Is This The End Of China’s Coal Boom?
Twelve of China’s 34 provinces, that burn 44% of the country’s coal, are committed to control their coal use. Some, like Beijing, have pledged ambitious cuts as steep as 50% in only five years.
Coal gasification: The clean energy of the future?
The main technology being used is coal gasification - instead of burning the fossil fuel, it is chemically transformed into synthetic natural gas (SNG).
The process is decades old, but recent rises in the price of gas mean it is now more economically viable. The US has dabbled in the technique, but China is going all out in a bid to satisfy its soaring demand for power and reduce its dependency on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The country's National Energy Administration has laid out plans to produce 50 billion cubic metres of gas from coal by 2020, enough to satisfy more than 10% of China's total gas demand.
Not only does it make economic sense, but it allows China to exploit stranded coal deposits sitting thousands of kilometres from the country's main industrial centres. Transporting gas is, after all, a lot cheaper than transporting coal.
Coal gasification can also help address local pollution problems that have in recent months brought parts of the country to a virtual standstill.
But there are two big problems. First, coal gasification actually produces more CO2 than a traditional coal plant; so not only will China be using more coal, it will be doing so at a greater cost to the environment.
As Laszlo Varro, head of gas, coal and power markets at the International Energy Agency (IEA), says: "[Coal gasification] is attractive from an economic and energy security perspective.
"It can be a nice solution to local pollution, but its overall carbon intensity is worse [than coal mining], so it is not attractive at all from a climate change point of view".
see also Fire in the hole: After fracking comes coal
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