Synthetic Gas Plants being planned in China present a host of ecological worries. China’s government has permitted construction of nine such plants in northern and western China.
These plants are able to generate more than 37 billion cubic meters of synthetic natural gas annually. Moreover, private companies are also planning to put up more than 30 other such plants which are able to generate over 200 million cubic meters of natural gas annually.
Using coal to make natural gas is no doubt good for China’s energy security, but it will have severe environmental impacts. Experts fear if all the nine plants were built as planned, they would give out 21 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a usual 40-year lifetime. As per the study by Duke University researchers, these plants would produce seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas plants and will use up to 100 times the water as shale gas production.
Not only that, these plants would also emit hydrogen sulfide and mercury, which are very harmful to human health if not appropriately treated. If this synthetic natural gas were used as vehicle fuel, the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions would be about two times as from gasoline-fueled vehicles.
Considering the overall environmental impacts, emission of greenhouse gases, water use and mercury pollution, China government should give a second thought to it. The increased emissions from these plants alone will more than cancel out all reductions in green house gas emissions done by the Chinese rapid development in clean energy.