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Energy and Power En gi neering, 2011, 3, 348-354
doi:10.4236/epe.2011.33044 Published Online July 2011 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/epe)
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. EPE
Prospect Conceiving of Joint Research and Development of
Shale Gas and Coalbed Methane in China
Shangbin Chen1,2*, Yanming Zhu1,2, Meng Wang1, Wu Li1, Huaimeng Wang1
1School of Resources and Earth Science , China University of Mining and Technology, Xuzhou, China
2Coalbed Meth ane Resources and Reservoi r Formation Process Key Labo rat ory of Ministry of Education
(China Univer si t y of Mining and Technolo g y ), Xuzhou, China
Received April 8, 2011; revised April 27, 2011; accepted May 2, 2011
Inspired by successful development of shale gas in USA and influenced by hydrocarbon resources shortage
currently, China has strengthened shale gas research and accelerated its exploration process. In order to en-
rich coalbed methane (CBM) and shale gas geological theory and promote their development process, this
paper compared shale gas with CBM in accumulation, distribution, reservoir and production. It expatiated on
the background and significance of the combined research and development, and analyzed the geological
foundation and future prospects. Our investigation demonstrated that there are many sets of coal-bearing
strata in Shanxi formation of Permian system in Ordos in North China, Longtan formation of Upper Permian
and Xujiahe formation of Upper Triassic in Southern Yangtze region, Xishanyao formation of Middle Juras-
sic in Turpan-Hami Basin and Junggar Basin in Northwest China, and Shahezi formation of Cretaceous in
Songliao Basin in northeast China. In these regions, shales which are interbeded with coal seams have the
characters of big thickness, continuous distribution, high content of organic matter, good parent material and
high maturity, accord with the basic geological conditions to format shale gas and CBM reservoir and com-
posite gas reservoir, thus form appropriate regions and layers to carry out joint research and exploration with
good prospects for development.
Keywords: Shale Gas, Coalbed Methane (CBM), Joint Research and Development, China
The resource of shale gas around the world is 456.2 ×
1012 m3, approximately occupying 50% of the unconven-
tional gas resources. Successful development of shale
gas in America brings an innovation to natural gas field.
Since then, shale gas has become the new favorite of the
world’s resources. In the year of 2007, there were about
42000 shale gas wells in America and about 60 corpora-
tions being involved in the development. They yearly
produced 450 × 108 m3 of gas, occupying 8% in annually
natural gas production. The yield of shale gas increased
to 880 × 108 m3 in 2009, accounting for about 14% in
natural gas production. It is expected that the rate would
reach 16% in the year of 2011. The great commercial
interests and the significance to energy security guaran-
tee and the ease to oil and gas shortage make the world
upsurge of shale gas research . Shale gas resource in
China is very rich, although research and exploration
started late and still at the stage of exp loratory [2-5], it is
clear that we have speeded up the process of exploration
As unconventional natural gas resources, we have
formed a consensus that shale gas has the similarities
with CBM in accumulation mechanism and some aspects
[6,7]. But combining them to research and exploration
has not been discussed. Only Huang  analysed the
prospect of shale gas and CBM exploration in Sichuan
Basin. Based on the classification of shale which are rich
in organic matter, Li  proposed further study of over-
lay forming rules and symbiotic characteristics of shale
gas, CBM, tight sandstone gas and many types of natural
gas; launching the exploration of many types of natural
gas resources; exploring the cost-effective multi-layers
commingled developing technology. It is a new issue to
effectively develop and use this type of natural gas. Thus,
this paper discussed the feasibility of shale gas and CBM
combined mining on the basis of the distribution charac-
S. B. CHEN ET AL.349
teristics, which has some positive significance on
cost-effective research and development of shale gas and
2. Contrast of Shale Gas and CBM and
Their Resources Distribution
2.1. Contrast of Shale Gas and CBM
Shale gas and CBM are both belong to unconventional
natural gas, differ from conventional natural gas [10-12].
Creties and Charles  detailed analyzed the mechanism
of shale gas and CBM, drilling, completing and mining
method, calculating resource method, assessment of
commercial value, and so on. What’s more, they intro-
duced the geological position, production value and ex-
ploration method of CBM and shale gas, and the status in
other countries. This technical support on CBM and
shale gas in America has lasted for more than twenty
years. Table 1 lists some features between shale gas,
CBM and conventional natural gas. We can conclude
from Table 1 that shale gas and CBM have great simi-
larities in reservoir characteristics, distribution, reservoir
feature and mining method, which are remarkably dif-
ferent with conventional natural gas.
