【英语中国】中国特色的页岩革命? Oil and gas: A new frontier

  • A+
所属分类:双语中国

2014-1-18 08:45

小艾摘要: Last month, Weir Group held its first ever Christmas party for contacts in the Chinese oil and gas industry. It was not a particularly large or lavish event: 75 of Weir’s customers and suppliers gath ...
Oil and gas: A new frontier
Last month, Weir Group held its first ever Christmas party for contacts in the Chinese oil and gas industry. It was not a particularly large or lavish event: 75 of Weir’s customers and suppliers gathered to celebrate the festive season in the usual British style at the Park Tavern pub in Shanghai. But the guests were part of a potentially momentous phenomenon: the birth of China’s shale gas industry.

Weir, which is based in Scotland but runs its oil and gas business from the heartland of the shale boom in Texas, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the pumps used for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells at high pressure to open up shales and other rocks that do not give up their resources easily.

As China seeks to unlock its shale oil and gas, it offers the potential to eventually become a huge market for western companies such as Weir. “It’s going to be a long time before China reaches the US level,” says Keith Cochrane, Weir’s chief. “But there’s no question they are serious.”

Chinese planners have watched with envy as the US shale revolution has cut American energy costs and imports. For its part, the US views China’s effort to generate its own shale boom as a golden opportunity for American business. If China can spark its own shale revolution, energy costs for its manufacturers would fall and its oil and gas industry could emerge as a powerful force in world markets. But the Obama administration believes the potential benefits greatly outweigh any potential damage to US business.

ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips of the US, and Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni from Europe, are among the international oil companies that have signed deals to explore shale resources in China.

For companies providing services for oil and gas production, from drilling to fracking to water management, the prizes could be even greater. Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Weatherford, the world’s largest private-sector oil services companies, are boosting their presence in China.

Yet for all the excitement, the future of China’s shale remains cloudy. Progress so far has been disappointing, and shale production in China faces many challenges. Ultimately, its development will be a test not only of the country’s geology and the ingenuity of its engineers, but of its entire economic model.

China’s potential is certainly vast. By some estimates it has the world’s largest shale gas resources, with about 68 per cent more technically recoverable gas than the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Yet progress has been slow. The Chinese government is still sticking to its official production target of 6.5bn cubic metres of gas from shale by 2015 and 60bn-100bn cubic metres by 2020, but at current rates of production that is unlikely to happen.

Shell bet big on China’s potential, earmarking $1bn and developing the country’s best performing well to date. But it now says significant shale developments outside the US could take decades.

Recent successes achieved by Sinopec, the second-largest state-controlled Chinese oil group, in the Sichuan basin have revived hopes that shale production can be made to work in China. Yet shale still seems unlikely to meet the country’s growing demand for gas. In addition to prioritising domestic production, China is diversifying international supply, including coming closer to signing a gas supply deal with Russia.

China’s shale reserves are often more challenging than those in the US. Chinese geologists are envious of the Bakken oil shale in North Dakota, or the Marcellus gas shale of Pennsylvania, where reserves can be just a mile below the surface. In the steep hills of Sichuan, they are three miles down in structures warped by active faultlines.

China also lacks the pipelines that criss-cross North America. Beijing has had to offer incentives to build gas liquefaction or compression plants near shale gas zones, allowing gas to be trucked out of valleys with no accessible infrastructure. And in most of China’s promising areas for shale gas, such as the Tarim Basin in the northwest, there are limited supplies of water needed for fracking.

Yet more than any of these physical differences, it may be the “soft” factors, including the lack of an open and competitive business environment, a mature legal structure and private land ownership, that are holding back China’s shale revolution.

“There’s so much money to be made in shale in China but it is developing very slowly so there must be a problem,” says Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

In the view of many executives and analysts, the crucial difference between the US and China is in the structure of the industry. As Chen Liming, president of BP China, put it at a recent discussion in Beijing: “I think America has succeeded because of its open market. Without competitiveness they wouldn’t succeed. So there is constant improvement. Through competition, you can greatly increase efficiency and costs will fall.”

The US shale revolution was led by the country’s small and medium-sized companies, which tried many different approaches to “crack the code” and unlock oil and gas. The US also has a rich ecosystem of oil services companies – as many as 10,000 by some counts. In China, by contrast, shale developments are dominated by two state-controlled groups: Sinopec and CNPC, parent of PetroChina. All the shale exploration deals with large western companies have been signed by one of those two, but the Chinese companies still harbour doubts about shale’s potential.

