Technology Review – The discovery of vast amounts of shale gas in the United States has already had a big impact on the country’s energy use—prompting a shift away from coal and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By some estimates, China has even more shale gas. But it will be difficult for China to access these resources, which are bound up in shale rock, without significant advances in extraction technologies—including the use of powerful computer simulations of the physical properties of shale deposits.
China has set itself an ambitious goal of obtaining 60 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2020, enough to produce about 6 percent of all of its energy, up from almost none today. But China faces a number of challenges in developing these resources. Most of the gas is found in arid areas, and the current approach for freeing the gas—hydraulic fracturing—requires a lot of water. What’s more, the geology is different in China than in the United States, which could make hydraulic fracturing more difficult.
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