NR2264

NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                    AUGUST 2016

Smog Today or Climate Change Tomorrow: The Chinese Dilemma

China has to balance the health and welfare of its citizens today with longer range impacts of climate change. McIlvaine has a number of services which shed light on the resolution of this difficult choice. One is N049 Oil, Gas, Shale and Refining Markets and Projects.  In this service, McIlvaine is following the very ambitious program in the northern mining regions of China to convert coal to clean gas and transport it around the country.  Sinopec is proceeding with a $20 billion pipeline. Various gasification projects are in the planning or construction stage. There has been international criticism of this program due to its climate change implications. Since smog in major cities has been very high on the list of citizen complaints, a program to economically reduce it has considerable support. The clean gas will be piped to cities around the country and will replace dirty fuels presently burned in residential, commercial and light industrial plants.  New research substantiates this argument. 

"Coal and other dirty solid fuels are frequently used in homes for cooking and heating," said Denise Mauzerall, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public and international affairs at Princeton University. "Because these emissions are essentially uncontrolled they emit a disproportionately large amount of air pollutants which contribute substantially to smog in Beijing and surrounding regions."

Households account for about 18 percent of total energy use in the Beijing region but produce 50 percent of black carbon emissions and 69 percent of organic carbon emissions, according to a research team from institutions including Princeton, the University of California Berkeley, Peking University and Tsinghua University. In the Beijing area, households contribute more pollutants in the form of small soot particles (which are particularly hazardous to human health) than the transportation sector and power plants combined; in the winter heating season, households also contribute more small particles than do industrial sources. The researchers said the high levels of air pollutant emissions are due to the use of coal and other dirty fuels in small stoves and heaters that lack the pollution controls in place in power plants, vehicles and at some factories.

This syngas program would eliminate much of the smog problem. Its impact on net CO2 emissions will be smaller than what is claimed by the international opposition.  The residential heating sources are inefficient. So they emit more CO2 per unit of energy produced than will a new gas furnace replacement.  Another argument against the initiative is the impact on water resources in the mining areas.  McIlvaine has done extensive analysis of water related activities in China.  All of these plants will be equipped with zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems. This activity is tracked in N020 RO, UF, MF World Market.

In order to make the best decisions, China has to weigh the relative harm of CO2, NOx, PM2.5, water depletion and other resource impacts. It also has to weigh present vs. future values e.g. smog today vs. climate change tomorrow. McIlvaine has a common metric to weigh all harm and good Sustainability Universal Rating System