2.2. Distribution of Shale Gas and CBM in
A new round of nationwide appraisal of CBM resources
(East, West, Central, South, Tibet) appraised 42 main
coal basins and 121 gas zones. The authors took part in
this appraisal, and gained a deep unders tand of the CBM
resource of Songzao mining area in Chongqing province
[13,14]. This appraisal shows that the CBM resource
buried shallower than 2000m is 36.81 × 1012 m3 (more
than natural gas of 35 × 1012 m3), recoverable resources
buried shallower than 1500m is 10.87 × 1012 m3 (Table
2), and well mining resource whose depth is less than
1000m occupies 60% of recoverable resources nation-
wide; CBM resource mainly distributes in Carboniferous
and Permian of Late Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic and
Cretaceous of Mesozoic, among these the resources of
Mesozoic occupies the most. It occupies more than half
of the resources nationwide. Regionally, the resource is
mainly concentrated in Ordos, Qinshui, Junggar, Eastern
Yunnan-Western Guizhou , Eren, Tuba, Tarim, Tianshan,
Hailar basins, the geological resources in these 9 basins
are all above 1 × 1012 m3 [15,16]. Recently, on the basis
of fully referring to the division scheme of basins, basins
containing oil and gas, coal basins, Zhao  proposed a
division scheme which divides the CBM basins accord-
ing to the coal basins today, and proposed a principle that
compositing geological files and geophysical files to
determine the borders of CBM basins. He divided
mainland China in to 3 large regions, 9 su bregions and 64
CBM basins (Figure 1(a)), which is more reasonable.
According to the preliminary assessment, the shale gas
resource in China reaches up to 100 × 1012 m3 , the
available resource is 26 × 1012 m3 , roughly distrib-
uting in 4 large regions, Southern region (Yangtze subre-
gion and Sou th-east subregion), Northern region (Central
Table 1. Contrast in partial features between shale gas, CBM and conventional natural gas (Modified after [6,7]).
Unconventional natural gas
Features Conventional natural gas Shale gas CBM
Genetic type Thermal evoluti on of organic matter,
Biogenic, oil cracking matter Thermal evoluti on of organic matter,
Biogenic Thermal evolution of organic
Generating and accumulating
Reasonable combination of
self-preservation, Self-generation, self-reservoir
Distribution Control by the combination of
Control by shale distribution,
universal distribution Control by coal bed, universal
Reservoir feature Free gas-based Adsorbed gas(20% - 80%) and f ree gasAdsorbed gas (80%)
Burial depth >500 m <200 m, least 8.2 m >300 m
Mining method Natural pressure Exhaust buck desorption Drainage blood pressure desorpti on
Evaluation of key factors Hydrocarbon potential,
Kerogen type, TOC, Porosity,
TOC, Mineral composition,
Kerogen type, Water content
Macerals, Mineral composition,
Water content, Coal rank, depth,
Similarity Little similarity Large similarity
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. EPE
S. B. CHEN ET AL.
Table 2. Comparison of resource distribution between CBM and shale gas in China.
Geological resource reserves Recoverable resources Recoverable resources
Type Zoning ×1012 m3 Proportion (%) ×1012 m3 Proportion (%)Type Zoning
×1012 m3 Proportion (%)
Northern 11.32 30.8 4.32 39.7
North-east 10.47 28.4 2.00 18.4 Northern 2.31 8.9
North-west 10.36 28.1 2.86 26.3 North-west 11.18 43
Southern 4.66 12.3 1.70 15.6 Southern 12.17 46.8
Qinghai-Tibet 0 0 0 0
Qinghai-Tibet 0.34 1.3
Total 36 - 10.9 - Total 26 -
(Notes: (a) Recov erab le r eso ur ces o f s hale g as are acco rd ing to Zh ang et al. ; (b) In CBM resource evaluation, the resource of Qinghai-Tibet region is 0 for
topographic conditions; (c) The geological resource reserves is depth less than 2000 m, and the recoverable resource is depth less than 1500 m.)
subregion, North-east subregion and East subregion),
North-west region (Northern subregion, Southern subre-
gion and Qaidam subregion) and the Qinghai-Tibet re-
gion. Southern region mainly develops shale gas of
Cambrian, Silurian and Permian. Northern region mainly
forms shale gas of Ordovician, Carboniferous and Per-
mian. North-west region mainly forms shale gas of Late
Permian and Mesozoic. Qinghai-Tibet region develops
marine shale gas of Paleozoic and Mesozoic, but it’s
only regarded as favorable prospects region for its geo-
graphical conditions (Figure 1(b)).
