China Closing Down Small Coal-Fired Plants

Chinese officials claim that the country is 18 months ahead of schedule in its goal to close 50 million kilowatts of coal-fired generating capacity by the end of 2010. They say the country has so far shut down small coal-fired plants with a total generating capacity of 54.07 GW from 2006 to the end of June this year—about 7% of the nation’s current generating capacity.

The closures have decreased sulfur dioxide emissions by 1.06 million tons a year and carbon dioxide emissions by 124 million tons annually, as Sun Qin, deputy director of the National Energy Administration (NEA) recently announced, Xinhua reported. Average coal consumption has also fallen by 30 grams, to 340 grams per kilowatt—saving about 160 million tons of coal since 2006, the news agency said.

Generating units in the country with a capacity above 300 MW now make up 64% of all plants in operation. Plants with a capacity below 100 MW dropped 14% since the beginning of 2006. But coal-fired units with a single-generator capacity of up to 200 MW still accounted for about 80 GW of China’s power supply, Sun reportedly said.

Additionally, as The Wall Street Journal points out, China continues to add new coal-fired power plants to meet its energy needs. The newspaper claims that the country has added on average an additional 70 GW of power each year for the past few years.

In a related story, a Greenpeace UK report released last week finds that China’s three biggest power firms— Huaneng, Datang, and Guodian—produced more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions last year than the whole of Britain. The environmental group said the top 10 companies, which provided almost 60% of China’s total electricity last year, burned 20% of China’s coal—590 million tons— and emitted the equivalent of 1.44 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

China compares unfavorably with other countries in terms of power generation efficiency and emissions. In Japan, 418 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted per kilowatt-hour, and in the U.S., the equivalent figure is 625 grams. But most of the top 10 firms in China emit 752 grams of CO2, Greenpeace alleged.

China has been promoting clean coal technologies—and its technological developments are being closely watched around the world. The nation is looking to complete the first phase of the GreenGen project—a large-scale integrated carbon capture and storage project—this year. In 2010, the project will start a 250-MW integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant in Tianjin using a novel gasifier designed by China’s Thermal Power Research Institute. The institute is 52% owned by China Huaneng Group—also a member of the FutureGen Industrial Alliance—with the remainder held by other domestic state-owned energy firms.

This week, meanwhile, the FutureGen Alliance quashed reports that China’s Thermal Power Research Institute had signed a deal to license its IGCC technology to the controversial Mattoon, Ill., project. FutureGen Alliance spokesman Lawrence Pacheco told POWERnews that the alliance would not make major technology selections until next year. “The alliance is evaluating the gasification technology of multiple vendors and has no technology preference at this point in time,” he said.

Source: Xinhua, Greenpeace UK, The Wall Street Journal, China State Power Information Network, POWERnews

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