• 3 minutes Could Venezuela become a net oil importer?
  • 7 minutes Reuters: OPEC Ministers Agree In Principle On 1 Million Barrels Per Day Nominal Output Increase
  • 12 minutes Battle for Oil Port: East Libya Forces In Full Control At Ras Lanuf
  • 11 hours Oil prices going Up? NO!
  • 3 hours Renewables to generate 50% of worldwide electricity by 2050 (BNEF report)
  • 9 mins Reuters: OPEC Ministers Agree In Principle On 1 Million Barrels Per Day Nominal Output Increase
  • 2 days Could Venezuela become a net oil importer?
  • 3 hours The Tony Seba report
  • 2 days Gazprom Exports to EU Hit Record
  • 1 day Oil prices going down
  • 1 day Could oil demand collapse rapidly? Yup, sure could.
  • 24 mins Kenya Eyes 200+ Oil Wells
  • 2 days Oil Buyers Club
  • 7 hours Saudi Arabia turns to solar
  • 19 hours China’s Plastic Waste Ban Will Leave 111 Million Tons of Trash With Nowhere To Go
  • 13 hours Are Electric Vehicles Really Better For The Environment?
  • 1 day Battle for Oil Port: East Libya Forces In Full Control At Ras Lanuf
  • 2 days Russia's Energy Minister says Oil Prices Balanced at $75, so Wants to Increase OPEC + Russia Oil by 1.5 mbpd
  • 2 days EU Leaders Set To Prolong Russia Sanctions Again
Alt Text

North Korea Hit Hard As Coal Exports To China Fall 71%

Chinese coal imports from North…

Alt Text

Is Russia Helping North Korea Export Coal?

Three Western European intelligence sources…

Rory Johnston

Rory Johnston

Rory Johnston is a Master of Global Affairs student at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs where he focuses primarily on the…

More Info

Trending Discussions

China’s Plan to Reduce Coal-Fired Electricity Disastrous for Global Climate

China’s Plan to Reduce Coal-Fired Electricity Disastrous for Global Climate

China consumes upwards of four billion tonnes of coal per year—as much as the rest of the world combined. However, rising public opinion opposing terrible air quality in major Chinese cities has authorities reassessing their energy plans. Earlier this year, the central government banned the building of new coal-fired power plants in the areas surrounding Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in an attempt to combat the smog.  While many have commented that that these types of policy shifts represent a positive trend in the fight against global climate change, a new study on China’s coal-fuelled synthetic natural gas (SNG) plans calls this optimism into question.

SNG plants convert coal into natural gas that can be used for electricity production or residential heating. As natural gas burns considerably cleaner than coal and emits none of the smog-causing pollutants, SNG can be used in power plants close to cities and burned in households for heat without harming air quality. By building these SNG plants in the West, any pollution resulting from this use of coal will be kept far from industrial and population centres.

Related article: The World’s Best-Positioned Junior Coal Play?

That said, while SNG addresses the problem of air quality, it greatly exacerbates China’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. The life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of SNG are 700% higher than conventional natural gas, up to 82% higher than pulverized-coal if used to generate electricity, and 200% higher than gasoline if used to fuel vehicles. SNG is also very water-intensive, requiring 6-12 litres of water per m3 compared to only 0.1-0.2 litres of water per m3 for shale gas—this puts increased strain on already tight water supplies in the Chinese hinterland.

Chinas SNG Production
Source: China’s Synthetic Natural Gas Revolution, p. 853

Beijing has thus far approved nine SNG plants with a total capacity of 37.1 billion m3 per year and there were 30 more SNG projects proposed in 2012 with a combined capacity of 120 billion m3 per year. According to local reporting [Chinese], that number jumped to 43 proposals in 2013 with a total capacity of almost 200 billion m3 per year. If built, the 9 approved plants represent 21 billion tonnes of CO2 over 40 years; if all 43 pending approval are built, that number will jump to over 110 billion tonnes. To put that in perspective, China’s total CO2 emissions in 2011 were 7.7 billion tonnes.

Related article: Endgame? New EPA Regulations Threaten U.S. Coal Industry

These SNG plants are highly capital intensive and, as such, once built they are almost guaranteed to continue operating for decades. This means that if the international community is to oppose Chinese SNG plans, it must do so now before the ground is broken on these projects.  China views these SNG projects as a means to addressing poor air quality in its major cities while utilizing its vast domestic coal resources and decreasing a growing reliance on liquefied natural gas imports.

While it is true that SNG would increase China’s energy security, it must be stressed that the climatological cost of this security is far too high.

By. Rory Johnston




Back to homepage

Trending Discussions


Leave a comment
  • ComradeAnon on October 01 2013 said:
    I keep seeing commercials about clean coal. They should use that.
  • Dave on October 02 2013 said:
    Clean skies means no global dimming with coal smog, so the higher greenhouse effects of SNG are even more intense. It's Faustian bargain time on planet Earth.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News