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Cleaning Up in China Part Two: Technology and Emissions Reduction

World Cement,

Read part one on Cleaning Up in China here.

Outdated technology

Another factor at play is a government-mandated phase-out of older plants, partly due to overcapacity. Analysts at UniCredit in Munich predict a slowdown in Chinese economic growth in the second half of this year as the country moves to eliminate the overcapacity across all industrial sectors.

The Climate Group’s Wu notes that the country’s 11th Five Year Plan (2006 – 10) saw older, less efficient plants close as China aimed to reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20%. This also led to better emissions controls at remaining plants, she adds.

“In general, the market expects that the implementation of emission controls should benefit major cement players and continue to force smaller players to phase out their old and smaller capacity due to cost and funding pressure as they increase [capital expenditure] on technology upgrades,” says Huang.

Emissions reduction

Air pollution – and particularly PM and NOX emissions – remains one of the biggest environmental problems facing China. Earlier this year, World Cement reported that the government was preparing new regulations to dramatically reduce NOX emissions from existing cement plants to below 450 mg/Nm3 – compared with existing levels of 880 mg/Nm3. So what measures are being taken to meet this target?

According to Huang, more than 60% – or 14 of 22 – of wholly-owned Taiwan Cement lines in China have selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) technology to reduce NOX emissions by more than 75% – beating the 60% reduction target in the country’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011 – 15). The company plans to roll out the technology to all of its sites by the end of the year.

“We have no problems in meeting the requirement of the Chinese government because we bring in high-end technology and up-to-date equipment,” says Huang. He notes that Taiwan, where the firm’s headquarters are located, has very strict regulations for environmental protection and the company has used the same standards since it entered the Chinese market in 2004.

Lafarge has also introduced SNCR technology and closed older plants. “Over recent years, China’s regulations have become tighter, in particular for emission limits,” says the company’s representative.

Sinoma Cement, which has a production capacity of 6 million t, cites the NOX regulations as one of the rules that has had the greatest impact on the sector. It, too, has installed SNCR technology, and says the other alternative is to close old production lines.

“All the environmental regulations are pointing towards the cement sector,” says Wu. “You have to be energy efficient, you have to control your emissions … regulations have played a huge role in transforming the cement sector.”

As for the regional emissions trading programmes, rules for some pilot regions are yet to be set. Huang says that Taiwan Cement has expressed an interest in participating in the Guangdong ETS but the company is awaiting further information.

In the meantime, the firm is measuring emissions at seven cement plants in conjunction with the Verified Carbon Standard – a voluntary offsetting programme – in preparation for the national ETS, he says.

Regulations pertaining to water are also pending, as are soil standards, according to Wu. Combined with the air pollution regulations, she says, “all the pieces are starting to come together”.

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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