China's oil capital keeping up with national energy strategy
Feng Yilei

Daqing, China’s oil capital, literally means the big celebration. Back in 1959 when the "black gold" was first discovered under the wasteland here, it was indeed a big celebration for the developing country in urgent need of a strong power base. Daqing oilfield rid China’s bad name of being deficient in oil. And crude self-sufficiency had greatly enhanced the national industrial development.

Until now, hundreds of thousands of workers have held onto a devoted and pioneering spirit, paid in sweat equity on this land. That led to the Daqing miracles – not only has it created an abundant energy supply for the country, it is also one of few oilfields in the world that has maintained a stable annual production of 50 million tons for nearly three decades.

While even the oldest reservoir has to face the common curse of depletion, Daqing has made a lot of efforts to guarantee its output. Ye Peng, deputy director of the oilfield’s enhanced oil recovery department, said their tertiary oil recovery technologies are leading the world. The engineer estimated that it can increase over 240 million tons of recoverable remaining reserves, which means stable output of 10 million tons for at least 24 years. "But now the remaining reserves exist in a more complicated way. New techniques are like gouging oil out of small rock cracks," Ye added.

Oilfield R&D staff conducting oil recovery technologies researches./ Daqing Oilfield Company Photo

Oilfield R&D staff conducting oil recovery technologies researches./ Daqing Oilfield Company Photo

Conquering technological obstacles for more advanced recovery methods while reducing costs are among the most imperative tasks for Daqing's oil sustainability. But it is also worth noting that not long before, China's reliance on crude oil imports rose as high as 70 percent. And natural gas is playing a bigger role in energy production as a cleaner fossil fuel substitute. The national strategy of energy diversification suggests Daqing also needs to break the crude stranglehold.

Daqing's gas output already takes up about 10 percent of the 40-million-ton annual production goal of oil and gas. Jin Hui, deputy director of Daqing Oilfield's development department, said the amount of gas output by the oilfield company is expected to double by the 100th anniversary of the oilfield while the domestic oil production dwindles.

In the near future, experts believe China will remain the biggest energy consumer and stay oil-hungry to fuel its rapid growth.

Wetland in Daqing. /Daqing Oilfield Company Photo

Wetland in Daqing. /Daqing Oilfield Company Photo

Take increasing car ownership for example. But in the meantime, China is encouraging more vehicles to use alternative energy and ditch fossil fuels. In Daqing, new energy car production is also on the rise in the Volvo factory, which has promised to make half of its sales all-electric by 2025. It is one of the many cases that reflect China’s determination to accelerate into a zero-emission era when industries and cities relying on oil have to keep up with.

China has committed in the Paris Treaty to reach the peak of carbon emissions by 2030. An expert believes it means the growth for fossil fuel is limited in the next decade. "The time for us to replace coal with oil has passed. Natural gas is playing a considerable part in replacement, but sooner or later, it will also give way to low-carbon transformation," said Professor Zhou Dadi from the National Development and Reform Commission’s energy research institute.

Chinese oil and gas giants like Daqing have tried also to devote to new energy application technologies, oilfield land and ecological resource development. They hope to continue to play a role in the renewable, sustainable trend – to extend their glory days beyond an oilfield lifespan.