The energy, water, and air pollution implications of tapping China's shale gas reserves

Yuan Chang*, Runze Huang, Eric Masanet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


China has laid out an ambitious strategy for developing its vast shale gas reserves. This study developed an input-output based hybrid life-cycle inventory model to estimate the energy use, water consumption, and air emissions implications of shale gas infrastructure development in China over the period 2013-2020, including well drilling and operation, land rig and fracturing fleet manufacture, and pipeline construction. Multiple scenarios were analyzed based on different combinations of well development rates, well productivities, and success rates. Results suggest that 700-5100 petajoules (PJ) of primary energy will be required for shale gas infrastructure development, while the net primary energy yield of shale gas production over 2013-2020 was estimated at 1650-7150 PJ, suggesting a favorable energy balance. Associated emissions of CO 2e were estimated at 80-580 million metric tons, and were primarily attributable to coal-fired electricity generation, fugitive methane, and flaring of methane during shale gas processing and transmission. Direct water consumption was estimated at 20-720 million metric tons. The largest sources of energy use and emissions for infrastructure development were the metals, mining, non-metal mineral products, and power sectors, which should be the focus of energy efficiency initiatives to reduce the impacts of shale gas infrastructure development moving forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-108
Number of pages9
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Air pollution
  • China
  • Energy consumption
  • Hybrid LCI model
  • Shale gas development
  • Water consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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