Because production from individual shale wells declines quickly, companies have to drill more and more wells just to keep total output up, requiring heavy capital spending, and the Chinese oil majors are leery of the commitments that involves.

Trevor Houser, a consultant with the Rhodium Group, says: “If the big US oil groups, ExxonMobil and Chevron, had held 90 per cent of US shale acreage, the pace of development would not have been nearly so fast.”

Impatient with the slow pace of the Chinese oil giants, central ministries threw the nation’s second round of shale tenders open to other players. But industry insiders say these newcomers, which include power companies, coal miners and a steel mill, are not meeting minimal spending commitments, in part because they underestimated the barriers posed by the state giants’ dominance.

Having won land tenders, the newcomers find it hard to hire oil services companies, most of which are affiliated to state organisations. They also struggle to ship into higher-priced urban markets, since the state-owned majors control the pipelines too.

Representatives of the state-owned oil giants and the state planning agencies emphasise the need for Chinese solutions to China’s unique geology. For instance, drillers tend to encounter more mud in Chinese shale wells, which can choke off the flow of gas and cause water to pool up, ultimately destroying the well’s productivity.

Chinese oilfield software firm Recon Technology is offering a data monitoring system to detect such blockages earlier. Jiang Xinmin, vice-director of the Energy Research Institute, part of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s powerful planning agency, says: “It’s hard to succeed with US technology, but we also have our own technology.”

PetroChina is applying for a domestic patent for a fracturing truck developed by one of its engineering units, which it tested in Sichuan in September. The company is also working on developing its own imaging technology. However, that remains very basic compared with the system developed by Baker Hughes of the US.

China’s industrial structure means that indigenous shale technology is most likely to be developed if it becomes a central government priority, something that has not happened yet, say Chinese industry sources.

“A private Chinese company can’t do it because they would need the work of the research institutes and the Chinese Academy of Science,” says a senior manager at a Chinese oil giant. “It’s not like in the US where everyone is investing in innovation and everyone reaps the benefits.”

That creates opportunities for the international oil services groups, which control critical technology for shale production. China only represents a modest slice of their business, but for some it is growing quickly. Today the in-house services companies of the state-owned groups control about 90 per cent of the market, according to James West, an analyst at Barclays, but he expects that to “shift dramatically” as the industry seeks international expertise.

Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil services group, has been particularly active, opening a research centre in Beijing in 2012 and a new laboratory in Chengdu last year. Mr West, who toured the company’s Chinese operations last year, estimates its revenues onshore could rise tenfold in five years.

The risk for western companies, though, is that China will seek ownership of technology just as the country’s shale development takes off. Chinese industry has a long record of copying or reverse-engineering technology to provide much cheaper, “good enough” versions that squeeze expensive foreign equipment out of all but the high end of the market.

A government policy known as “indigenous innovation” seeks to develop homegrown versions of dominant technologies to encourage Chinese manufacturing and avoid paying licensing fees. Robert Ivy, Beijing-based director of the China office of the US Department of Energy, argues that the larger western companies should be able to avoid that threat. “When we talk about the major companies we engage with in the US, they say the technologies they are bringing here are the one-off technologies, they are not our cutting edge,” he says. “They are already years ahead looking for the next innovation.”

There are signs that western oil services companies are treading carefully with their intellectual property – and are holding back some of their critical knowledge. American companies have refused to give the Chinese the proprietary breakdown of the ingredients in their fracking fluids, despite Chinese requests.

Mr Ivy argues that the Chinese government is well aware that it needs to address issues such as intellectual property protection if the country’s shale industry is to succeed. “They understand they have to work on the regulatory environment, they have to get the environmental protections in place, they need to get their legal system in place,” he says.

Looking at the US shale revolution, the decisive factors are clear: a competitive industry, responsive capital markets, scope for local initiative and innovation, and strong property rights, including intellectual property.

All of those conditions are more or less absent in China. If the country is to make its industry a success, it will need to bring a different kind of shale revolution to its institutional landscape.

Drilling together – for now

For China, developing shale reserves offers a triple benefit. Increased gas production could replace coal for power generation, reducing the smog that blights many Chinese cities, as well as lowering energy costs and curbing dependence on foreign energy – an increasingly pressing issue since the nation last year claimed the crown as the world’s largest oil importer.

