China wants bigger share of US shale revolution: US official

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - China expressed a desire to increase its investment in US shale gas during talks between the two countries on Wednesday, an American official said.

Output from shale fields in the United States and Canada has jumped in recent years with the increased use of drilling methods such as hydraulic fracturing. Companies in China, which has the largest shale reserves in the world, are keen to get the know-how for drilling in such unconventional fields.

As the world's largest energy consumer, China is also scouting for oil and gas supplies abroad to feed its energy appetite.

China already has about US$5.5 billion (S$7 billion) invested in US natural gas, and said it also welcomes greater American investment in China's own energy industry, the US administration official said.

Chinese and US officials met to discuss energy issues as part of the two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington this week.

"There's a very strong Chinese interest to be able to benefit and learn from American technology and American investment," the US official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"There's a recognition on both sides that we both gain from investing in each other's energy markets, and a commitment to work to resolve obstacles that might exist to investment."

In a deal this year, the Chinese company Sinopec Group, Asia's largest oil refiner, bought a US$1 billion stake in the Mississippi Lime shale formation from Chesapeake Energy Corp.

But Chinese firms also face obstacles to investing in certain strategic sectors, and China regularly complains that the United States blocks access to plum investment prospects on national security grounds.

US companies, for their part, complain China heavily restricts foreign investment in about 100 different sectors.

"(We discussed) China's interest as well (in) being a recipient of American investment in unconventional oil and gas, and especially gas, and the critical need to address some of the constraints," the administration official said.

Both countries also talked about doing a better job of sharing data on energy supply and demand, as well as on national energy reserves.