China Expanding Biomass Energy Development

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The nation of China – once regarded primarily as the world’s leading coal user and polluter – is now supporting aggressive developments in the in the biomass industry for its energy portfolio in addition to solar and wind alternatives.

According to a report in Renewable Energy World, the Chinese central government has established policies boosting biomass energy development. These favorable policies may foster an era of accelerated growth for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Biomass energy has been increasingly favored by a number of energy firms for its clean, efficient, safe and sustainable features. Some multinational energy companies, including BP, American International Petroleum, BASF and DuPont, as well as the major Chinese players (CNPC, Sinopec and CNOOC) are expanding their presence into the biomass energy sector through direct investments.

On March 4, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) entered into a cooperation framework agreement with the government of Shandong province to establish a fuel ethanol and biodiesel production facility. Following this agreement, Sinopec formed a cooperation agreement with China’s largest food processing manufacturer and trader, COFCO. Both companies will jointly build a fuel ethanol manufacturing facility that over the next five years will have an annual capacity of 100,000 tons.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission has reinforced agreements like these, issuing guidelines concerning structural changes within the industry that encourage the development and application of technologies for producing non-grain biomass fuels, including ethanol from cellulosic biomass and bio-diesel.

According to China’s five-year plan for renewable energy during the 2011-2015 period, the country plans to increase the annual usage of ethanol fuel to three million tons by 2015. As reported in April by Renewable Energy World, a renewable energy development strategy report from the Chinese Academy of Engineering states that biomass energy capacity in China is twice that of hydropower and 3.5 times that of wind power.

Tsinghai University’s chemical engineering professor Xing Xinhui said, “while China has built a number of biomass energy projects since the beginning of the last five-year period (spanning 2006-2010), the country still lags far behind other countries in terms of biomass energy investments and has not yet made any breakthrough in biomass energy technology. As a result, it behooves the central government to provide additional support for the industry by increasing its investment in research and development of biomass energy technologies, so as to speed up the development of the industry.”

China has substantial biomass resources, including and residues and leftover waste from the country’s agricultural and forestry. Biomass development is also an appealing economic proposition where non-grain plants can be grown on marginal land and converted to energy.

Presently, China produces 5 million tons of grain annually, generating some 700 million tons of straw that can be used as the main source of biomass energy. Additionally, organic materials like poultry manure, fallen leaves and industrial waste, can be added to the supply mix and converted to biomass energy. The country has announced it will build large biomass production plants in southwest and northwest regions.

This all looks promising as a means for China to move away from dependence on coal energy.



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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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