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China, UK Ink Carbon Capture Technology Deal

China and the UK yesterday agreed upon a joint development program of carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), in an effort to combat global warming.


The program is a substantial step forward in response to the Sino-EU Declaration on Climate Change, which was published in September in Beijing. According to the declaration, EU will offer China the technology to build a clean coal-fired station.


As a new solution to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, carbon capture and storage was put forward by international scientists two or three years ago. The idea is to separate carbon dioxide from emissions of factories or power plants, and then bury it underground in deserted mines, oil wells or even oceans.


Scientists hope the technology can help mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases on global climate change. However, at the moment the technology is still in its initial stages.


Under the memorandum signed yesterday, the UK has pledged to fund Chinese scientists in several research projects for carbon capture and sequestration technology before 2008.


Lu Xuedu, a senior official with the Ministry of Science and Technology, revealed the total investment from the UK will reach 3.5 million pounds (US$6.1 million).


Besides technological development, the subsidies will also fund studies into assessment of costs and potential markets for CCS, demonstrations of zero-carbon communities and related financing plans.


Once the program finishes, both sides will proceed with the collaboration in building a zero-emission coal-fired power plant, which will capture its own carbon dioxide emissions and store them safely.


The difficulties in using the technology lie in the safety of carbon storage and transportation, as well as the costs.


"If any leak happens, all efforts will be for nothing and more harm will be brought to the environment," said Li Gao, deputy director with the Administrative Centre for China's Agenda 21.


He said the future market of this technology is uncertain, as it has to compete with recycled energies. "If the latter can be acquired at lower costs than this technology, there will be only a very small market for carbon capture and storage technology," he added.


Although Li admits the technology is not a priority area of development for China, it may play a role in the future when China, a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, has to shoulder more responsibility for emissions reduction.


(China Daily December 22, 2005)

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