URUMQI - In the isolated desert of southern Junggar Basin, a group of foreign energy investors gazed into an open seam containing coal bed methane (CBM), a form of unconventional natural gas these investment veterans now bet on.
The reserve, adjacent to the landmark "heart of Asia" - the geometrical center of Asian continent, covers an area of 653 square kilometers, and is said to hold an estimated 1.95 trillion cubic meters of CBM, the third largest deposit of its kind in China.
Up to 10 wells have been drilled in the region called Liuhuanggou, immediately outside Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
The project is currently operated under a production sharing contract, between TerraWest Energy Corp and PetroChina.
The delegation, consisting of investment bankers with global leading financial institutions and energy analysts across the world, were shown to see two wells where test drilling began last month.
TerreWest (TWE) said they will initiate pilot production as early as next year, and commercial production will follow afterwards.
The methane drilled from the wells will be sold locally and also transmitted into the West-East natural gas pipeline which stretches across the Liuhuanggou area.
TWE holds the first and only fully approved CBM production sharing contract in Xinjiang to date.
Xinjiang is no stranger to energy euphoria. In 1950s, China's first oil field Kelamayi, a unit of PetroChina, was also found in this Junggar Basin.
Now it is learning to manage its latest windfall.
Xue Lie, an oil exploitation expert with PetroChina Xinjiang Oilfield Company Exploitation Institute, said oil specialists are working around the clock to dislodge gas at Liuhuanggou's first test drilling well.
Drilling sites are operated by Chinese service providers and overseen by Canadian and American CBM experts from TWE.