China is ready to join FutureGen, a US initiative to build a giant emission-free power plant.
Shang Yong, vice-minister of science and technology, said the government will soon begin negotiations with the US about rights and obligations of participation in the Government Steering Committee.
The plan was announced yesterday at the ongoing 12th US-China Joint Commission Meeting on Scientific and Technological Cooperation.
John Marburger, science adviser to the US president and head of the US delegation, said he was "glad" that China, the world's largest coal producer and consumer, was showing an interest in the program.
"China must take advantage of high-tech energy projects to meet increasing domestic energy needs," Marburger said in an interview.
Initiated three years ago, FutureGen is a 10-year effort that plans to collect about US$950 million in international funds to build a zero-emission, coal-fired electric and hydrogen production plant.
It aims to integrate advanced technologies in coal gasification, extracting hydrogen from coal, power generation, carbon dioxide containment, and geologic storage.
Under the scheme, each signatory needs to contribute US$10 million to the program. At the same time, participants would benefit from the development of any new technologies.
Lee Hwa Gebert, a senior official with the US Department of Energy, said the draft of general agreement for FutureGen partners is still being reviewed by the US State Department.
"After it is passed, which may take several months, the two countries can actually sit down and have a further talk," she said.
India and South Korea were the first two to sign up. Interesting enough, China Huaneng Group, the country's leading power corporation, was a step ahead of the government as it joined the program last year as a company member.
"FutureGen looks like a far distant solution for the public, but it is a roadmap for clean coal technology," Xu Jing, deputy director with the high-tech division of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told China Daily.
He said the program is the ultimate goal for comprehensive energy use, since the plant will produce both electricity and hydrogen out of coal.
"Before realizing the goal, we need to improve current coal gasification technologies," Xu said.
The ministry plans to build several pilot power plants for the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) process across the country within the next five years. IGCC is emerging as one of the most promising technologies for producing low-emission power generation by utilizing low-quality solid and liquid fuels.
There are five similar pilot power stations in the US and several in Europe, Xu added.
"We will encourage companies to lead the plan and in return, they will gain some subsidies.
"These IGCC plants are preparations for an upgrade to more advanced plants suggested in FutureGen," Xu said.
The biennial Sino-US joint meeting, which opened yesterday, aims to help both countries develop new science and technology cooperation areas.
In addition to clean energy technologies, both sides also agreed on further collaboration in climate change, water resource management, earth observation and nanotechnologies.
(China Daily October 19, 2006)