US encourages China to publish more energy data

OREANDA-NEWS. September 30, 2016. US officials want China to make more energy data publicly available in addition to sharing such information with the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Open reporting of information on energy markets "is critical for functioning of the financial markets and for policy makers and even for common citizens," EIA administrator Adam Sieminski said at a US-China oil and gas industry forum hosted by the US Energy Association in Washington. China's growing importance in global energy markets underscores the need for more transparent reporting of its energy data, Sieminski said.

Washington has been pushing Beijing to provide more comprehensive energy data, including on the strategic petroleum reserves. China has pledged to share its oil stocks data with the US on a regular basis and recently even allowed a delegation led by US assistant energy secretary Christopher Smith to visit one of its reserve sites. "We are seeing real progress with the ongoing cooperation" on exchanging data on the strategic petroleum reserves, Smith said yesterday. But Beijing publicly reports its emergency stock data with a significant time lag, despite exchanging information with the US.

Beijing said earlier this month that it held 233mn bl in emergency stocks at the start of the year. China's top economic planning body earlier this year ordered oil companies to hasten construction of reserve tanks, noting that the planned expansion of the reserve capacity is running behind schedule. China has 242mn bl of operating SPR capacity, Argus estimates. The clearest indicator of China's stockpiling rate, in the absence of official data, is the gap between crude supply and refinery runs. But even this is problematic, amid concerns that refinery runs are being under-reported.

Having an unbiased, technocratic organization such as the EIA in charge of reporting energy data is valuable to markets and citizens, Sieminski said. The EIA has a systematic way of reporting data without compromising national security or business-sensitive information, he said.

As major oil consumers and producers, China and the US have a "mutual responsibility in ensuring the security of oil supply and production," China's National Energy Administration deputy chief Li Fanrong said at the forum. China will continue to share information with the US on oil and gas policies. Beijing in turn wants Washington to encourage US producers to actively pursue exploration in China's shale gas regions, Li said.

US officials are not alone in asking the Chinese government to release energy data more regularly. Some of the Chinese participants of the forum asked Sieminski if there was a way for the EIA to work together with its Beijing-based counterpart agencies in collection and publication of Chinese energy data. "It is not for me to tell China what to do in data collection or anything else," Sieminski said. But he noted that the EIA is cooperating with Canada and Mexico to boost data transparency, including via submission of foreign data to the EIA for analysis and publication.

The Paris-based IEA also has pushed for closer cooperation with China, reaching an agreement with China's top energy statistics agency earlier this year to open a joint research center in Beijing. China has shared a range of data with the IEA, but there is still no agreement on strategic inventory data.