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Cleaning Up in China Part One: Environmental Concerns and Alternative Fuels

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China has hit the environmental headlines regularly in recent months, with air pollution across the country frequently reaching dangerous levels and reportedly having a negative impact on tourism in the country. In July, authorities in Beijing advised the city’s 20 million residents to spend less time outdoors as particulate matter hit hazardous levels. Not long after that, China’s environment minister Zhou Shengxian announced that plans to curb PM2.5, which can arise from cement production, would be unveiled shortly. In Shanghai, the municipal government has declared that it will temporarily halt industrial production – including cement manufacturing – when air pollution levels pass a set threshold. There is a sense that priorities are changing.

Regional efforts to cut emissions are already underway. Changhua Wu, Beijing-based head of Greater China for non-profit The Climate Group, points to emissions standards being rolled out by the country’s environment protection ministry for Beijing, Hubei, Tianjin and the Yangtze River, with the first three regions having to cut emissions by 25% by 2017. Beijing and Tianjin are also two of the seven hosts of pilot emissions trading schemes (ETS) in China, which are viewed as practice runs for a national ETS, expected some time after 2016.

But there are other ways in which cement manufacturers in China are acting to reduce their environmental impact, including switching fuels, monitoring emissions and improving technology.


China continues to grapple with its coal-burn: the country consumes more than 3 billion tpa of coal, primarily for energy generation but also for industrial activity. Switching to ‘greener’ fuels, such as biomass or waste, would go a long way towards helping the sector reduce its environmental impact.

Research into the kinds of alternative fuels that could make a difference to a plant’s environmental footprint is underway. The Tianjin Cement Industry Design & Research Institute conducted a study into the use of sludge in cement kilns and found that a 600 tpd plant could save 16 000 tpa of coal. What is more, the investment – estimated to be around RMB80 000 (US$13 100) – would be recouped over two to three years.

“Lafarge is progressing with alternative fuels, including agreements with municipalities to use fuels processed from industrial and domestic waste,” says a spokesperson for the French company, which has a capacity of 30 million t of cement at sites across China.

Fan Bo, a Tianjin-based project manager at Sinoma, confirms that the drive to increase the use of alternative fuels has forced the firm to adapt its business, adding: “Cement production in China is overloaded and no more cement lines [will] be approved by the Chinese government, except waste material treatment in cement production.”

Edward Huang, Taiwan Cement’s senior vice-president of sales, says that the firm places environmental responsibility over cost: “Hence the company has been constantly making efforts to enhance technology to protect the environment.” Taiwan Cement, which has a 60 million t production capacity in China, uses flyash and slag, as well as waste-derived fuels to reduce emissions from incineration. The company is trying to set up facilities to process some of this waste onsite.

Read part two on Cleaning Up in China here.

Written by Katie Kouchakji. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the November 2013 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can view the full article by logging in.

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