China Grapples With A Burning Question

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Science  25 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5948, pp. 1646
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1646

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In the coming weeks, on the plains of Inner Mongolia, China will launch its first large-scale effort to capture and store carbon emissions from a power plant. A new coal-to-liquid plant in Erdos will burn coal to make, at the outset, a little over 1 million metric tons per year of diesel and other petrochemicals, generating as a byproduct nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. In an effort to make carbon capture pay, much of the gas will be funneled into nearby depleted oil reservoirs, where pressure from the CO2 will force hard-to-get oil to the surface. The plant is one of two pivotal carbon capture and storage efforts in China. The other is GreenGen, an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant that the Chinese government approved last June for construction in Tianjin. Instead of pulverizing coal as a conventional power plant does, IGCC plants turn it into gas, which allows for easy separation of CO2 from combustible gases—and far easier CO2 capture. If successful, GreenGen could redefine how power is generated from coal in China, experts say.