China is currently in the process of planning synthetic natural gas plants, which are powered by coal. Though this could be good for China’s energy security, the results could be environmentally devastating.
A new study by Researchers from Duke University have determined this process would produce seven times the greenhouse gas emissions, consume 100 times the water as shale gas production, and pose a public health risk.
The Chinese government has made the largest investment in synthetic natural gas plants in history. They have approved the construction of nine large-scale plants that have the capability of producing more than 37 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. Private companies are planning to produce more than 30 plants. These private companies could leave a greater impact than the Chinese government, producing 200 million cubic meters of natural gas each year.
Duke University researchers have outlined the potential emissions should all these plants come online. “If all nine plants planned by the Chinese government were built, they would emit 21 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a typical 40-year lifetime, seven times the greenhouse gas that would be emitted by traditional natural gas plants,” said Robert B. Jackson, Professor of Environmental Sciences and director of the Duke Center on Global Change.
“If all 40 of the facilities are built, their carbon dioxide emissions would be an astonishing 110 billion tons,” Jackson said. In addition to carbon dioxide emissions, these plants would emit hydrogen sulfide and mercury. If the pipes are not scrubbed properly, humans will inhale these creating a health hazard.
The construction of these plants would undo the strides China has already made in the renewable energy sector. Chi-Jen Yan, a research scientist at Duke’s center on global climate change said, “At a minimum, Chinese Policymakers should delay implementing their synthetic natural gas plan to avoid a potentially costly and environmentally damaging outcome.” These synthetic natural gas plants not only produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, but they also consume large amounts of water and pose health problems for the public.