Its ambition is supported by the US, which has held an annual oil and gas forum with China for more than a decade to bring together businesses and officials working in the industry. President Barack Obama also launched a series of energy co-operation initiatives in 2009, including a shale gas programme that organises workshops and study tours.

David Sandalow of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, who until last year was assistant secretary with responsibility for international affairs at the US energy department, says helping China develop its shale gas reserves meets several American policy objectives.

“Chinese shale development could help reduce pressures on global oil and gas markets,” Mr Sandalow says. “It could provide significant commercial opportunities to US companies. It could dramatically reduce the air pollution that afflicts Chinese cities and help fight global warming.”

However, US support for China’s shale industry could one day rebound. Chinese oil services companies working on shale projects are trying to learn skills that could allow them to compete for business in the much more actively developed North American shale fields, some of which already have Chinese investment. In the future, it may be Chinese companies who see American shale as the business opportunity they cannot afford to miss.

上个月,伟尔集团(Weir Group)首次在中国举办了一场圣诞派对,招待其在中国油气行业中的各路人脉。这并非一次特别盛大或奢华的活动:伟尔集团的75名客户和供应商齐聚上海Park Tavern酒吧,以通常的英式风格庆祝节日。但这些客人是一个具有重大潜在意义现象的组成部分,这个现象就是中国页岩气产业的诞生。

伟尔集团的总部在苏格兰,但其油气业务的大本营设在美国德克萨斯州繁荣的页岩产业的中心地带。该公司是全球领先的水力压裂泵制造商之一。水力压裂技术是指以高压向页岩井内注入水、沙和化学品,以压裂那些不会轻易释放出所蕴含资源的页岩和其他岩石。

随着中国寻求发掘国内页岩油气资源,中国最终可能会成为伟尔等西方企业的一个巨大市场。“中国要达到美国的水平还需要很长时间,”伟尔首席执行官基思?科克拉内(Keith Cochrane)表示,“但毫无疑问的是,规模将非同一般。”

美国页岩革命使得美国能源成本和进口下降,中国规划部门一直以羡慕的眼光注视着这一切。而在美国眼里,中国发展页岩产业将带给西方企业绝佳的机会。如果中国能够发起自己的页岩革命,中国制造商的能源成本将下滑,中国油气行业可能会成为全球市场上的一支生力军。但奥巴马政府(Obama)认为,中国开发页岩给美国企业带来的潜在好处大大超出潜在的损害。

多家国际石油企业都已经签订了在中国勘探页岩资源的相关协议,包括美国的埃克森美孚(ExxonMobil)、雪佛龙(Chevron)和康菲石油(ConocoPhillips),以及欧洲的皇家荷兰壳牌(Royal Dutch Shell)、道达尔(Total)和埃尼(Eni)。

请点击放大

对于为油气生产提供服务——从钻探到压裂到水资源管理——的公司而言,利益可能更为可观。全球各大私营石油服务企业,包括斯伦贝谢(Schlumberger)、哈利伯顿(Halliburton)、贝克休斯(Baker Hughes)和威德福(Weatherford),都在扩大在华业务。

诸多挑战

尽管各家企业兴奋不已,但中国页岩产业的未来仍笼罩在阴霾之下。迄今为止的进展一直令人失望,中国页岩生产面临诸多挑战。最终,这个产业的发展不仅将检验中国地质状况和工程师们的创造力,还将检验中国整体经济模式。

中国的潜力确实巨大。美国能源情报署(US Energy Information Administration)称,根据一些机构的估计,中国拥有全球规模最大的页岩气资源,技术上可开采的储量比美国多出68%左右。然而,实际开发进度却很缓慢。中国政府仍坚持其官方产量目标:到2015年页岩气产量将达到65亿立方米,到2020年达到600亿至1000亿立方米。但根据目前的生产进度,这些目标不太可能实现。

壳牌对中国的页岩开发前景寄予厚望,该公司已专门拨出10亿美元,并且在开发中国目前条件最好的页岩井。但该集团最近表示,在美国之外,页岩领域要取得重大进展可能需要几十年时间。

中国第二大国有石油集团——中石化(Sinopec)最近在四川盆地取得的成功,让人们心中再度燃起希望:页岩生产在中国是可行的。然而,开发页岩似乎也不太可能满足中国对天然气日益增长的需求。除了侧重国内生产之外,中国也在扩大国际供应来源,比如打算与俄罗斯签订一项天然气供应协议。

