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China begins drilling another 10,000-metre hole. Here's what it is searching for

China has begun excavating a 10,000-metre hole for the second time in an effort to locate ultra-deep natural gas reserves. According to Xinhua News Agency, China National Petroleum Corp began drilling the Shendi Chuanke 1 Well in Sichuan province on Thursday (July 20) with a planned depth of 10,520 metres (6.5 miles).

The project will have a well of comparable scale to the one that CNPC began drilling in Xinjiang in May, which was the deepest hole ever drilled in China.

The exploration of Chuanke-1 Well, which falls under the Deep Earth drilling project, is part of a wider infrastructure to “provide an important foundation and support for China’s future scientific research and oil and gas resource development”, reported state news outlet China Electric Power News.

According to Xinhua, although the well was initially characterised as experimental in nature, the project is now designed to provide data on the internal structure of the Earth and test drilling technologies in an effort to locate ultra-deep natural gas reserves in Sichuan.

The province of Sichuan in China's southeast is renowned for its mountain views, spicy cuisine, and pandas, and it also contains some of China's greatest shale gas reserves.

Because of the complex underground geology and difficult terrain, the nation's state-owned energy companies have had little success in exploiting their potential.

Amidst a series of geopolitical conflicts, global price volatility, and power shortages, the Chinese government has exerted pressure on energy companies in recent years to boost the nation's petroleum security by increasing domestic production.

According to a report in China Electric Power News, the team aims to collect geological information from a depth of 10,000 metres in order to improve theories regarding oil and gas accumulation and to create an international and first-class technical team in the country, as stated by the project's deputy manager, Ding Wei.

“The 10,000-metre-deep exploration project is a ‘major national project’ comparable to the lunar exploration project,” the report quoted Ding as saying.

Due to the complexity of the subterranean environment, the engineers are required to surmount "world-class challenges" during the drilling process.

Beyond 10,000 metres, the metal drilling tools can become “as soft as noodles” due to the temperature of 224 degrees Celsius (435 Fahrenheit), and the 138 MegaPascal ultra-high pressure environment was like “diving into the deep sea of 13,800 metres, far exceeding the seawater pressure of the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean in the world”, said chief engineer Yang Yu, while speaking to China Electric Power News.

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