Chinese projects to trap 1.5 million tonnes of carbon are now online

They use a mix of sequestration and repurposing of captured carbon.
Ameya Paleja
Stock image of coal fired plant
Stock image of coal fired plant

Nejc Gostincar/iStock 

China has taken a major step forward in achieving carbon neutrality after it launched projects to capture carbon at the point of its generation. The projects located on land and at sea will help the country reduce the release of nearly two million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As countries look for ways to reduce their carbon emissions, renewable energy sources have become the point of focus. Last month, Interesting Engineering reported how China's first desert-based solar and wind energy farm has become operational and will power 1.5 million households with cleaner energy.

The country has also invested heavily in building nuclear power plants to secure non-carbon energy. Yet, its massive power demands require it to continue to use oil and coal in its energy mix. To contain the carbon released from their usage, the country has now turned its attention to capturing the carbon released during its production and usage.

Capturing carbon at sea

On Thursday last week, the country's first offshore carbon storage project went online. Located in the South China Sea, the project is installed at the Enping 15-1 oil platform, approximately 125 miles (200 km) from the city of Shenzhen.

The carbon dioxide released from the coal fields is captured and then injected into a dome-shaped geological structure at a depth of nearly half a mile (800 m) below the sea bed.

Deep saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas layers typically serve as subsurface storage options. These are large structures with diameters exceeding six miles (10 km). When carbon dioxide is injected into them, the gas rises to the top and is secured in the dome-shaped structure.

Chinese projects to trap 1.5 million tonnes of carbon are now online
Stock image of an offshore oil rig.

The single project alone can store up to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of planting 14 million trees.

Capturing carbon on land

The China Energy Investment Corporation (China Energy) confirmed on Friday that its carbon capture and storage (CCUS) facility at a coal-fired power plant in East Jiangsu province had also become operational.

The project is designed to capture 500,000 tonnes of carbon every year and is the largest CCUS facility in Asia. Globally, it is the third-largest facility after the ones based in the U.S. and Canada.

The facility uses an amine absorbent that binds with the CO2 collected by thick pipelines located in the smokestacks of the coal-fired plant. The amine absorbent developed by Chinese researchers is capable of capturing one tonne of CO2 using less than 90kW of electricity.

When heated, the absorbent releases almost pure CO2 gas, which can be pressurized and stored in containers. Using the absorbent has also resulted in reducing re-heating energy consumption by 35 percent, China Energy said in a report.

Since the carbon captured using the method has a high purity, it can be deployed for a vast array of applications ranging from dry-ice applications to shielding gases for welding. The cost of producing a tonne of CO2 is around 250 yuan (US$35) and can also be used to be added to beverages like cola.

In the future, the facility plans to sell the captured CO2 to nearby regions and, later on, even export it to countries like South Korea and Japan.

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