中国页岩开发起来通常比美国页岩更具挑战性。美国北达科他州的贝肯(Bakken)页岩油田以及宾夕法尼亚州的Marcellus页岩气田让中国地质学家眼红,这里的油气资源距离地表可能仅有1英里,而在四川的崇山峻岭中,油气被封存在地表以下3英里处因为活跃的断裂带而变形的岩层中。

此外,中国缺乏纵横于北美各地的那些管道设施。中国政府不得不采取激励举措,在页岩气田附近建设天然气液化或压缩工厂,让企业能够从基础设施匮乏的山谷中运出天然气。在中国多数开发前景良好的页岩气地带(例如西北部的塔里木盆地),水资源都很有限,而压裂法需要用到水。

然而,除了上述这些自然差异,可能还有一些“软”因素在阻碍中国的页岩革命,包括缺乏开放竞争的商业环境、成熟的法律框架以及土地私人所有制。

厦门大学中国能源经济研究中心主任林伯强表示:“中国页岩产业蕴含可观的利润,但发展非常缓慢,因此肯定存在问题。”

中美行业结构之别

在很多高管和分析人士看来,美国与中国的主要差异在于行业结构。正如英国石油(BP)中国区总裁陈黎明最近在北京的一次讨论会上所言:“我认为,美国的成功源于其开放的市场。没有竞争,他们就不会成功。因此,美国一直有进展。通过竞争,你可以大大提高效率,成本也会下降。”

美国页岩革命中充当先锋的是美国中小企业,它们尝试用多种不同的方法“解开密码”,开采油气。美国还拥有一个由众多石油服务企业组成的丰富生态系统,根据一些估算,这些企业的数量多达1万家。相比之下,在中国,页岩开发由两家国有企业主导:中石化和中国石油天然气集团公司(CNPC),后者是中石油(PetroChina)的母公司。西方大公司签订的所有中国页岩勘探协议都是与这两家国有企业中的一家签订的,但中国企业仍对页岩前景心存疑虑。

由于单个页岩井的产量迅速下滑,企业不得不钻探越来越多的页岩井,以维持总产量水平,这需要巨额资本支出,中国石油巨擘对相关投资心怀顾虑。

Rhodium Group咨询顾问特雷弗?豪泽(Trevor Houser)表示:“如果美国大型石油集团,如埃克森美孚和雪佛龙,拥有美国90%的页岩,那么美国页岩产业的发展绝不会这么快。”

中央部委对中国石油巨擘的缓慢进度失去了耐心,将中国第二轮页岩招标向其他企业开放。但业内人士表示,这些新进者(其中包括电力公司、煤矿企业以及一家钢铁厂)满足不了承诺投资额的最低标准,部分原因是它们低估了国有巨擘占据主导地位所带来的障碍。

赢得土地招标的新进者发现很难雇用石油服务公司,其中多数都是国有企业的附属公司。它们还很难将油气输往产品定价较高的城市市场,因为国有巨擘们还控制着油气管道。

国有石油巨擘和国家规划部门的代表们均强调中国自主解决本国独特地质问题的必要性。例如,在中国页岩井中,钻探设备往往会遇到更多泥浆,而泥浆可能会阻断天然气供应,并造成水流淤积,最终破坏页岩井的生产。

中国油田软件公司研控科技(Recon Technology)提供一套数据监测系统,可以提前发现堵塞物。国家发改委能源研究所能源经济与发展战略研究中心副主任姜鑫民表示:“利用美国技术很难成功,但我们也有自己的技术。”

中石油正在就一种压裂车申请国内专利,该机器由该公司某工程部门开发,去年9月在四川进行了测试。中石油还致力于开发自主成像技术。然而,与美国贝克休斯所开发的系统相比,前者的技术仍然非常初级。

中国行业消息人士称,中国的行业结构意味着,中国最有希望发展自主页岩技术的情况是中央政府将之列为优先任务,而目前并没有出现这种情况。

“中国民营企业做不到,因为它们将需要研究所和中国科学院(Chinese Academy of Science)的工作,”中国一石油巨擘的一位高级经理表示,“这与美国不同,在美国,所有人都在投资于创新,所有人都会获得好处。”

