Economics & Policy
China's Surprising Clout in Cleantech
To help drive down CCS costs, U.S. companies are enlisting unexpected partners—in China. Long stigmatized as an environmental laggard, the Chinese government is funneling resources into green technology, including "clean coal," both to improve its environment and to exploit green markets around the globe. In some key areas, "China is now more advanced," says Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based green advocacy group that has linked up a dozen Chinese and U.S. utilities to collaborate on cleaner coal processes.
China Huaneng Group, the nation's largest power producer, is leading the Chinese thrust. Its Beijing Cogeneration Power Plant showcases a system for collecting and compressing CO2 from a variety of waste gases. The CO2 is then sold to a bottler that uses it to carbonate soft drinks.
A bigger carbon-capture operation using the same approach should come on line this year in Shanghai. And this fall, Huaneng signed a technology licensing deal with Charlotte (N.C.)-based Duke Energy (DUK), which intends to use many of the techniques at a 630-megawatt facility it is building in Edwardsport, Ind. Set to start operations in 2012, the plant will convert coal into gas before burning it, snaring some CO2 before it goes up the chimney. Duke aims to bury some of the waste underground.
In a deal announced Nov. 18, America's largest coal producer, Peabody Energy (BTU), bought a 6% stake in GreenGen, a $1 billion coal-fired power plant capable of CCS due to come on line in Tianjing in 2011. Being built by Huaneng and a group of other Chinese utilities, the project is also being designed as an R&D center for carbon management technologies. GreenGen shows China can become "the world's leading clean-coal provider," said Peabody CEO Gregory H. Boyce, in a release.
Important know-how is also flowing from the U.S. to China. In September the largest U.S. utility, Southern Co. (SO), inked a deal to deploy in China an advanced process called TRIG, for Transport Integrated Gasification. It's especially good at neutralizing low-grade, CO2-laden coal. "There is a lot [of tech] to share," Cohen says.
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