Carbon Capture Shows Potential in China

China's 2,300 billion metric tons of potential deep geologic carbon dioxide storage capacity is widely distributed throughout the country. An additional 780 billion metric tons of offshore storage capacity may also be available to the industrialized coastal areas. Click on graph to enlarge.

Carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies may represent a cost-effective, viable option to help China continue to meet its energy demand while reducing industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a recent study by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Much of the discussion around China's options for significantly limiting carbon dioxide emissions has been that the country increase domestic use of coal with parallel increases in GHG emissions or stop using coal completely and endure the economic consequences.

The new study shows there is a third option — large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage technologies. The study identifies enormous and widely distributed deep geologic CO2 storage formations in China that could allow for cost-effective, large-scale deployment of capture and storage technologies for at least 100 years.

"For the first time ever, we have quantified the potential for future large-scale carbon capture and storage deployment within China," said Bob Dahowski, lead scientist for this research. "Our work suggests that CO2 capture and storage can provide a key element of China's portfolio of options for cost effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Until now, the scientific community had a limited understanding of the potential magnitude for large-scale deployment of CO2 storage in China. PNNL teamed with scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics (IRSM) in this five-year study. The team's key findings include:

  • China has enough deep geologic CO2 storage to store as much as 2,300 billion metric tons of CO2;
  • There are more than 1,620 large stationary CO2 emission sources in China. They include coal-fired power plants, cement kilns, steel mills, refineries and other industrial facilities.
  • These sources collectively emit more than 3.8 billion metric tons of CO2 each year — 70 percent of these large point source emissions are from coal-fired power plants.
  • More than 90 percent of these power plants and CO2-emitting facilities are located within 100 miles of a potential carbon storage reservoir. This close proximity means that capture and storage technologies could be widely deployed across most regions of China with little need to build extensive long-distance CO2 pipelines.
  • An initial evaluation of potential offshore storage options suggests that offshore basins may be able to safely store as much as 780 billion metric tons of CO2.
The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum awarded this research team its Recognition Award for this project. The forum is a ministerial-level international climate change initiative focused on development of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The award was presented to the research team comprised of PNNL, IRSM and Leonardo Technologies, Inc.

"We're proud of how productive this collaboration with our Chinese colleagues has been and that we now have a fundamentally better understanding of how carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies  a key climate mitigation technology option ─ could work in such a large and growing economy as China's," Dahowski said.

The final report for this study will be available in November and can be requested by sending e-mail and mailing address information to

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