SPECIAL BRIEF: Looking Both Ways: Central Asia as a Gas Supplier to China
China’s demand for energy, especially energy that burns cleaner than coal, is expected to increase through 2040. Natural gas will remain essential — along with renewables and nuclear — in meeting that rising demand. While China’s domestic natural gas production is expected to continue its rise, reports show demand will likely to continue outstripping domestic supply.1 The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies reports that China already imports over 40 percent of its natural gas needs.2 However, as with other consumers, China seems likely to seek multiple and diverse sources of energy, for national security as well as for commercial considerations.
China’s growing role as a market for gas occurs at the same time as a major evolution in the international gas market. The shale gas revolution has made the United States a top LNG provider, produced new technologies for processing/shipping LNG, and changed pricing terms and contact structures; these all affect and reshape markets.
Central Asian producers have been, and can remain, important suppliers for China’s gas needs. States in the region have to take the gas market’s evolution into account and consider what steps they should take to compete in this changing landscape. One key goal is to ensure they are always seen as reliable suppliers. Central Asian states also need to be realistic in their expectations of pricing and remain cautious when considering project financing.