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China revitalizes coal with eco-tech upgrades

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

09-16-2015 16:59 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CNTV commentator

Coal remains a plentiful and reliable source of energy. In regards to production costs and efficiency for the entire power sector, coal stands near the top in affordability and accessibility. Nevertheless, coal struggles to overcome its image as a heavy polluter, but the sector is making major headway to produce more clean coal.

So, let's take a deeper look at the ugly side of coal with statistics posted by ScienceDirect Website in May 2010. Coal is responsible for 90 percent of the world’s SO2 (Sulfur Oxide) emissions; 70 percent of dust emissions and 70 percent CO2 emissions.

Yet in recent years, China has become the world's industry leader for implementing clean coal technology. The nation has built more high-efficiency combustions and advanced power generation technologies along with coal transformation upgrades to boost carbon capture and storage.

China-US clean coal cooperation

The Chinese coal industry has introduced substantial eco-tech upgrades, but global cooperation deals can add further luster. The Beaumont Enterprise newspaper reports that a major coal summit was held in Billings, Montana last month.

The United States Department of Energy and China's National Energy Administration are moving closer towards signing a bilateral advanced clean coal agreement.

"The two nations would share their results as they refine technologies to capture greenhouse gases from burning coal," said Christopher Smith, US assistant secretary for fossil energy.

China leads the world in coal, using over 4bn tons annually, four-times more than the US. However, clean coal technology is expensive while efforts to manufacture it for commercial use are still difficult. Yet, Beijing holds optimism.

"Coal will continue to play a role in China’s economy," Shi Yubo, vice administrator for China’s energy agency, said. "China is seeking to develop more demo projects that capture carbon and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere."

Tapping into syngas

For a number of years, eco-scientists have conducted research to develop new technologies for clean coal. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a report touting syngas in the MIT Technology Review in Dec. 2008.

GreenGen is a joint venture established in 2008 by Chinese utilities to open China's first integrated combined cycle plant, while BP (British Petroleum) has set up a $US73 million research center in Shanghai with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to help commercialize technologies, such as carbon capture and storage; and gasification.

From 2004 to 2010, China has installed 29 gasification projects, compared to zero in the US. The projects transform coal into synthesis gas (syngas), a blend of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be used for turbines that generate electricity with far less pollution.

Double-reheat for greater efficiency

Electrical engineers have uncovered another effective method to enhance clean coal. Chinese coal-fired power plants are utilizing double-reheat cycles to boost the operation efficiency of pulverized coal combustion (PCC).

According to PowerEngineeringInternational Website, China has commissioned more double-reheat units this year. The Guordian Taizhou Power Plant has two double-reheat units, the world's largest, 1000MW each, setting a record for electrical efficiency at 47.9 percent.

Double-reheat requires an additional boiler and turbine components, which raise capital costs but can cut down fuel consumption.

"Double-reheat technology is a proven technology for high-efficiency and low emissions power generation," said Kyle Picot, a coal expert. "When designing a new PCC plant, the decision to opt for double or single-reheat is based on an economic trade-off between capital costs and fuel costs."

Dirty coal turns into clean coal

Environmentalists have long derided coal as a dirty energy resource. Nonetheless, coal continues to be affordable with costs plummeting for the past few years. Additionally, the coal sector is a significant job creator for the working poor.

Therefore, coal will not vanish anytime soon and for good reasons. Hence, a more suitable approach is to support more clean coal eco-tech upgrades.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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