According to the distribution feature of CBM and
shale gas resource in China, Carboniferous and Permian
system of Late Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous
system of Mesozoic and other coal-bearing strata and
clay shale can generate and store shale gas and CBM at
the same time, the feature of resource distribution has
overlapping and compound character.
3. Significance of Joint Exploring Shale Gas
Firstly, CBM in China has developed into the commer-
cialization stage [20-22], but the range is not wide
enough, there are plenty of key technical problems have
not being overcome yet, which need more extensive re-
search to consummate. Meanwhile, shale researches are
started up recently; there are a series of similarities be-
tween CBM and shale gas in accumulation, development
and resource distribution, etc.
Secondly, as mentioned in 2.2, interbedded shale which
are rich in organic matter and coal or thin coal seam are
widespread in late Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata in
china, satisfying the essential geological condition to
carry out the combined research on shale gas and CBM.
According to the successful development of shale gas in
United States [11,23,24], shale buried in the depth of 183 -
2591 m (the buried depth of east basin between Delaware
and Texas is 3450 - 5562 m and 3352 - 3962.4 m respec-
tively) in the main basin (Fort Worth, Appalachian,
Michigan, Illinois and San Juan), mostly less than 1500
m, are relatively shallow and approaching to the rich
layer of CBM exploitation. And now in the current re-
search shale samples are mostly from surface or near the
surface , both have geological, exploitable and ex-
perimental basis to combined research and development.
Thirdly, for shale gas is in infancy stage in china, there
are a lot of limitations: drilling wells directly conducted
for shale gas exploration (air testing, well testing, etc.)
are very few; research data are primarily acquired from
convention al oil & gas, CBM, and solid mineral explora-
tion data . First shale gas co ring shallow well in China
(designed and implemented by RIPED), Changxin-1 well
in Yibin, Sichuan Province, was successfully finished on
November 26, 2008, for the Silurian shale core samples
and test data . The first domestic shale gas explora-
tion wells started in Lianhu town Pengshui Miao and
Tujia Autonomous Coun ty of Chongqing, by Ministry of
Land and Oil and Gas Resources Strategic Research
Centre and China University of Geosciences (Beijing),
on November 28, 2009, indicates the formal implemen-
tation of shale gas exploration in china. For only two
wells currently, it is very weak for accurate assessment
of shale gas and related research.
Finally, shale gas has a lot in common with conven-
tional hydrocarbon resources in generating, and the data
of conventional oil and gas source rocks has a great ref-
erence, but in reservoir, especially in mining technology,
there are great differences. So it’s necessary to learn the
experience and skills of CBM, especially in reservoir
requirements, development of fracturing and horizontal
well technology, which lay a perfect foundation for the
combined research on shale gas and CBM. Meanwhile,
CBM research in China has made a significant achieve-
ment as well as commercial development [20,22], so the
combined research can learn from home and aboard, par
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. EPE
S. B. CHEN ET AL.351
Figure 1. Resource distri bution of CBM and shale gas in China. (a) CBM basins in China (Zhao et al. ); (b) Shale gas re-
ource distribution in China (Zhang et al. ).
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. EPE
S. B. CHEN ET AL.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. EPE
ticularly the experience of CBM in China to shorten the
Therefore, provided the geological distribution of the
organic-rich shale, the initial stage of shale research and
the achievement of CBM, combined research is consid-
ered to share pipe network and experience, save costs,
shorten the course and be economically feasible. If the
combined research and exploit at certain regions or lay-
ers goes well, it will be significant both in theory and
4. Geological Settings and Prospects of Joint
Research on Shale Gas and CBM
Research on the strata data indicates that coal-bearing
strata in different geological eras and organic-rich shale
is widely developed in northern, northeast, northwest,
southern margin of Yangtze Platform. This makes it pos-
sible to do the joint research and development on shale
gas and CBM.
