March 30, 2016 / 12:20 PM / 4 years ago

Sinopec to boost gas capacity two-thirds by 2020 - chairman

HONG KONG, March 30 (Reuters) - China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) , plans to boost its domestic natural gas production capacity by about two-thirds by 2020, its chairman said on Wednesday, part of plans to develop clean energy.

The state-owned company aims to increase its domestic natural gas capacity to 40 billion cubic metre (bcm) by 2020, from 23 bcm currently, Chairman Wang Yupu said at a news conference in Hong Kong.

Wang said Sinopec had prioritised natural gas in the company’s development plans in the coming five years.

Sinopec, also Asia’s biggest oil refiner, produced 734.79 billion cubic feet (20.81 billion cubic metres) of natural gas last year, up 2.6 percent from the previous year, and plans to produce 865 billion cubic feet this year, its annual results published on Tuesday said.

China, the world’s top energy user, is keen to boost cleaner burning natural gas consumption to tackle air pollution.

Sinopec cut crude oil production to 349.47 million barrels in 2015, down 3.1 percent from the previous year, and plans to reduce output further to 332 million barrels this year due to low prices.

The low prices trimmed Sinopec’s net profits in 2015, which were 32.44 billion yuan versus 46.47 billion yuan in the previous year.

Wang said all the company’s oil fields would make profits if oil prices rose to $60 a barrel.

Brent crude prices lost about a third last year and fell to multi-year lows of below $30 in January 2016. The price has risen since then and was $39.72 on Wednesday.

Wang said oil prices could not stay low for a long time as a price range between $30 and $40 was below costs of some producers.

“For oil prices, we would not put a conclusion. (But) such low prices for long time is not realistic,” Wang said.

Wang said China’s crude oil imports would continue to rise this year as the country’s domestic economic growth was targeted at least 6.5 percent in 2016.

China imported 335.5 million tonnes of crude oil in 2015, up 8.8 percent from the previous year, as the world’s second-biggest crude buyer took advantage of low prices.

Sinopec processed 236.49 million tonnes of crude oil in 2015, up 0.5 percent from the previous year, and plans to process 238 million tonnes this year, the company said in its annual results.

Reporting by Polly Yam; Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu in BEIJING. Editing by Jane Merriman

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