Behind the SNG Boom: Accessing Xinjiang’s Virgin Coalfields

Beijing’s “Environments” Concerns and “Clean Coal” (CTG) Technology: Bad Air Days, or Thermo-Smog

Behind the rush into excessive SNG plant investment is a regional (not global or even pan-China) concern: to “clear the air” over the capital and in the “East” in general. Beijing has long been famous for a much circulated photograph (or set) of bicyclers pedalling down (or up) Chang’an Ave., on the flank of Tian’anmen Sq., each one wearing an improvized cloth face-wrap to keep dangerous dusts as much as possible from entering the lungs. And not just in Beijing, where dune-dusts from the Gobi have long been a presence, and still account in part for the problem. But practically in all of the major cities where Gobi sands do not reach: the pollution comes everywhere from the particulate exhausts of coal-fired power plants. It is moreover not just disaesthetic: the smog contains heavy doses of toxic sulphur and nitrogen gases from the same sources. Whistleblowers have recently concluded that exposure to thermo-electric coal pollution takes about 5 years from the lifespan of the “North” China urbanite, as compared with his “Southern” counterpart, because coal mining is heavily skewed toward the North, as therefore are those megasized coal-fired power plants built mainly to send power into the (long-distance) national grid, not (only) the nearby region.

Speaking of Smog:
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Above: New York Times July 25, 2014: A tourist wore a face mask in Tiananmen Square in February as heavy air pollution shrouded Beijing. Credit Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To help get a handle on this problem – after too many years of ineffectuality – the Deregulators (name?) have decided on a toxic particulate emissions dispository trade off: bring down the level in Beijing and its sister high-smog centers in the ‘East” (+- “Northeast”), and move that class of lung-pollution “out West”:, over the horizon where maybe, because toxic emissions are still at a relatively low level (poor data to be sure) it won’t be so harmful or visually depressing. And where its price in even higher NATIONAL levels of carbon emissions (the probable if not admitted outcome) will not be so easy to track, or at least “see”, since the treck that far out west is not an easy one. (Rather like putting biochem warfare toxins manufacture on wheels, as Saddam Hussein was suspected of having planned).

Beijing bad air days vs overftrend  coal for pwoer

This seems strange given the US “clean coal” and natgas lobbies – combined as SNG or CTG promoters – have from the getgo (the 80s) promoted syngas/CTG[coal-to-gas/SNG technologies (the names can be confusing) as ways of reducing all categories of pollution (toxic, smoggic, and carbon-emittic) and making relatively cheap coal into a source of clean+cheap(er) energy.

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