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China News in brief



Deal to exploit coalbed methane reserves 

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has entered a financing agreement with Houston, Texas-based Far Eastern Energy to explore over 5,000 square kilometres of coalbed methane deposits in Shanxi and Yunnan provinces. Far Eastern Energy will receive $15 million from the IFC to develop the project with its local state-owned partner, China United Coalbed Methane. China has the world's third-largest coalbed methane reserves but they remain under-exploited because of a lack of appropriate technologies and expertise. The heads of both companies believe the deal will also ease the transfer of technology and expertise from the US. 

Drug pricing to be reformed 

New rules governing the cost of drugs are likely to be in place by the end of this year, according to Lu Fengxia, director of medical product pricing at the National Development and Reform Commission. 

Lu made the announcement at the National Medical Biotechnology Forum held in Qingdao on 8 August. She said the proposed pricing mechanism will encourage innovation by allowing companies that produce improved or new drugs to charge higher prices for them. 

The prices of most drugs are currently based on their manufacturing costs. Independent committees will also be convened to evaluate the efficacy, safety, costs and ease of use of new medicines. 

Gas pipeline construction underway 

Work to build an oil pipeline that will supply China with 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas every year from Turkmenistan began on 29 August. Scheduled to be finished in 2009, the 10,000-kilometre pipeline will connect the country to China's southeastern coastal areas. 

China National Petroleum will produce 13 billion cubic metres of natural gas in Turkmenistan for the pipeline with Turkmenistan providing the remainder. 

Ma Hong, a senior researcher at the China University of Petroleum, told Chemistry Worldthat the pipeline will diversify China's gas imports and strengthen its hand in its ongoing negotiations with Russia over oil and gas exports.