The Chinese coal industry has a plan to solve the nations air pollution crisis — consume more coal. Last week the Chinese chief energy planning agency, the National Energy Administration (NEA) concluded its annual work session with a plan for for a whopping 50 billion m³ coal-to-gas (CTG) output target for 2020. According to the NEA, if the target is carried out, CTG could supply one-eighth of China\’s gas consumption by the end of this decade. The problem is, in reality this just means more coal consumption — which means more catastrophic air pollution.
Throughout 2013, the Chinese government gave an unprecedented set of green lights to 15 CTG applications. To put that in context, a grand total of 4 approvals existed before last year. All these projects are expected to convert coal into synthetic natural gas (SNG) through various gasification processes. The reason? Coal industry advocates, want to solve the severe air pollution through the substitution of coal to gas. The problem of course is that this is the same old wine just in a new bottle.
Under the guise of \”addressing air pollution\” these plans will do nothing more than increase the problem — the consumption of coal. Ironically, it is exactly the same coal companies that contribute most to air pollution that are now selling the \”silver bullet\” of CTG as a solution to the problem they themselves create. As a matter of fact, CTG will neither stem China\’s growing air pollution crisis, nor upgrade its energy infrastructure. Instead it will further lock China to its coal addiction – with a whole set of new environmental risks.