Shale of Qingshankou and Shahezi formation of Cre-
taceous in Northeast Basin is constituted by gray, dark
gray mudstone, silty mudstone, gray, dark gray siltstone,
with stable recoverable coal seams. It is mainly hydro-
carbon source rocks in the Basin, with organic carbon
content of 1.99% on average, high abundance of organic
matter, and potential to form shale gas and CBM simul-
taneously. Analyzing on deep natural gas in Song-Liao
basin  also proved widespread of coal-type gas in the
Shuixigou group of Middle-Lower Jurassic (including
Badaowan formation in the lower, Sangonghe formation
in the middle, upper part of Xishanyao formation of
Middle Jurassic) developed in Northwestern Junggar
Basin and Turpan-Hami Basin is a set of major coal-
bearing strata, with abundant CBM resource. The thick-
ness of dark shale and carbonaceous shale here is accu-
mulated to 100 - 800 m, more than 600 m on average,
and total organic carbon content is 1.3% - 20%, which
are benefit for generating and accumulating of shale gas
. Study  shows that there are coal series and coal
oil of the carbonaceous shale from lower Jurassic (Xis-
hanyao coal and Badaowan coal) in Turpan-Hami Basin.
Therefore the whole set also has the required conditions
to form shale gas and CBM simultaneously.
Qaidam Basin is benefit for accumulating shale gas
because of the thick strata of Quaternary, shallow burial
depth, medium maturity, good reservoir properties and
gas anomaly in general. Meanwhile, Jurassic in the
northern margin, of which the source rocks are also ma-
ture, is beneficial for shale gas distribution, especially
the southern zone Kunteyi-Ibei depression of 400 - 800
m thick dark shale, northern zone Saishiteng-Yuka de-
pression of 200 - 400 m thick coal and dark shale, East-
ern, in which Middle Jurassic system developed, dark
shale thickness is more than 400 m , are the favor-
able areas to generate shale gas and CBM.
Shanxi Formation of Carboniferous and Permian sys-
tem is a set of sea-land cross continental coal-bearing
sedimentary of gray, black mudstone, carbonaceous
mudstone, shale and coal seam, which is widely distrib-
uted in Ordos, Qinshui basins of north China (Shanxi,
Hebei, Henan and Shandong province). The coal seams
here are thick and CBM resources are abundant. Dark
shale of Paleozoic Ordovician, Carboniferous and Per-
mian system in this region is well developed with a
thickness of 100 - 400 m. Content of organic matter is
high, and the maturity is between mature and high ma-
ture. All of the above provides a ba sic cond ition for sh ale
gas formation. Besides, the gas in shale section in many
drilling wells is abnormal.
Longtan formation of Upper Permian is extensively
developed in Southern Yangtze region, argillaceous
source rocks and coal source rock is 100 - 300 m thick,
partial 600 m, organic matter content holds 2% - 5%,
partial high to 21% ; CBM resource is rich in some
part of regions, such as Qianxi , Songzao . In the
Northwest area of Sichuan Basin, Xujiahe formation of
Upper Triassic is widely developed, sea-land cross
coal-bearing deposits are 600m thick on average with
high organic carbon content. These coal-bearing strata
satisfy the formation conditio ns of CBM and shale gas.
The analysis on shale gas types and conditions (Table
3) by Zhang et al.  , and CBM resource evaluation
results show that Shanxi formation of Late Paleozoic
Permian in North China (Ordos Basin), Longtan Forma-
tion of Upper Permian of Late Paleozoic and Xujiahe
formation of Upper Triassic of Mesozoic in South Chi-
na(Yangtze region), Shuixigou Group (Xishanyao for-
mation) of Middle-Lower Jurassic of Mesozoic in Tur-
pan-Hami Basin and Junggar Basin, and Qingyi period
and Shahezi formation of Mesozoic of Cretaceous in
Songliao basin contain unequal thickness coal strata; of
them the coal seam and shale rich in organic matter are
thick. These regions, with rich organic carbon content,
high maturity, possess the basic conditions to generate
shale gas and methane simultaneously, become the fa-
vorable areas and layers to carry out combined research
and development of shale gas and CBM.
