China's crude oil dependency reached alarming levels last year with more than half of the country's total oil consumption coming from abroad, latest official statistics show.
Figures from the General Administration of Customs show imported oil in December hit a record 21.3 million tons, pushing the country's total oil imports last year to 204 million tons.
Imported crude oil accounted for 52 percent of the country's total oil consumption last year, experts said. Importing more than 50 percent is a globally recognized energy security alert level.
China produced about 190 million tons of oil in 2009.
"This year we will control the amount of imported oil and accelerate the exploration of domestic oil and natural gas," Zhang Hongtao, chief geologist with the Ministry of Land and Resources, told China Daily yesterday.
Due to the country's fast economic development, increased oil imports will continue for a long time and stepping up the exploration and development of natural gas as substitute energy is very urgent, he said.
Analysts believe that by 2020, nearly 65 percent of the oil consumed in China will have to be imported. China's oil dependency reached 45 percent in 2006 and grew at two percent every year after that. The country first became a net importer of crude oil in 1993.
The oil industry challenges the country's energy security, some energy experts said.
Lin Boqiang, director of the research center of China energy economics at Xiamen University, told China Daily yesterday that as a fresh player in the international oil market, China has acted only as the buyer not the seller and the surging oil price means constantly losing money.
Letting domestic oil companies explore and refine oil is a good way to help China establish its role as a seller in the international oil market, he added.
"An effective way to avoid China's oil dependency is to change the domestic energy consumption pattern and to encourage the development and use of electric vehicles, because about 60 percent of the oil consumption is for vehicles," Lin said.
China is not the only major country that has passed the 50 percent energy security alert level - Japan and South Korea import more than 90 percent of their crude oil, while the United States imports more than 60 percent of its crude oil needs, China Business News reported yesterday.
Wang Zhen, director of the China research center for strategic energy under China University of Petroleum, told China Business News that numbers are important but we should pay more attention to how to increase the efficiency of energy consumption.
(China Daily January 14, 2010)