知识产权保护之忧

这为国际石油服务公司创造了机会,它们掌握着页岩生产的关键技术。中国仅占它们业务的很小一部分,但对于一些企业而言,中国市场的比重正迅速上升。巴克莱(Barclays)分析师詹姆斯?韦斯特(James West)表示,如今,国有企业所属的服务公司控制着中国约90%的市场份额。但他预计,由于中国页岩行业寻求掌握国际技术,这一情况将“发生重大变化”。

在进入中国市场方面,斯伦贝谢尤为积极。2012年,这家全球第一大石油服务集团在北京设立了一个研发中心,去年又在成都新建了一座实验室。去年曾参观斯伦贝谢中国公司的韦斯特估计,其在华收入可能会在5年内增长10倍。

然而,西方企业面临的风险是,在中国页岩开发起步之际,中国企业将寻求获得技术所有权。长期以来,中国工业一直有着模仿或逆向工程(reverse-engineering)技术的习惯,以向市场提供更为廉价的“足够好”的产品,将昂贵的外国设备挤出市场,除了高端市场以外。

中国政府的“自主创新”政策旨在推动本土企业研发自有的决定性技术,以鼓励国内制造业,并避免支付知识产权许可费。美国能源部(US Department of Energy)中国办事处主管、驻北京的罗伯特?艾维(Robert Ivy)称,西方大公司应当能够避免这一威胁。“说到我们在美国接触的大型公司,它们表示拿到中国的技术是‘一次性’的技术,并不是它们的尖端技术,”他表示,“它们已经领先数年在摸索下一步的创新了。”

有迹象表明,西方石油服务公司在小心翼翼地保护自己的知识产权,它们保留着一些关键的知识。尽管中方提出请求,但美国公司一直拒绝提供有关压裂液成分的专有信息。

艾维称,中国政府深知,中国页岩产业如要取得成功,就需要解决知识产权保护等问题。“他们明白必须在监管环境上下功夫,开展环境保护,完善法律制度。”

观察美国的页岩革命,决定性的因素显而易见:竞争激烈的行业环境,资本市场的支持,地方积极性和创新的空间,健全的产权(知识产权)制度。

上述各项条件中国或多或少都存在不足。中国页岩产业要取得成功,就需要在现有制度环境下,展开一场与美国不同的页岩革命。

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

延伸阅读

中美共同开发——在现阶段

对中国而言,开发页岩资源有三重好处。扩大天然气生产,可以替代煤炭发电,缓解困扰中国多个城市的雾霾,降低能源成本,减少对外国能源的依赖——自从中国去年成为世界头号石油进口国以来,最后一个问题显得越发紧迫。

中国的宏图大志得到了美国的支持。十多年来,美中两国每年都会召开一次年度油气论坛,将商界人士和行业官员聚集在一起。巴拉克?奥巴马(Barack Obama)总统也在2009年推出了一系列能源合作计划,其中一项是包含研讨会和考察内容的页岩气合作计划。

哥伦比亚大学(Columbia University)全球能源政策中心(Center on Global Energy Policy)的戴维?桑达洛(David Sandalow)以前在美国能源部担任助理部长,主管国际事务,直到去年卸任。他表示,帮助中国开发页岩气资源符合美国的多项政策目标。

桑达洛表示:“中国开发页岩气可能有助于减轻全球油气市场的压力,可以为美国公司带来重大商机,还可以显著缓解中国城市的空气污染情况,这有助于应对全球变暖。”

但有朝一日,美国可能要吞下支持中国页岩产业的负面后果。致力于页岩项目的中国石油服务公司正试图学习相关技能,以便日后能够争夺北美页岩油气田的业务,那里的开发活动要活跃得多。目前已经有一些北美页岩项目得到了来自中国的投资。将来,或许中国公司会将美国页岩视为不可错过的商机。

译者/何黎

本文关键字:双语阅读,小艾英语,双语网站,双语中国,实时资讯,互联网新闻,ERWAS,行业解析,创业指导,营销策略,英语学习,可以双语阅读的网站!
  • 我的微信
  • 扫一扫加关注
  • weinxin
  • 微信公众号
  • 扫一扫加关注
  • weinxin

发表评论

:?: :razz: :sad: :evil: :!: :smile: :oops: :grin: :eek: :shock: :???: :cool: :lol: :mad: :twisted: :roll: :wink: :idea: :arrow: :neutral: :cry: :mrgreen: