Construction of a tunnel under the Yangtze River that will form part of a gas pipeline project running from Sichuan Province to Shanghai was completed Monday.
The 1.4-km, 3.08-m diameter tunnel sits 20 m beneath the riverbed and connects two wells on either side of the river in Yichang City, Hubei Province, Liu Juzheng, head of the Hubei section of the pipeline, said.
With a total length of 2,203 km, the pipeline will serve as an "energy artery" as part of the West-East gas project, Liu said.
The pipeline is expected to channel 12.1 billion cu m of natural gas a year from the Puguang field in Sichuan to central and eastern regions of the country, including Chongqing Municipality, the provinces of Hubei, Anhui, Jiangxi, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and Shanghai Municipality.
The tunnel, which took 325 days to complete, is the first of five to be built under the Yangtze.
Industry experts say the new pipeline, which will cost 62.7 billion yuan (US$8.4 billion) to build, will provide an opportunity to develop western regions based on their rich natural resources.
Chen Deming, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the pipeline will be completed in late 2010 and the gas it transports will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by tens of millions of tons a year.
Figures from the China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) put Puguang's proven reserves at 356.1 billion cu m. The country has total proven natural gas reserves of about 2.66 trillion cu m.
The government has been promoting the use of natural gas to improve energy efficiency and reduce air pollution.
Under an NDRC proposal on natural gas development, the government plans to increase the natural gas pipeline network to 44,000 km by 2010 to meet demand.
Although China's natural gas output will reach 94 billion cu m in 2010, up from 58.6 billion in 2006, an additional 16 billion cu m a year will still have to be imported to meet demand, Sinopec said.
In Shanghai, demand for natural gas soared from 4 million cu m in 2003 to 1.9 billion in 2005.
In 2004, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) opened its West-East gas pipeline, which runs more than 4,000 km and channels 1.2 billion cu m of gas a year to Shanghai from the Tarim Basin in the country's westernmost region of Xinjiang.
CNPC is to build a second West-East pipeline to carry gas imported from central Asia to the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas. Construction will begin next year with the line, which is designed to carry 30 billion cu m a year, becoming operational in 2010.
(Xinhua News Agency October 30, 2007)