3):219–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen B, Yang M, Sun H, Wang P, Wang D (2019) Visualization study on the promotion of natural gas hydrate production by water flow erosion. Fuel 235:63–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dong X, Guo J, Höök M, Pi G (2015) Sustainability assessment of the natural gas industry in China using principal component analysis. Sustainability 7:6102–6118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dong X, Pi G, Ma Z, Dong C (2017) The reform of the natural gas industry in the PR of China. Renew Sust Energy Rev 73:582–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fan J, Zhao D, Wu Y, Wei J (2014) Carbon pricing and electricity market reforms in China. Clean Technol Environ Policy 16:921–933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feng TT, Yang YS, Yan YH, Wang DD (2017) Application status and problem investigation of distributed generation in China: the case of natural gas, solar and wind resources. Sustainability 9(6):1022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finkelman RB, Tian L (2018) The health impacts of coal use in China. Int Geol Rev 60:579–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gao Y, Zhang C, GaoY HuA (2017) Review of the development of China’s natural gas market in 2016 and outlook for 2017. Nat Gas Technol Econ 11(2):61–66Google Scholar
  10. Gao X, Gao Y, Yu J (2018) Review of natural gas development in China in 2017 and its prospect in 2018. Nat Gas Technol Econ 12:1–7Google Scholar
  11. Hao H, Liu Z, Zhao F, Li W (2016) Natural gas as vehicle fuel in China: a review. Renew Sust Energy Rev 62:521–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hao H, Qiao Q, Liu Z, Zhao F, Chen Y (2017) Comparing the life cycle Greenhouse Gas emissions from vehicle production in China and the USA: implications for targeting the reduction opportunities. Clean Technol Environ Policy 19:1509–1522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hong J, Shen GQ, Guo S, Xue F, Zheng W (2016) Energy use embodied in China׳ s construction industry: a multi-regional input–output analysis. Renew Sust Energy Rev 53:1303–1312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huang J (2013) Completely put into operation the second line of the west-east gas pipeline and full-scale construction of the third line. China’s natural gas pipeline network is further improved. Int Petrol Econ 21:52–54Google Scholar
  15. Jia C, Zheng M, Zahng Y (2012) Unconventional hydrocarbon resources in China and the prospect of exploration and development. Petrol Explor Dev 39:139–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jia C, Zhang Y, Zhao X (2014) Prospects of and challenges to natural gas industry development in China. Nat Gas Ind B 1:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Li Q, Wei Y, Chen Z (2016) Water-CCUS nexus: challenges and opportunities of China’s coal chemical industry. Clean Technol Environ Policy 18:775–786CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lin W, Zhang N, Gu A (2010) LNG (liquefied natural gas): a necessary part in China’s future energy infrastructure. Energy 35:4383–4391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liu Q (2017) The present situation and prospect of natural gas power generation in China. China Petrol Chem Stand Qual 37(6):68–69Google Scholar
  20. Liu D, Yamaguchi K, Yoshikawa H (2017) Understanding the motivations behind the Myanmar-China energy pipeline: multiple streams and energy politics in China. Energy Policy 107:403–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lu J, Zhao S (2015) China’s natural gas exploration and development strategies under the new normal. Nat Gas Ind B 2:473–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ma D, Hu S, Zhu B, Jin Y (2012) Carbon substance flow analysis and CO2 emission scenario analysis for China. Clean Technol Environ Policy 14:815–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ma L, Geng J, Li W, Liu P, Li Z (2013) The development of natural gas as an automotive fuel in China. Energy Policy 62:531–539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Maroušek J, Myšková K, Žák J (2015) Managing environmental innovation: case study on biorefinery concept. Rev Téc Ing Univ Zulia 38(3):216–220Google Scholar
  25. Maroušek J, Vochozka M, Maroušková A, Kolár L (2018) Postponing of the intracellular disintegration step improves efficiency of phytomass processing. J Clean Prod 199:173–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Matteo V, Stefano L, Lorenzo P, Emanuela C, Laura AP (2019) Assessing the energy intensity of alternative chemical and cryogenic natural gas purification processes in LNG production. J Clean Prod 208:827–840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ngai EWT, Law CC, Lo CW, Poon JKL, Peng S (2018) Business sustainability and corporate social responsibility: case studies of three gas operators in China. Int J Prod Res 56:660–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Patiño GGE, Rivera FN (2019) Global warming potential and net power output analysis of natural gas combined cycle power plants coupled with CO2 capture systems and organic Rankine cycles. J Clean Prod 208:11–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pan J, Yang L, Wang L, Lou Y, Wang S (2017) Thinking on the development strategy of natural gas resources in China under the new situation. Int Oil Econ 6:12–18Google Scholar
  30. Pospíšil J, Charvát P, Arsenyeva O, Klimeš L, Špiláček M, Klemeš J (2019) Energy demand of liquefaction and regasification of natural gas and the potential of LNG for operative thermal energy storage. Renew Sust Energy Rev 99:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Qin Y, Wagner F, Scovronick N, Peng W, Yang J, Zhu T, Mauzerall DL (2017) Air quality, health, and climate implications of China’s synthetic natural gas development. Proc Natl Acad Sci 114(19):4887–4892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ruud W (2012) Strategy implications of world gas market dynamics. Energy Strategy Rev 1:66–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shell International and The Development Research Center, Ishwaran M, King W, Haigh M, Lee T, Nie S (2017) Analysis of China’s peak shaving and natural gas storage systems. In: Shell Centre, The Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (eds) China’s gas development strategies. Advances in oil and gas exploration & production. Springer, ChamGoogle Scholar
  34. Shi X, Chen Y (2003) Green energy, century engineering-west-east gas pipeline project. Quat Sci 2:125–133Google Scholar
  35. Song M, Guan Y, Wang J, Zhao J (2016) Evaluation of urban industrial ecological transformation in China. Clean Technol Environ Policy 18:2649–2662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Su Y, Luo K (2015) Research on the sustainable development strategy of China’s natural gas industry. J Clean Energy Technol 3:445–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tian R, Zhang Q, Wang G, Li H, Chen S, Li Y, Tian Y (2017) Study on the promotion of natural gas-fired electricity with energy market reform in China using a dynamic game-theoretic model. Appl Energy 185:1832–1839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tong X, Zheng J, Fang B (2014) Strategic analysis on establishing a natural gas trading hub in China. Nat Gas Ind B 1:210–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tsai SB (2016) Using grey models for forecasting China’s growth trends in renewable energy consumption. Clean Technol Environ Policy 18:563–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wang T, Lin B (2014) Impacts of unconventional gas development on China’s natural gas production and import. Renew Sust Energy Rev 39:546–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wang Z, Xue Q (2017) To fully exert the important role of natural gas in building a modern energy security system in China: an understanding of China’s National l3th Five-Year Plan for Natural Gas Development. Nat Gas Ind B 4(4):270–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang J, Feng L, Zhao L, Snowden S (2013) China’s natural gas: resources, production and its impacts. Energy Policy 55:690–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang YF, Li KP, Xu XM, Zhang YR (2014) Transport energy consumption and saving in China. Renew Sust Energy Rev 29:641–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang Y, Zhang J, Guo H (2016) Decomposition of electricity consumption in China by primary component analysis. Clean Technol Environ Policy 18:2533–2540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yang J (2018) Analysis of sustainable development of natural gas market in China. Nat Gas Ind B 5:644–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yang H, Liu X, Huang D, Lan Y, Wang S (2016) Natural gas exploration and development in Changqing Oilfield and its prospect in the 13th Five-Year Plan. Nat Gas Ind B 3:291–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhang K (2014) Natural gas supply-demand situation and prospect in China. Nat Gas Ind B 1(1):103–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zhang B, Li S, Dai L (2000) Research on comprehensive utilization of natural gas in western China. J Southwest Petrol Inst 4:84–87Google Scholar
  49. Zhang Q, Li Z, Wang G, Li H (2016) Study on the impacts of natural gas supply cost on gas flow and infrastructure deployment in China. Appl Energy 162:1385–1398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zhao W, Wang H, Qian K (2009) The development of coal gas theory in China and its position in the development of natural gas industry. Petrol Explor Dev 36:280–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhao X, Kang L, Lan B (2013) Focus on the development of shale gas in China—Based on SWOT analysis. Renew Sust Energy Rev 21:603–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhao F, Hao H, Liu Z (2016) Technology strategy to meet China’s 5 L/100 km fuel consumption target for passenger vehicles in 2020. Clean Technol Environ Policy 18:7–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhao L, Zhao T, Wang Y (2017) A multisectoral decomposition analysis of Beijing carbon emissions. Clean Technol Environ Policy 19:565–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zou C, Zhao Q, Chen J (2018) Natural gas in China: development trend and strategic forecast. Nat Gas Ind B 5:380–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Coal Science and Technology, Ministry of Education and Shanxi ProvinceTaiyuan University of TechnologyTaiyuanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Coal and CBM Co-MiningJinchengPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations