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Open-Source Mapping of China's Oil Infrastructure

By Elsie Hung, Research Associate, Center for Energy Studies, and Gabriel Collins, J.D., Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs

(See map updates here)

Although China is now the world’s second-largest oil consumer, comprehensive and publicly available maps of its oil-related infrastructure remain scarce. Various sources each show sub-portions of the pipes, plants, and tanks that keep motors humming and chemical plants producing. However, we have not yet located an integrated, single-point map that ties the infrastructure networks together and makes it available free of charge to the public. In response, we are releasing the Baker Institute China Oil Map in the hope that an open, comprehensive, and regularly updated source of vital China oil infrastructure data can help facilitate improved analysis by a broader range of participants. The map can be accessed directly by clicking here. Figure 1 provides a snapshot of the map interface as a user would see it in its most zoomed-out incarnation.

Figure 1: Baker Institute China Oil Map Snapshot

Map plotted by Elsie Hung, Center for Energy Studies. 

We currently focus on the largest fixed infrastructure for crude oil and refined products, which means trunk pipelines, refineries, and storage facilities. Our platform is designed to be a “living map,” since China’s dynamic oil sector and its associated physical footprint are continually evolving. The present map is a beta version and is likely missing some pieces of existing infrastructure. The challenge of China’s geographic expanse — it is roughly the same area as the U.S. Lower 48 — is compounded by a lack of transparency on the part of China’s government. Accordingly, as we learn of additional items, we will revise and update the map.

What Does the Baker Institute China Oil Map Currently Show?

The China Oil Map provides an online, interactive, and comprehensive visualization of China’s key oil infrastructure. The map’s current iteration focuses on four core categories of infrastructure: (1) crude oil pipelines, (2) refined product pipelines, (3) oil refineries, (4) crude oil and products storage facilities, and (5) oil ports. The map strives to provide the data on a facility-by-facility level and includes as many as possible of the following data points: facility name, location, owner/operator, designed capacity and operating status. We will frequently update the map as we learn more about infrastructure we already have included, as well as newly constructed facilities and those we were not aware of before.

The data collated and presented to date in the map account for a significant portion of total known pipeline, refinery and tank storage capacity in China. As of March 2020, the China Oil Map had the following total coverage by infrastructure type:

  • Crude oil pipelines: 98 pipelines with a total length of 25,430 km and total throughput capacity of 23 million bpd (MBD);
  • Refined product pipelines: 87 pipelines with a total network length of 27,945 km and a total throughput capacity of 7.7 MBD;
  • Oil refineries: 208 facilities with 22.3 MBD of processing capacity;
  • Oil storage facilities: 287 facilities with approximately 1.06 billion barrels of total storage capacity (crude oil: 74 facilities with 706.1 million barrels of capacity; refined products: 213 facilities with 357 million barrels of capacity); and
  • Oil Ports: 59 docking facilities for oil tankers with a total throughput capacity of 15.3 MBD.
     

Table 1: China Oil Map Data Coverage Compared to Public Estimates

Indicators

China Oil Map Tabulated Capacity

Most Recent Publicly Available Capacity Estimate

Year of Estimate Baseline Data

Crude pipelines length (thousand km)

25.4

28.7

2017

Crude pipelines capacity (MBD)

23.0

14.5

2018

Refined pipelines length (thousand km)

27.9

27.2

2017

Refined pipelines capacity (MBD)

7.7

4.9

2015

Oil refineries capacity (MBD)

22.3

17.3

2019

Crude storage capacity (MBBL)

706.1

760.0

 2020

Product storage capacity (MBBL)

357.0

N/A

 

Oil port throughout capacity (MBD)

15.3

N/A

 

Sources: National Development and Reform Commission of China, http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201701/W020170119333354977981.pdf;
Ruining Hou, January 16, 2019, https://www.jiemian.com/article/2798250.html;
Shivani Singh and Muyu Xu, Jan 16, 2020, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy-output-oil/chinas-2019-and-december-crude-oil-runs-hit-record-highs-idUSKBN1ZG0AS;
Muyu Xu, Shu Zhang, and Devika Krishna Kumar, Feb 13, 2020, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-oil-storage/stranded-tankers-full-storage-tanks-coronavirus-leads-to-crude-glut-in-china-idUSKBN2072NR.

 

Future Directions

An immediate focus centers on the question of what is missing from the China Oil Map that could make it better. One weakness of the existing map is that it provides solid coverage of asset stock, but not the flows through that stock. Accordingly, the map’s storage facility component would benefit greatly from including actual inventory data that could be updated on a regular basis, most likely using satellite analysis of tank levels. Directly obtaining pipeline flow data may be a tougher task, but if the map can deeply integrate data on refinery runs, inventory changes, and inbound crude oil volumes from pipelines and tanker offloadings, it could open the door to making reasonable estimates as to the pipeline flows between selected facilities during a given period.

The China Oil Map will incorporate additional data points in the near future. The map will likely also eventually include an increasing amount of data on China’s upstream oil industry as we find ways to cost-effectively and time-efficiently obtain such information. As these processes unfold, we would welcome formal and informal collaboration with other parties who would like to provide data that enhances the map, and who are willing to do so under an open source philosophy. Interested parties can contact the author(s) at elsie.hung@rice.edu.

The China Oil Map will also serve as a template for building a similar geospatial representation of China’s burgeoning natural gas sector. The methodologies used to collect and map natural gas infrastructure will be similar to those used for crude oil and refined products, but the greater concentration of gas trunk pipelines, storage facilities, LNG terminals, and large-scale consumption points (i.e., power plants and factories) are likely to enable an even higher degree of coverage. However, tracking natural gas inventory levels in the absence of reasonable government and company data disclosures may prove tougher since gas movements are less amenable to remote sensing techniques that help analysts track oil and refined product flows.[2]


Appendix I: Data and Methodology

Data

Data sources included, but were not limited to:

  • The 2012 China Petroleum Map by ARA International Limited (for names of pipelines and storage facilities);
  • Bloomberg Professional Service(for names of refineries);
  • The Oil and Gas Journal World Wide Refinery Survey 2018;
  • 13th Five-Year Plan for Energy Development Appendix I and II (oil and gas) by China’s National Development and Reform Commission;
  • 13th Five-Year Plan for Transportation system by China’s State Council;
  • Infopetro.com; and
  • Online press releases by operating companies

Technical Framework

We created the initial list of facility names based on the sources listed above, and built the database of China’s oil infrastructure using a deep internet search to collect as much facility-level information as possible. Relevant data included name, location (latitude/longitude coordinates), owner/operator, designed capacity, operating status, and the year the facility entered service. We targeted four primary infrastructure groups: crude pipelines, refined product pipelines, oil refineries, and oil storage facilities. The majority of data was extracted from individual press releases and news articles written in Mandarin Chinese. The stated facility capacity was generally converted from 10,000 metric tons (per year), which is conventional for the Chinese oil sector, to a thousand barrels (per day) using the CME Group conversion calculator, which uses a ratio of 7.33 barrels per metric ton of crude oil.[3]

Next we mapped individual infrastructure groups in vector layers (i.e., lines and points) with attribute information using QGIS, an open source GIS application. With these geospatial data, we built the online map utilizing Mapbox, an open source online GIS platform, and added interactivity with Javascript.[4] We will continue to improve the user interface and appearance of this beta version map. The data is expected to be updated quarterly to reflect any new addition, expansion, and retirement of facilities.

Descriptions of Data Layers in the China Oil Map

  • Oil Ports: This layer displays oil wharves and docking facilities that are planned, under construction, or currently operating. The coordinates are highly accurate. 
  • Oil Storage: This layer includes both crude oil and refined product storage facilities that are either operating or under construction as of the most recent update. Ninety-five percent of the facility coordinates in this layer are highly accurate. We hope to include the oil tank breakdown in the future.
  • Oil Refineries: This layer displays oil refineries that are currently operating. The coordinates of each refinery are highly accurate.
  • Crude Pipelines: This layer displays all crude oil pipelines that are operating or under construction. If international, only the sections that are within the Chinese border are included, e.g., the Russia-China and Myanmar-China crude pipelines. The location accuracy of this layer falls into the medium range. We sketched the pipeline routes by assigning and connecting each pump station at the center of a specific city or town.
  • Refined Product Pipelines: This layer includes all refined product pipelines that are planned, under construction, or currently operating. The same mapping method was applied to this layer as the crude pipelines, thus the location accuracy of this layer should be deemed only descriptive and best displayed at the national and provincial level.
  • Satellite Basemap: Map uses the Mapbox Satellite layer.

Map interactive functions

  • Cluster display
  • Toggleable infrastructure layer display with satellite base map
  • Basic navigation controls
  • Clickable tooltips of facility-level information
  • [New] Facilities search bar and pop-up tool tips when hovering over filtered list

Endnotes

[1] Examples

[2] See, for instance, Gabriel Collins and Elsie Hung, "Using Satellite Data to Crack the Great Wall of Secrecy Around China’s Internal Oil Flows," Baker Institute Report no. 09.07.18. Baker Institute for Public Policy, Houston, Texas. https://www.bakerinstitute.org/research/using-satellites-study-chinese-oil/

[3] https://www.cmegroup.com/tools-information/calc_crude.html