New report looks at challenges and opportunities for CCUS in the Chinese power sector

8th Jan 2019

Over the last decade, China has become one of the champions for clean coal generation; transitioning towards supercritical and ultra-supercritical plants and deploying ultra-low emissions technologies to reduce or eliminate the release of pollutants, including oxides of sulphur and nitrogen as well as particulate and trace elements.

With a large fleet of more efficient plants with lower emissions, the country is well positioned to become a leader in lower-cost carbon capture use and storage (CCUS).

Last November, the IEA’s Coal Industry Advisory Body released a new report: ‘Reducing China’s Coal Power Emissions with CCUS Retrofits’, which considers prospects for CCUS uptake in the country’s power sector.

A decade of change

With the paper examining China’s approach to CCUS in the context of broader climate and energy policy trends, it highlights that the first indications of the country’s CCUS intentions started to emerge back in 2007, when CCUS technology was identified as a key factor in need of development in the country’s National Plan to Address Climate Change.

Since then, national public and private actors have funded research, demonstration and pilots of CCUS across the power, steel, cement and chemical sectors.

The Roadmap for Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration and Deployment in the People's Republic of China report (2015) provides one of the most comprehensive indicators of the country’s pathway to near-zero emissions from coal, whilst there are currently six large-scale demonstration projects in construction or early development in China that use coal as a feedstock.

Encouraging signs

Given China’s intention to deploy the technology, the CIAB paper considers the potential for retrofitting coal stations with the technology, which was investigated by the IEA in 2016. However, rather than focusing on purely technical capacity, the report goes further to consider cost and potential incentives that could facilitate deployment.

Notable findings from the paper include:

  • CCUS retrofits are a highly cost competitive dispatchable, low-carbon generation option
  • Capturing emissions would increase the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) by 67% compared to an unabated station; though considerable uncertainty remains around that figure
  • Realising cost-competitive CCUS retrofits will require priority action in areas like enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and transport and storage infrastructure

Over the next 18 months, countries are required to submit their long-term climate action plans. CCUS is an indispensable part of the climate change solution which China and others should consider in an “all of the above” approach to carbon reduction. The challenge looking ahead will be to build an international commitment in efforts to realise the 2,732 facilities needed by 2050 to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. To date, as pointed out by the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI), there are only forty-three large-scale CCUS facilities in operation or in various stages of development across the world.

The coal industry and by extension the World Coal Association are key players in this space. That is why in mid-November we published ‘Driving CCUS Deployment – The pathway to zero emissions from coal’ which sets out our suggested actions that the international community could take to build on the growing momentum in CCUS.

With COP24 delivering a common framework for the implementation of the Paris agreement last month, countries now have a chance to step up their climate ambitions and embed CCUS in their future mitigation plans. The WCA will continue to call for and support large-scale deployment of CCUS across various sectors, along with other low-emission technologies to achieve the deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to meet the goals of Paris.