China Poised for Green Energy Revolution Led by Technology and Coal

Published: 11 Dec 2013

China Poised for Green Energy Revolution Led by Technology and Coal

China is the world’s fastest-growing economy, largest energy user and largest coal user.  The nation is also leading a green energy revolution by advancing state-of-the-art technology for clean electricity from coal. 

“GreenGen represents both a high degree of technical sophistication and a real com­mitment on China’s part to clean energy technology”
-- Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

China is developing what will be the world’s largest near-zero emissions rate coal power plant through its signature GreenGen Power Project and Carbon Research Center in the city of Tianjin near the Bohai Bay.  GreenGen is China’s first gasification plant for electricity and ultimately will capture carbon for enhanced oil recovery. 

“GreenGen represents both a high degree of technical sophistication and a real com-mitment on China’s part to clean energy technology,” said Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in speaking to Nature Magazine.  “There can be no doubt that China has achieved something remarkable.”

GreenGen began generating power for the Chinese grid with its first generating unit in 2012, placing China at the forefront of the next generation of carbon-neutral and near-zero emissions rate coal technologies.  Luigi Migliorini, Prysmian Group CEO calls the project “a breakthrough in clean coal power generation technology.”   

The project is being developed in three phases by a consortium of eight Chinese companies.  Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, is the only non-Chinese equity partner. 

GreenGen technology converts coal into ‘syngas – a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen – that reacts in specialized turbines to pro¬duce electricity. The process of transforming coal into gas also allows carbon dioxide to be more easily separated into a pure stream where it can be captured and used for a variety of industrial applications. 

Huaneng has advanced GreenGen to a phase two focus on research and development to increase carbon capture efficiencies.  A third and final phase calls for a 400-megawatt gasification unit that will inject liquefied carbon dioxide deep into declining oil fields, a process that has been proven over a half century to safely unlock additional petroleum and natural gas.

 China also leads the world in deployment of advanced “supercritical” coal plants that are extremely efficient and have a small environmental footprint, developing more than 325 gigawatts of supercritical or ultrasupercritical power. In the United States, this technology has about two-thirds the emissions rate of the older fleet. It also reduces carbon dioxide emissions rates by as much as 25 percent and is used with controls that virtually eliminate particulates that cause smog.

More than 85 percent of China’s new plants will use this advanced technology. In the the next 10 years, China would house more “supercritical” coal plants than the rest of the world combined. 

GreenGen is a signature example of China’s bold effort to become the world’s largest investor in green energy, from wind and solar to clean coal. China has invested nearly 

$1 trillion dollars in infrastructure, vastly expanding funding for all forms of green energy, and the International Energy Agency expects China to build more renewable power plants than the United States, European Union and Japan combined through 2035. 

Still, near-zero emissions rate coal technologies such as GreenGen may constitute China’s greatest green energy achievement. 


Sources include: BBC News, “China Profile;” Peter Fairley, "Cleaner Coal’s Last Stand," IEEE Spectrum (May 25, 2012); Jeff Tollefson and Richard Van Noorden, "Slow progress to cleaner coal," Nature Magazine (April 11, 2012); Prysmian Group website, “The Dragon turns Green: a key project for the Group in China” (February 12, 2013); Frank Clemente, “Fuel powers economic surge,” China Daily (July 24, 2013);  Platts, World Electric Power Plant Database (January 2013); Punit Chiniwalla et al., “China has invested nearly $1 trillion dollars in infrastructure," Kauffman Fellows Report, Vol II (2011); Energy Information Administration, 2012 data; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Markets Database (2013)


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