China and the United States are world’s leaders when it comes to CCUS research and development, and this week’s agreements build on a long history of CCUS collaboration between the two nations. In fact, China-US partnership on CCUS has in many respects now left the theoretical feasibility realm and entered the “steel-in-the-ground” phase.
China’s main policy-making body, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), adopted a groundbreaking policy this year to limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The policy—which promotes the demonstration of carbon dioxide capture, storage, and utilization—is the first-of-its-kind in any country, and reflects WRI’s Guidelines for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), developed in partnership with Tsinghua University, China.
World energy use is estimated to increase by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040, with half of the increase attributed to China and India alone. In addition, 76 percent of new coal-fired power plants will be located in these two countries. Shifting to a much-needed, low-carbon economy requires that these nations either rely on more efficient and renewable sources of energy or find ways to manage the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Our Guidelines for CCS in China were issued at a time when CCS was not a high priority within the Chinese administration. Yet we remained determined to continue actively engaging with experts and bringing our expertise to the table.
In collaboration with Tsinghua University, WRI began an early stakeholder effort to discuss guidelines for CCS in China. We convened leaders from China’s state-owned enterprises with NDRC officials and academics to develop the guidelines. This was perhaps the first time coal, oil, and electricity sectors ever met to discuss whether and how CCS would proceed in China. The group also traveled together on CCS study tours in 2009 and 2010, maintaining engagement with the Chinese government during these trips. This process contributed significantly toward the NDRC adopting a policy to promote demonstration of CCS and incorporating many aspects of the Tsinghua-WRI Guidelines.
NDRC’s adoption of the policy has created strong support for CCS projects within China. China has 11 large-scale, integrated CCS projects in the planning stages. On top of this, four large-scale, integrated pilots are already operating or in the construction stages. This type of leadership can not only inform other CCS practices and standards throughout the world, it can boost collaboration—particularly with the United States.
Borrowing major themes from our guidelines, the policy also promotes environmental standards and includes public engagement. It lays the groundwork for testing a variety of different technologies and, more importantly, phases out the use of naturally occurring CO2. The NDRC and other relevant ministries have since focused on the incorporation and implementation of the policy – a critical next step in scaling up this outcome.
It is common knowledge that China burns a large amount of coal, with the fuel accounting for nearly 70% of China’s primary energy consumption in recent years. What is less commonly known is that China is also working on ways to reduce the impact of its coal use, including aggressively pursuing research and demonstration of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology.
WRI provides strategic advice on the development of best practices, regulations, and standards for CCS and participates in the development of national and international strategies for CCS deployment, consistent with environmental and social integrity.
On June 25, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the 2012 Annual Energy Outlook (2012 AEO) – the same day the public comment period closed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new power plants. The NSPS proposal marks EPA’s first step toward controlling carbon pollution from stationary sources, and the agency received a record-breaking more than two million comments supporting the rule. EPA will take the comments it receives into consideration before finalizing the rule later this year. (Get more information on the proposed rule, including WRI’s official comment).
This story was co-authored with Viviane Romeiro, an intern with WRI's CCS team.
WRI has recently launched a new online tool that compares Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) regulations, standards, and best practice guidelines.
Industry has been exploring CCS as an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants for several years, but so far it remains at a demonstration level. To reach the next stage of deployment, it must be tried at scale on different types of power or other industrial plants, and in different geographic regions using suitable geologic reservoirs. Currently, there are 74 projects in process, of which only eight are operational, according to the Global CCS Institute. With a lack of strong carbon policies, along with a range of other issues outlined below, CCS has lost momentum in recent years and demonstration projects are proving hard to see through.
The European Commission has announced the adoption of its Energy Roadmap 2050, which explores the challenges of decarbonising the European Union while ensuring security of energy supply and economic competitiveness.
The roadmap’s analysis concludes that decarbonisation of the energy system is "technically and economically feasible" and that energy efficiency and renewables are a critical part of the mix. Its analysis is based on scenarios created by combining, in different ways, the four main decarbonisation routes – namely, energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Minister Xie said that China’s energy and environment policies support “energy efficiency and carbon reduction” (jieneng jiantan). This is a modification of the phrase used to support the national policy of “energy efficiency and pollution reduction” (jieneng jianpai), which addresses the broad range of pollutants. Based on a number of signals, including these phrases and the day’s speeches, it seems that China’s interest in CCS is increasing. These developments occurred at the conference sponsored by Xie’s own National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).