China’s Largest Carbon Capture Project Is a Global Minnow

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China completed construction of its largest carbon capture and storage plant as the country continues to develop technologies necessary to meeting its climate goals.

China Energy Investment Corp. finished production of the plant Jan. 21 at its Guohua Jinjie coal power station in Shaanxi province. It’s currently in its debugging phase, and once put into operation will be able to prevent 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year at a 90% capture rate, according to the China Electricity Council.

It’s a minnow compared to some of the largest operations in the world, which strip carbon dioxide from oil and natural gas wells and reinject it to boost output. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Shute Creek plant can capture 7.4 million tons a year, while Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s Century facility can handle 5 million, according to the Global CCS Institute.

The largest power plant facility is at Boundary Dam in Canada, with an estimated capacity of 1 million tons a year, according to the Institute database. CEIC’s plant is about the same design size as a carbon capture facility that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and others built at an Alabama power station in 2011.

Even as China increases non-fossil fuel power sources and plans a long-term shift away from coal, carbon capture is seen as vital to removing greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive industrial processes that are difficult to electrify. The technology will need to play a “major role” to create a net-zero energy system, according to the International Energy Agency.

The process, known as CCS, can take several forms, with carbon dioxide being captured from natural gas streams, fuel-burning exhaust or even directly from the atmosphere, and stored in underground caverns or compressed into liquids and solids.

While this project is China’s largest to date, it still pales in comparison to the overall challenge the country faces as it tries to become carbon-neutral by 2060. The 150,000 tons represents about 0.002% of China’s total emissions from burning fuel, according to data from BP Plc.

CCS has been slow to gain traction around the world as key projects have been hit by technical issues and cost overruns. Currently only about 40 million tons of carbon dioxide is captured from power and industrial facilities each year, according to the IEA.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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