Workshop on coal-fired boiler control supports fight against haze in NE China

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To achieve the air quality improvement targets set by the Action Plan on Air Pollution Control and Prevention, it is crucial to choose the proper policies and technologies to cut emissions when we still have to use coal

Environmental protection staff from 15 cities in northeast China gathered in Dalian last month to strategize air pollution control measures for coal-fired boilers.

The two-day workshop from October 20 to 21, organized by the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (FECO), Clean Air Asia and the Dalian Environmental Protection Bureau, brought together 65 delegates from 15 cities in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces.

Cities in northeastern China have been struggling against air pollution from coal-fired boilers. According to Clean Air Asia’s “China Air 2016: Air Pollution Prevention and Control Progress in Chinese Cities” report, the annual PM2.5 concentration of cities in the northeast averaged 54.6 μg/m³ in 2015 – 60 percent higher than the national standard. In recent years, frequent haze has beset the region during the colder months and heating season. During last year’s regional heavy pollution inspection, the Ministry of Environmental Protection found that small businesses and small-scale coal-fired boilers had the worst record when it came to reducing air pollutants, with criticism leveled at 228 boilers.

“Given the particularity of the energy structure, it’s hard for China to get rid of its reliance on coal in the short term,” said Clean Air Asia China Director Dr Fu Lu. “To achieve the air quality improvement targets set by the Action Plan on Air Pollution Control and Prevention, it is crucial to choose the proper policies and technologies to cut emissions when we still have to use coal.

“Clean Air Asia has developed guide on the air pollution control of coal-fired boilers to support Chinese cities.”

Qin Hongbo

During the training, local environmental protection staff from cities including Dalian, Changchun and Jilin shared their experiences in controlling coal-fired boilers. They said local governments paid a lot of attention to air pollution control, but there were challenges in the legal bases, financial support, choice of technology, and alternative energy supply.

“Industrial boilers are usually small, and coal-to-gas, coal-to-electricity and coal-to-biomass are frequently adopted,” said FECO Deputy Secretary Shi Xiaojuan. “We should also promote knowledge-sharing in this area.”

“There is still a long way to go for China in the exploit of biomass fuel. A systematic reform of the industry is inevitable,” said Shanghai Jiaotong University professor and biomass expert Luo Yonghao. He suggested that China should develop a biomass fuel research and development system and set a high industry threshold by controlling the quality of raw materials, energy efficiency and environmental performance.

Shanghai Energy Efficiency Center Director of Strategy Development Department Qin Hongbo discussed Shanghai’s experience in energy transformation for coal-fired boilers, and emphasized the cost benefits, safety and technology when transforming coal-fired boilers to other fuels. “The government should offer successful practices to factories,” he said.

Dalian Environmental Protection Bureau senior staff member Yang Song said disclosing information on the air pollution control of coal-fired boilers to the public encouraged their supervision, which in turn made their efforts more effective.

Dr Fu Lu introduced the Knowledge Hub developed by Clean Air Asia. “The Knowledge Hub offers advanced experience of air pollution control. The Help Desk in the Knowledge Hub enables every user to raise questions with leading experts.”

The second day of the training involved a tour of six coal-fired boiler transformation programs in Dalian, where biomass fuel practices, sewage source heat pumps, alcohol-based fuel and desulphurization technologies were demonstrated.