ALATAW PASS, Xinjiang, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Crude oil
from Kazakhstan poured into a petroleum tank in Alataw pass, Northwest China's
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region at 18:45 Tuesday through a cross-border
pipeline, marking the beginning of the commercial operation for China's first
direct oil import pipeline.
Experts say the move will help enhance China's oil
supply and provide an ideal outlet for Kazakhstan's oil export.
Currently, the oil flux is only around 120 cubic
metes per hour due to the valve failure in a Kazakhstan, Zhu Minjie, a customs
officer at the Alataw Pass told Xinhua.
It will take 15 days to fill up the
50,000-cubic-meter oil tank before the oil is piped to Dushanzi in Karamay where
the country's largest oil refinery plant will become operational in 2008 to
produce 5.5 million tons of refined oil a year, said Zhu.
The 960-km pipeline was jointly developed by the
Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the Kazakh state
energy company, Kazmunaigaz and it is designed to transmit 20 million tons of
oil a year, 15 percent of China's total crude oil imports for 2005.
The first phase of the pipeline will transmit 10
million tons of oil a year, a figure that will double when the entire project is
completed in 2011. The total length of the pipeline would then be around 3,000
China has set up an oil meterage station at the
Alataw Pass, from where the crude oil from Kazakhstan enters China.
Industry insiders say construction of the oil
pipeline is a win-win strategy for both countries as it will hopefully ease
China's energy dearth and provide an ideal destination market for Kazakhstan's
rich oil resources.
It has provided a direct link between Kazakhstan's
rich oil resources and China's robust oil consumer market, said Yin Juntai,
deputy general-manager of China Petroleum Exploration and Development Company.
Kazakhstan's crude oil output topped 50 million tons
in 2002, the most recent time that data is available from here, and about 70
percent of its oil is exported. With huge reserves in the Caspian Sea, insiders
say the country's oil output will top 100 million tons by 2015.
The new oil shipping route will link Chinese
consumers with the oil fields of the Caspian Sea, as well as alleviate China's
excessive reliance on the Strait of Malacca, a traditional route for 80 percent
of China's imported oil, said Yin.
Last year, China's crude oil import totaled 127
million tons, about 40 percent of its total consumption. About a half of China's
oil import came from the Middle East and only 1.3 million tons was imported from
Kazakhstan, via Alataw Pass, in 2005. Insiders predict that the figure will
climb to 4.75 million tons this year and to around 8 million tons in 2007.
China and Kazakhstan started energy cooperation in
1997, marked by an intergovernmental agreement covering diverse means of
collaboration in oil and gas fields, including an oil pipeline between western
Kazakhstan and China's Xinjiang.
The transnational pipeline, extending 962.2 km from
Atasu in Kazakhstan to the Alataw Pass of Xinjiang, was completed in November
2005 at the cost of 700 million U.S. dollars and China has also completed laying
a 252-km oil pipeline between Alataw Pass to Dushanzi.
China produced 182 million tons of crude oil in 2005,
a figure experts say will climb up to 195 million tons by the end of 2010.
By then, the country's production demand and
consumption will be hovering around 330 million tons and 350 million tons
respectively, said Pan Derun, deputy chairman of the China Enditem