This study also proves that because of the sea-land
cross backdrop, the single-layer of coal interbedded shale
which is rich in organic matter is too thin to mining re-
spectively, thanks to the high total organic carbon con-
tent and a higher degree of thermal evolution, the shale
have a certain resource potentiality, and usually exists
near CBM or tight sand gas etc. to form overlay multi-
gas accumulation . Despi e coal series of Longtan t
S. B. CHEN ET AL.353
Table 3. Potentiality of combined research and development of shale gas and CBM in China.
Main basin Formation Shale section Shale thickness (m)TOC (%) Ro (%) Whether with
coal or not
Qaidam Quaternary Qigequan formation 0 - 800 0.3 - 0.6 0.2 - 0.5
Bohai Sea Gurf Paleogene Shahejie 230 - 1800 0.3 - 33.0 0.3 - 1.0
Green section of Qingshankou>100 2.2 0.7 - 3.3
Songliao Cretaceous Shahezi formation 100 - 350 0.7 - 1.5 1.5 - 3.9 Coal-bearing
Chiangtang Middle Jurassic Xiali formation 400 - 600 0.3 - 6.2 1.4
Tuha Middle, Lower Jurassic Shuixigou group 50 - 600 1.3 - 20.0 0.4 - 1.1 Coal-bearing
Zhungeer Middle Jurassic Xishanyao formation 350 - 400 0.2 - 6 .4 0.6 - 2.5 Coal-bearing
Sichuan Upper Triassic Xujiahe formation 150 - 1000 1.0 - 4.5 1.0 - 2.2 Coal-bearing
Ordos Triassic Yanchang form a t i o n 50 - 120 0.6 - 5.8 0.7 - 1.1
Southern (Yangtze) Upper Permian Longtan formation 20 - 2000 0.4 - 22.0 0.8-3.0 Coal-bearing
Ordos Carboniferous-Permian Shanxi formation 60 - 200 2.0 - 3.0 >1.3 Coal-bearing
Southern (Yangtze) Lower Silurian Longmaxi formation 30 - 100 0.5 - 3.0 2.0 - 3.0
Southern (Yangtze) Under the Cambrian Qiongzhusi formation 20 - 700 1.0 - 4.0 3.0 - 6.0
formation of Permian system in eastern Yunnan and
western Guizhou in south China may widely develop
multi-layer independent CBM system , it is accom-
pany with the rich organic matter carbonaceous mud-
stone, silt mudstone. In certain conditions, it may form
multi-bed methane and shale gas reservoir; in addition,
Longtan formation has buried in Indosinian, uplifted and
eroded in Yanshan, uplifted in Himalayan, then it buried
shallower , in a word, it’s an ideal area for combined
research and development.
Comparing shale gas with CBM on accumulation and
distribution, studying the distribution of coal and shale
rich in organic matter in major coal-bearing basins in
China, following conc lusions can be obtained:
1) Shale gas and CBM have similarities in accumula-
tion, distribution, storage and exploitation, overlapping
and compound in resources distribution, which form the
basic conditions to combined research and development.
2) Implementation of combined research and develop-
ment of shale gas and CBM is helpful for overcoming
the problems such as the lack of current drilling, special-
ized information and condition restrictions like depth etc..
It is significant to reduce the shale gas exploration from
research to commercial development and reference the
experience from successfully exploitation in CBM.
3) Many formations are sea-land cross and continental
deposits, organic-rich shale and coal seams of layers/
Inter-layer, such as Shanxi formation of Carboniferous-
Permian system of Late Paleozoic in north China, Long-
tan formation of the Upper Permian system in Southern
Yangtze Region, Xujiahe formation of the Upper Trias-
sic in Mesozoic in south China and Xishanyao formation
of Middle Jurassic in the northwest China. All the above
features form the geological conditions on combined
research on shale gas and CBM which has favorable re-
source potentiality and development prospects.
This study was jointly supported by Natural Science
Foundation of China (No. 41072117), the Major State
Basic Research Development Program of China (973
Program) (No. 2009CB219605), and Major Program of
National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.
40730422). Wu would like to give sincere thanks for the
continuous supp ly of funds.
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