Case Study - China

China Flag

(New Europe, 2009)


As of 2006, China became the world's biggest producer of CO2 with 6200 metric tons of CO2 produced that year (Vidal & Adam, 2007). Now, China emits the greatest amount if greenhouse gases worldwide (Hilton, 2009). As China’s economy continues to develop, its emissions are expected to increase even more during the next several decades. Even with the most optimistic outlook, the country's CO2 emissions are still expected to increase by 80% by 2030 (Mrasek, 2009).  The most optimistic outlook includes immediately equipping all new coal power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology (Mrasek, 2009). Prior to the realization of its position as the leading CO2 producer, China was reluctant to adopt policies that would reduce its emissions, despite its increasing CO2 emissions. Instead, it adopted a stance that placed most of the responsibility and blame for high global levels of CO2 on already developed countries such as the US, and called for stricter limits on those countries, thus placing them at odds with other nations (Bradsher, 2006). Such a stance is partly justified since "about a third of all Chinese carbon emissions are the result of producing goods for export," mostly to the US and Europe (Clark, 2009).
Fortunately, China has recently adopted a less defensive stance. As of right now, China is much more receptive to limitations on their CO2 emissions. In fact, China is now the world's leading investor in renewable technologies, and Beijing aims to stabilize emissions by 2020. Also, China has increased its goal of 15% renewable energy by 2020 to 20% (Hilton, 2009). They have also looked into other options, such as CCS technology. All of this is being done despite the fact that the Kyoto Protocol, the first significant international agreement on climate change mitigation, exempted developing nations like China from having to take on reduction targets (Hilton, 2009). China may be able reduce its emissions alone, but will do so with more success in collaboration with other countries, especially the US (Hilton, 2009) (Qian, Peridas, Chen, Qiu, Friedmann, Li, ... Zhao, 2009). Serious discussions have already taken place, such as the talks between President Obama and President Hu Jintao on November 17, 2009, and more cooperation is expected in the future (Schmidt, 2009)(The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2009a).

Sequestration Potential

Carbon capture and sequestration technologies hold great potential, and "CCS is estimated to be capable of contributing 15 to 55% of worldwide cumulative carbon emission reductions through 2100." China still relies heavily on coal for power despite great strides in the use of renewable energy, and is expected to still produce half of its energy through coal in the year 2020. Yet, China is in a good position to implement CCS technology. The "[c]osts for carbon capture are likely to be lower [in China] than in Western countries due to lower fuel, material, and labor costs." The proximity of relatively pure producers of large quantities of CO2 to possible sinks will reduce the costs of transport. 83% of all CO2 sources and 75% of high-purity CO2 sources are located within 80 km of a CO2 reservoir. It is thought that China has enough deep saline formation to sequester up to 3,066 GtCO2. The abundance of relatively pure sources of CO2, such as those from the production of ammonia, adds to the relative ease of CCS. Moreover, "[t]he cost of CCS for several of these sources [high purity CO2 streams] can be in the region of $10 to 20 per tCO2, lower than typical estimates for Western countries." China's geology also allows for great CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and enhanced gas recovery (EGR) opportunities which further reduce the net costs of carbon sequestration through increased oil and gas production (Qian, et al., 2009).
Sites of point source emissions in China (Li, et al., 2009)

