Opportunity and responsibility often go hand in hand. Such is the case with China and the pressure that nation is feeling to control greenhouse gas emissions.
Two research articles co-authored by Charla Griffy-Brown, the director of the School’s Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence, address the subject and are published in Energy and Energy Policy: the International Journal of the Political, Economic, Planning, Environmental, and Social Aspects of Energy. Both articles offer analysis of China’s chemical industry and provide insight to help that government’s policy makers weigh options to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency in production.
China’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions – the greatest in the world – are chiefly driven by the fast expansion of high energy-intensive industries like chemical production. This industry is primarily coal-fueled and the study calculates and analyzes the production process, emission patterns and energy use in the industry, as well as in the industry’s specific subsectors of ammonia, calcium carbide and caustic soda. It also assesses reduction potential available through technological improvement.
Additional details in both articles uncover the high hurdles that China must get over in order to address the emission and energy use of the chemical industry, especially in the ammonia production segment. Ammonia is a product fundamental to the production of fertilizer, which in turn, is imperative to the country’s self-sufficiency in food production. Due to its unique importance to China’s agricultural production and food security, ammonia-based fertilizer production still benefits from preferential policies, which are rarely offered for other industries. As a result, less constraint has been imposed on ammonia plants with respect to energy consumption and pollutant emission.
Two approaches are presented to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions for the entire ammonia industry. One approach is to partly replace coal use with natural gas. The other approach is to improve the energy efficiency of coal-fueled technologies. For either solution to work, the studies indicate that governmental support of localization and assimilation of energy-efficient technologies will be imperative.
The research done for both studies shares specific remediation opportunities as follows:
- Target the ammonia production segment of the chemical industry, followed by the calcium carbide and caustic soda production segments and develop specific goals for decreasing carbon emissions for each of the three sectors.
- Broaden energy generation in order to reduce coal consumption. Solutions include natural gas, coal bed methane and biomass.
- Recover combustible tail gas for lime production or other industrial processes.
Dr. Charla Griffy-Brown is the director of the School’s Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence and associate professor of Information Systems. She is part of an international research team examining technology and development issues, and her work has been instrumental in forwarding technology management and innovation worldwide.