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The northern region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei needs to make sure there is enough fuel for heating during the winter, Vice Premier Han Zheng has warned, as quoted by Reuters. The northern region is notorious for its high levels of pollution but last year it also became notorious for natural gas shortages that left millions of households without heating during the peak of winter.
In a bid to prevent a repeat, the authorities are now in a rush to secure fuel supplies, and not just gas but coal as well. Last year, the central government criticized the local authorities for retiring coal plants before ensuring there would be enough natural gas to provide heating for the region and applying a “one size fits all” approach to the fight against pollution.
Yet neither local nor central authorities are giving up on that fight. This winter will be difficult for the industrial sector in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, with the last member of the trio accounting for 25 percent of China’s total steel output. The government has already asked industrial producers to curb their activity ahead of winter to reduce the amount of particulate matter in the air if they haven’t already reduced their emissions by other means.
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The anti-pollution drive is paying off, too. Reuters reports that between January and September this year, the amount of particulate mater PM2.5 had fallen by a third from a year earlier thanks to the reduction in coal consumption and changes in industrial production practices.
Natural gas is a big part of this transformation, including LNG. Last year, China became the world’s second-largest LNG importer, taking in some 38 million tons of the fuel, a 46-percent increase on 2016. Even so, some parts of the country suffered shortages because the gas could not reach them fast enough. As a result, China is now actively working on expanding its LNG storage capacity and pipeline network. It is also expanding its domestic natural gas production and storage capacity.
In the past 10 years China’s natural gas consumption has risen fourfold to more than 25 billion cu ft daily. Now, companies are turning depleted gas fields into storage facilities as part of efforts to avoid a repeat of last winter’s shortage.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.