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Major Oil Fields
 Daqing Oil Field
Shengli Oil Field
Liaohe Oil Field
Dagang Oil Field
Huabei (North China) Oil Field
 Jidong (East Hebei) Oil Field
 Zhongyuan Oil Field
Turpan-Hami Oil Field
Tarim Oil Field
Tarim Basin 50 years of exploration in
The Cainan Oil Field
Major Gas Fields
Changqing Gas Field
Sichuan Oil Gas Field
Datianchi Gas Field

 Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the Bohai Sea
Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the East China Sea
Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the South China Sea

Tarim Basin 50 years of exploration in

It has been 50 years since the first oil and gas discovery was made, yet much of China’s Tarim Basin is still a petroleum frontier. Fewer than 1,000 exploration wells have been drilled despite the discovery of seven fields each with recoverable reserves of 500-3,000 million boe. The great size and remoteness of the basin contribute to its under-exploration. It covers 216,000 sq mi, or about 80% of the area of Texas, and is located almost 2,000 mi from Beijing in extreme western China bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (see figure). The main reason for limited drilling, however, is that exploration has not been opened for international participation except during limited periods of time and under restrictive operating agreements.

The Tarim Basin has a world-class petroleum system with a resource potential of 78 billion bbl of oil and 296 Tcfg. Every interval from Cambrian to Holocene is charged except Devonian and Triassic. Rich source rocks are found within Cambrian, Ordovician, Permian, Jurassic and Triassic strata, and seven active petroleum sub-systems have been identified. Ordovician carbonate, Carboniferous clastic, and Cretaceous and Tertiary clastic reservoirs are the chief producing intervals. Most oil fields are concentrated in the northern part of the basin on the Tabei uplift and in the Kuqa fold belt (pronounced “koo-cha”), though the super-giant Tazhong Field Complex is located on the Central uplift.

The tectonic and stratigraphic evolution of the basin was complex. In the early Paleozoic epoch, the Tarim Block was probably separate from Pangaea. As much as 10,000 ft of mostly shallow marine and coastal plain strata accumulated during the Cambrian and Ordovician. Ordovician platform carbonates and dolomitized shallow water successions comprise the most important petroleum reservoirs today. Late Ordovician uplift resulted in widespread exposure of the platform. Deep erosional valleys and canyons formed, with as much as 6,000 ft of relief, and were later filled with clastic sequences. Karsting, erosion and subsequent fill produced classic buried hill and complex stratigraphic traps that account for most of the petroleum accumulations in the basin in combination structural-stratigraphic traps.

Platform carbonate deposition in the Carboniferous was interrupted during the Late Paleozoic Orogeny when the Tarim Block and Tian Shan Block to the north converged. Marine sequences were uplifted, and deep paleosols formed across the basin. Eolian and shallow marine tidal and shoreface sands of the Donghe Sandstone were deposited. The Donghe Sandstone is the other important Paleozoic reservoir in the Tarim.

During the Triassic and Cretaceous periods, convergence from both north and south resulted in foredeeps (northern and southern depressions) on both margins of the basin separated by a broad flexural arch (Central uplift). These foreland basins were dominated by nonmarine clastics shed off the adjacent highlands. The middle Tertiary collision of India and Eurasia produced compression and strike-slip faulting that formed many of the structural traps in the Kuqa fold belt, and on the Tabei and Central uplifts. Continental deposits continued to dominate the basin fill, and reservoir intervals at Dina, Kela and Dabei Fields in the Kuqa fold belt consist of both Cretaceous and Tertiary nonmarine sandstones.

About 8.5 billion bbl of oil and 30 Tcf of gas have been produced to date, and the five largest fields have been discovered in the last 10 years. Regional seismic data was first acquired in 1983. Many discoveries were made in Ordovician carbonate and Carboniferous clastic reservoirs, including the Tazhong (1,465 MMboe, 1989) and Tahe (3,300 MMboe, 1998). More recent exploration in the Kuqa fold belt resulted in gas discoveries at Dina (2,474 MMboe, 2001) Kela (1,564 MMboe, 2004) and Dabei (813 MMboe, 2007). The 2,600-mi West-to-East Pipeline now carries Kuqa gas to Shanghai on the east coast of China.

I have worked on projects in the Tarim Basin since 2005, and visited the basin most recently this May. I have great respect for the strong technical approach that PetroChina and Sinopec employ as they continue to explore Tarim. In addition to using all available seismic and subsurface technology, their E&P teams are involved in rigorous programs of field geology and core interpretation. Two companies, however, cannot effectively evaluate and explore a basin as large and geologically complex as the Tarim.

Beginning in 1993, licensing rounds were held and several international companies evaluated tracts in the basin. While work programs were executed by foreign companies, offered tracts had low exploration potential, and licensing agreements were restrictive. After a few years, most companies exited. Again in 2006, a licensing offer was announced, and several international companies purchased data packages, but bid rounds never occurred.

