(EnergyAsia, July 20 2012, Friday) — With its natural gas consumption set to almost treble over the next eight years, China will boost imports as well as domestic production, predicts UK-based consulting firm GlobalData.

According to its latest research, China’s natural gas consumption surged from 24.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2000 to 131.7 bcm last year. This trend will continue, pushing Chinese gas consumption to 375 bcm by 2020 as its government is determined to sharply boost the share of natural gas in the national energy mix.

China has substantial natural gas reserves of its own, but demand has already outstripped production, making imports essential, said GlobalData.

Last year, China consumed 131.7 bcm of natural gas, but it only produced 100.9 bcm, and the disparity will widen.

The country’s leading energy companies including China Petrochemical Corporation and its subsidiary China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), CNPC and its subsidiary PetroChina Company Limited, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are actively involved in acquiring overseas oil and gas assets to expand their natural gas reserves.

China will also step up its import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as part of its long-term energy strategy.

In 1998, the government approved the country’s first LNG import terminal in Guangdong province to meet energy demand in the country’s booming south-eastern coastal region.

By the end of last year, it had established five LNG terminals with a total regasification capacity of one trillion cubic feet (tcf). This is expected to rise to 2.8 tcf by the end of 2016 for an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 19.7% as a result of the completion of another 11 terminals.

In March this year, the government announced a new energy plan to produce 6.5 bcm of natural gas from shale reserves by 2015.

Last December, the government set a goal for the industry to produce 30 bcm of coalbed methane (CBM) by 2015, with 16 bcm from ground-based projects and the remaining 14 bcm from coal mine projects.