Success Cases (1999-2014)

Capturing China’s Carbon

Capturing China’s Carbon

Changes in China’s coal-centered energy structure will be slow given the size and complexity of the system. But one way to make progress in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal combustion is through capture and storage technology (CCS). CCS is well positioned to help China reduce its emissions against the tide of large-scale coal combustion.

CCS separates CO2 generated by large emission sources and transports it to a safe site for deposit. The International Energy Agency estimates that CCS technology could deliver 2.69 billion tons of carbon emissions reductions by 2020. China’s 2006 National Outline for Medium and Long Term Science and Technology Development Planning (2006¬–2020) listed CCS as a key cutting-edge technology for government investment.

To advance this technology, the China Electric Utilities Program (CEU) in 2007 started funding the Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics (IRSM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to provide decision-makers with policy-relevant research on CCS.

With CEU support, IRSM is now one of China’s most authoritative institutes on CCS. Its research has deepened understanding of China’s options in advancing CCS technology, early stage implementation requirements, and the specific implementation paths of key technologies. In fact, IRSM’s work has served as the scientific foundation upon which China’s CCS policy has been built.

The Ministry of Science and Technology’s Roadmap for the Development of Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Technology (2011), the Special Plan for the Development of Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Technology During the 12th Five-year Plan Period (2012), and the Assessment Report on Carbon Dioxide Utilization Technology in China (2014); and the China Geological Survey’s Mapping of the Potential of Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide (to be released in 2015), have all incorporated results from IRSM studies. CCS was previously an area with very little government support in China. This suite of government policies is one of the world’s first and most comprehensive in support of CCS.

And IRSM’s leadership is respected: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has tapped Li Xiaochun, head of IRSM’s CCS project, to give talks to officials from provincial development and reform commissions.

Despite this progress, CCS and CCUS (carbon capture, use, and storage) technology is still at the experimental stage and its high costs have made commercialization challenging. To better understand China’s CCS and CCUS options, IRSM conducted feasibility studies of at six sites, some of which have now entered into advanced planning and engineering stages. It also took part in the site selection, cost analysis, and safety appraisal of the Shenhua Ordos CCS Demonstration Project, Shengli Oil Field CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery Project, and Yanchang Petroleum Jingbian CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery Project.

Progress in these demonstration projects has inspired NDRC to call for more CCUS demonstrations. In April 2013, NDRC issued the Notice on Promoting Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Experiment and Demonstration, requiring that CCUS projects be carried out in other sectors, including the coal power and coal chemical industries.

CCS and CCUS will have to have widespread use to make truly meaningful reductions in carbon emissions. China’s investments in more demos signal that we are marching in the right direction.

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