Competition is critical to ensure the efficient development of petroleum resources, and Tarim is no exception. Vast areas are only slightly deformed, and stratigraphic emphasis will be critical. The number of seismic and drilling programs must be greatly expanded to meet China’s need for oil and gas. I do not understand why China doesn’t encourage more aggressive exploration and development in its own highest-potential basin by inviting competition from foreign companies.

IHS provided data about Tarim Basin plays, petroleum system, and exploration history. IHS’s ongoing support of this column is greatly appreciated.

Major Oil Fields
The Daqing Oil Field
Situated in a large plateau between the Songhua River and Nunjiang River in Heilongjiang Province, the Daqing Oil Field is the largest comprehensive oil production base in China. It is also among the largest oil fields the world over. It was put into operation in May of 1960, soon producing two-thirds of  the national total. By 1976, the output of its crude oil reached 50.3 million tons making it one of the 10 largest oil fields in the world. Since then on, it has well maintained an output of crude oil standing at 50 million tons or more. Statistics show that Daqing's proven recoverable reserves exceed 5.3 billion tons, and it has produced crude oil of 1.405 billion tons, accounting for 47.2 percent of the national total.

The Shengli Oil Field
Situated in the Yellow River delta in the north section of Shandong Province and on the shore of the Bohai Sea, the Shengli Oil Field began to produce oil in 1962, serving as an important base of oil  industry in east China. By 1993, its output of oil accounted for one-fifth of China's total thus becoming the second largest oil field in the country.

The Liaohe Oil Field
The Liaohe Oil Field, the third largest oil field in China, is situated in the lower reaches of the Liaohe River. It began to produce oil in the 1960s. The proven recoverable reserves is over 90 million tons and its controlled-reserves exceeds 100 millions tons.

The Dagang Oil Field

The Dagang Oil Field is located in the Bohai New Area about 50 km to the southeast of Tianjin city. It is the only land-based oil gas field of large-scale in the coast region and under the jurisdiction of a large city. Discovered in 1966, the field was found to occupy a total land of 18,600 square km, with the proven reserves of oil being 725 million tons and natural gas 28.719 billion cubic meters.

The Huabei (North China) Oil Field
The Huabei Oil Field is the first buried-hill oil field discovered in China. Located in a plateau in the central section of Hebei Province, it was found in 1975.

The Jidong (East Hebei) Oil Field
The Jidong Oil Field is located in the east part of Hebei Province, adjacent to Tangshan City. It is an offshore oil field, of which the industrial prospecting began in 1978. 

The Zhongyuan Oil Field 
Located in a place bounded on the north by Shandong and south by Henan Province, the field was found in 1975. It has maintained an annual output of about 4 million tons. 

The Tarim Oil Field 
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) began the prospecting of the Tarim Basin in April of 1989. In all nine integrated oil fields were found with 26 structures containing oil and gas. Production began since 1990. By 1996, the proven reserves of oil gas came to over 400 million tons including natural gas being 206.2 billion cubic meters. 

The Turpan-Hami Oil Field
Located in the Turpan-Hami Basin, the field occupies a land totaling 53,000 square km, which is of great strategic importance for development of China's oil industry. By 1997, 14 oil gas fields had  been discovered there with the proven reserves being 220 million tons. 

The Cainan Oil Field
Right within the Kurban-Tonggute desert in the Junggar Basin, the Cainan Oil Field is the first integrated oil field found in a desert in China. It was discovered in 1991 and put into operation in 1995. The annual output has reached 1.483 million tons.

Major Gas Fields
The Sichuan Oil Gas Field
Located in the central section of Sichuan Province, it is the largest natural gas production base in China. Prospecting was begun as early as in 1953. Its annual output of natural gas ranks first  among the 21 fields of this kind throughout the country. 

The Datianchi Gas Field
Located in the east section of Sichuan Province, the field is the third largest in China. Its geological structure falls into three gas layers with a total length of 200 km and width of 20 km. Its proven reserves are over 50 billion cubic meters. It is expected its annual output will come to 3 billion cubic meters by 2000.

The Changqing Gas Field
Located in the northwestern China's Erdous Basin (Ordos), the field is the largest integrated land-based gas field, being one of the 115 large gas fields in the world. Entering its development stage in 1995 it  produced crude oil of 3.3 million tons in 1997. The proven reserves of natural gas is 300 billion cubic  meters.

The Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the Bohai Sea
The Suizhong 36-1 Oil Field is located in the Liaodong Bay, about 50 km to the west of Suizhong County in Liaoning Province. A large offshore oil field, it has a proven reserve being 300 million tons. The field was put into operation in 1995. The Chengbei Oil Field is in the southwest part of the Bohai Sea. Put into operation in 1986, it is the first Chinese-Japanese joint venture in this regard. The Qinhuangdao 32-6 Oil Field is situated in the central part of the Bohai Sea. Found in 1995, it has a proven reserve of 200 million tons.

The Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the East China Sea 
The Pinghu Oil-Gas Field is situated on the continental shelf of the East China Sea, about 420 km away from Shanghai. It is the first combined oil gas field with the natural gas being its main product,  which was found and put into operation in the East China Sea. The construction work began in November 1996 and finished in the end of 1998. After being put into operation, the field has been providing quality natural gas of 1.2 million cubic meters for users in the Pudong New Area of Shanghai each day.

The Offshore Oil Gas Fields in the South China Sea 

The Liuhua 11-1 Field is situated in the 29/04 cooperation area, about 220 km away from Hong Kong. Jointly developed by China Offshore Petroleum Nanhai East Company and Amoco Oil Company of the United States, the cooperation area totals 317 square km with the controlled reserves being 233 million tons. As the largest known offshore oil field in China, its construction was completed in March 1996. The output comes to 1.68 million tons annually during the rush period. 

The Fanyu 4-2 Oil Field was found in a basin located in the east part of the South China Sea in May 1998. Developed by the American Santa Fei Energy Resources Co. Ltd., it has been tested to have  a capacity to produce oil of 1,102 tons per day. It is estimated that the recoverable reserves of the field stand at 20 million tons. 

The Yinggehai Yacheng 13-1 Natural Gas Field is situated in the meeting place of the Yinggehai Basin and Qiongnan Basin, about 96 km to the south of Sanya City, Hainan Province. Totaling 53.58  square km, it is the largest offshore field of natural gas now found in China. With a proven reserves of  96.8 billion cubic meters and the production capacity of 3.45 billion cubic meters per year, it is estimated to maintain a stable production for twenty years. Jointly developed by Chinese and American corporations, it was put into operation in January 1996 and has supplied the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region with natural gas of 2.9 billion cubic meters per year since then on. The contract period of the field is twenty years. Since it began operation, the field has supplied Hainan Province with natural gas of 550 million cubic meters per year. 

The Dongfang 1-1 Gas Field is also located in the Yinggehai Basin, having an area with natural gas totaling 229.6 square km. Found in 1995, it is the second largest offshore gas field in China, with a proven reserves of 80.1 billion cubic meters.

China's Petroleum Industry

China was the first country to discover and use oil and gas, but China only began developing a modern oil and gas industry in the 1950s. China's oil and g as industry has had a difficult development. Before 1949, China had only one or two small oil fields that produced 120,000 tons of crude oil annually.

In the 1950s, after the People's Republic of China was founded, oil field workers and staff overcame technical and economic difficulties and explored and developed the Gansu Yumen, Xinjiang Karamay, and Qinghai Qaidam oil fields. In 1952, the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources was set up. Based on Soviet experts' suggestions, a survey team explored for oil in Gansu, Xinjiang, and Qinghai in northwestern China. After a partial investigation, Soviet experts concluded as did western geologists, that China was an oil-poor country.

In 1953, Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai met with geologist Li Siguang. Mao Zedong asked Li Siguang, with concern, about China's oil and natural gas prospects. Li said that he believed China's geographical structures held great quantities of underground oil and gas.

In 1954, Li Siguang, director of the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources, led a new team organized to conduct a strategic oil investigation and exploration throughout the nation.

The successful development of the Daqing Oil Field in the 1960s made China self-sufficient in oil. Since the 1970s, China has explored and developed the Shengli, Dagang, Liaohe, Jianghan, Huabei, Changqing, Jilin, Zhongyuan, Henan, Jiangsu, and Jidong oil fields. The Sichuan Gas Field has also been further developed.

China's oil and gas production has increased steadily each year. In 1996, China's crude oil production set a new record---- more than 156 million tons, 8 million tons more than in 1995. Old East China land oil fields, led by the Daqing Oil Field, produced 80 percent of this output.

Offshore oil production is also increasing rapidly and accounts for 81 percent of China's yearly increase in crude oil production. China's oil production is expected to continue its steady increase, eventually reaching 165-167 million tons in 1997, an increase of 4.2-5.5 percent over 1996.

In contrast to industrialized countries, China's oil and gas industry is young: It has been a mere 60 years since the Yumen Oil Field was discovered. The United States and the former Soviet Union have produced oil for more than 150 years. To date, the U.S. has drilled 2.68 million oil wells, of which 580,000 well s are pumping oil to satisfy half the U.S. domestic demand. China has only drilled 160,000 oil wells, of which 75,000 wells are pumping oil, one-eighth the number in the United States.

As nonrenewable, high-quality energy sources, oil and gas are important to China's national economy. China's national defense, petrochemical, transportation, and aviation industries are all dependent upon oil and gas. In present China oil and gas provide not only energy and fuel, but also raw materials. For example, ethylene is produced entirely from petroleum, and oil constitutes 72 percent of plastics, 21 percent of synthetic fibers, 27 percent of nitrous fertilizer, and 96 percent of synthetic rubber.