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'Clean Coal' Could Offset Petroleum Shortage
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Nearly half of China's energy is expected to come from sources other than coal 15 years from now, as the country is determined to optimize energy consumption by alleviating coal dependency, experts and officials said yesterday.

Coal will be used in an increasingly clean and efficient way to protect the environment and ensure energy security, experts proposed in the "2006 China Energy Development Report," which was published by the Social Sciences Academic Press yesterday in Beijing.

As the world's second largest consumer of energy after the United States, China is heavily dependent on coal, which accounted for 67.7 percent of its energy consumption in 2004, representing one-third of the coal used worldwide, Cui Minxuan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in the report.

In economies with a more balanced energy use structure, petroleum usually makes up 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumption, while coal makes up a modest 10 to 20 percent, Cui said.

Sixty-eight percent of China's annual energy use since 2003 has been fuelled by coal, while less than 23 percent came from petroleum, according to official statistics.

"To sustain China's economic growth along a rapid and sound track, the country must optimize its consumption structure by rapidly developing natural gas, hydropower and nuclear power and using more renewable energy," Cui said.

The optimized structure will translate into improved energy use efficiency and reduced total energy demands, he said.

In the annual energy development report, Cui and his colleagues predict that by 2010, 61.2 percent of the country's energy consumption will still come from coal, but petroleum consumption will become a quarter of total energy consumption.

Natural gas, on the other hand, will double from the 2003 level to reach 5.3 percent of the country's energy consumption.

By 2020, petroleum, gas and electricity combined will have a 46 percent share of total energy consumption, while the proportion of coal will shrink to 54 percent, according to the report.

Hu Yuhong, an official with the China Coal Industry Association, yesterday said she believed the ratio of natural gas will continue to edge up in the years ahead, with projects launched to transfer gas from the country's west to its east and to import the gas from Russia.

But ultimately, coal will remain the major source of energy to fuel China's economy in the decades to come, she said.

Clean Coal

With coal occupying such a dominant position in its energy pool, the country has been planning to improve coal use efficiency and has been studying clean coal technology since late 1980s, according to Huang Shengchu, chief of the China Coal Information Institute.

In a speech delivered yesterday in St Petersburg while attending the G8 Summit, President Hu Jintao called for international communities to step up co-operative efforts to develop clean coal technology.

Huang said China had been cooperating with South Africa and the United States in piloting and promoting clean coal technology in China.

Air emissions of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen associated with coal burning could be significantly reduced by liquefying coal, Huang said.

Hu of the China Coal Industry Association said Shenhua Group, a pioneer in developing the coal liquefaction business in China, had earmarked 25 billion yuan (US$3 billion) for clean coal technology.

Last week, Shenhua signed an agreement with Royal Dutch Shell and South Africa-based Sasol to build two coal liquefaction plants in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China.

Producing clean fuels through coal liquefaction is a strategic solution to offsetting the country's shortage of petroleum and balancing the country's energy structure, Cui said in his energy development report.

(China Daily July 18, 2006)

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