The recent Beijing Olympics highlighted the problem of emissions from China’s industrial powerhouse. Adler DeWind reports on how China is working with BGS scientists to capture the carbon that it currently pumps into the air.
Geoscientist 18.12 December 2008
Before the Olympics began, China started a campaign of "Defending the Blue Sky" – or, improving the dire state of the Chinese capital's air quality. This involved relocating more than 1000 heavy industrial and power-generation plants outside the city. Coal accounted for ~63% of China’s primary energy demand in 2005, and the capital's reliance on this fuel was reduced by gradually introducing natural gas for domestic and industrial use, as well as processed coal with reduced sulphur content.
However, Beijing's progress bucks a larger national trend: China's carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations will double by 2030, reaching 11.4 Gt . "It should be remembered that per-capita emissions remain below current average OECD levels and are predicted to remain low over the next few decades" says Dr Mike Stephenson Head of Science (Energy) for British Geological Survey (BGS). In 2006 China built 105GW of new power plants1, almost all of which were coal-fired, largely to meet demands for increased industrial output for both internal and export markets and for building materials for the domestic construction industry.
"It is important to minimise emissions when coal is burned to generate electricity, energy demand will continue its dramatic increase with China's growing economy. With carbon capture and storage (CCS) China can fuel economic growth without irreparably harming their environment" agrees Ceri Vincent, also of BGS. "Energy demand is projected to more than double between 2005 and 2030. With carbon capture and storage, China can hopefully have both."
BGS is currently providing additional scientific support to explore the opportunities in selected regions of north-east China. This is part of a three-phase EU funded project to run a full scale demonstration of carbon capture and storage in China by 2020.
BGS scientists, together with others from the UK and EU, are working closely with Chinese colleagues in universities and institutes across China to transfer existing knowledge of CCS - gained in the North Sea - and to develop scientific links that they hope will encourage future Sino-British collaboration in this vital technology.