Oil production in China increased in January as fields pumped 11.3 million tons, 5.3 percent more than in the same month last year, officials said.
Output last year totaled 130 million tons, up 5.7 million from 1985, according to official statistics.The new figures prompt optimism in the Ministry of Petroleum Industry about meeting or even surpassing the 1987 production goal of 133 million tons, a ministry spokesman says.
He acknowledges, however, that serious problems" need to be confronted this year, as cash flow from exports dwindles due to low world prices. This will limit funds available for oil field improvements, even as demand increases.
Oil export earnings last year were slashed by US$3 billion from the US$7.4 billion of 1985, knocking oil off its brief perch as the country's No. 1 foreign exchange earner. At the same time, continued heavy demand forces the country to import, using up foreign exchange.
Recent increases in output are generally attributed to advances in technology rather than new discoveries.
An official at China's largest - and oldest - onshore field, Daqing in the northeast, said 420 new production techniques" introduced since 1984 at a cost of US$12 million brought increased production at less cost in electricity and raw materials. In particular, the field employs enhanced recovery methods to extract oil from very thin layers. The field produces 50 million tons of oil annually, nearly half the country's total.
The pressure to maintain a steady increase in output of crude and natural gas arises from growing demand as the country industrializes. That, in turn, means more energy is needed, and China is chronically energy-short, in part
because of inadequate transportation from source to end-user.
To keep the up the pace, the ministry plans to step up oil and gas exploration in frontier areas. Recent finds in Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Shaanxi province are scheduled for exploitation.
Offshore tracts, which have been disappointing so far, are also showing some signs of improvement.