Sites of CCS potential in China

Summary of China’s Potential CO2 Storage Capacity (by type of storage option) (Qian, et al., 2009)
Deep saline formations (MtCO2)
Oil fields by proved OOIP (MtCO2)
Gas fields by proved OGIP (MtCO2)
Unmineable coal seams (MtCO2)
However, to make CCS in China successful, additional funding from both the Chinese government and international sources is needed, as well as collaboration with other countries. Such cooperation can occur in the form of shared research ventures and recommendations on possible regulations for China based on the past experiences of other nations. Considering recent strides in China's relationship with the United States (The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2009b), and China's own interest in reducing carbon emissions (Xinhua, 2009), plans for CCS have become much more feasible. Nevertheless, “CCS has yet to be proven feasible and cost effective on a large scale” (Schell, et al., 2009). Thus, CO2 sequestration projects in direct coal-to-liquid plants, such as the one at Ordos Basin, which was designated the first large scale CO2 sequestration project in China, will gain greater significance (Schell, et al., 2009). Overall, the three areas that need funding the most are projects to test technologies and regulation, research to discover offshore basins to sequester carbon from heavily-industrialized eastern and southern coastal regions, and assessments of China's onshore sedimentary basins. In terms of policy, there are no regulations that specifically prohibit CCS in China right now.
Sites of CCS potential in China (Qian et al., 2009)
Carbon sinks in China (Li et al., 2009)
Emissions Reduction (Qian, et al., 2009)
Many specific plans are being made to sequester CO2 in China. Some of these plans are presented in the "Identifying Near-Term Opportunities for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in China" report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), where the following projects are listed (Qian, et al., 2009).
Operational Date
nearby saline aquifer in Ordos Basin of Inner Mongolia
Shenhua Group
In Planning
2.9 Mt pure CO2 per year
direct coal liquefaction facility
  Bohai Basin in  Tianjin 
Huaneng Group
Under construction
25,000 to 30,000 tCO2 per year
250 MW IGCC plant

Langfang (Beijing area)
China Power Investment Corporation
Awaiting approval by government
8% of CO2 produced
two 488 MWe IGCC units

Dongguan of Guangdong Province
Awaiting approval by government
200 MW IGCC units

Lianyungang of Jiangsu Province
Awaiting approval by government
1200 MW IGCC capacity unit


Many of the projects above involve the use of plants that utilize IGCC (Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle) technology, which can only be applied to new power plants. Over one hundred plants equipped with gasification technology already exist in China, though CCS has yet to be implemented (Schell, et al., 2009). The total cost for each project over a five-year period, including the cost of drilling, compression, etc., will be approximately $50-$100 million (Schell, et al., 2009).
Relevance to Overall Solution
China meets many of the criteria necessary to reduce its CO2 levels. Great CCS potential exists (Qian, et al., 2009), and on a national level the Chinese government has taken other steps toward this goal. In a meeting between President Obama and President Hu Jintao on November 17, 2009 a group of organizations were brought into being. Those organizations were:
·      U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center
·      U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative
·      U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan
·      U.S.-China Renewable Energy Partnership
·      21st Century Coal focus on cleaner uses of coal
·      U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative (The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2009b)
In addition to these initiatives, there are ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency targets announced by President Hu Jintao at a UN climate change summit (Xinhua, 2009). Despite these initiatives, the national Chinese government remains concerned that a strict approach to CO2 emissions reduction through methods such as CCS technology may stifle their economic growth. The economical burden on the national governments can be reduced by a market where part of the cost of CCS technologies was absorbed by the consumers.
Further collaboration with the United States, which is of utmost importance, depends on the state of obstacles in the United States as well. Challenges common to both countries include public skepticism of CCS due to the technology’s high cost and relative lack of proven efficacy. CCS also “raises potential environmental concerns—such as leakage, earthquakes, and negative interactions with groundwater” (Schell, et al., 2009).

These negative perceptions will remain until successful large scale implementation of CCS finally occurs. Yet, some will stand to benefit from CCS, especially labor unions who will see more possibilities for coal-dependent jobs such as those in the coal mining and manufacturing sectors (Schell, et al. 2009). On the other hand, rural leaders may feel threatened because the introduction of new technology may result in the closure of older, inefficient plants and a loss of jobs for local people (Environmental Leader, 2007). However, due to the nature of the Chinese government, regulations are often difficult to enforce at the local level, making the implementation of policies and individual contribution China's biggest obstacles (NRDC & Wang, 2006). For instance, local governments may benefit from the existence of large factories that produce large quantities of CO2, which would discourage those governments from actively penalizing offenders. Existing penalties may also be too light to entice compliance, and the individuals may be indifferent to the many environmental consequences. Thus, China has considered producing the desired results by introducing detailed evaluation systems for government officials that relate to their achievement of national environmental targets and setting energy intensity targets for its top 1000 energy using enterprises (Wang, 2009). Whether these steps are effective remains to be seen.