China weakness is foreign oil dependence but will they scale to building two nuclear reactors per week

China initially announced 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of US imports, including oil products, LPG and coal in a new list of affected goods but left off import duties on US crude oil.

The crude oil may have been a bluff and liquid natural gas (LNG) may also be a bluff. China needs the energy and needs to keep the prices low for its industry.

The US exported 141,000 b/d of petroleum products to China in May, a 10-month low, according to US Energy Information Administration data. The exports averaged 229,000 b/d in 2017, up from 181,000 b/d in 2016.

The US is not a major supplier of LNG to China, representing just under 5% of total Chinese supply in 2017 and moving up to around 7% so far this year.

The US marketshare in oil, LNG and NGL will be rapidly growing in China in the future and as China demand grows and as US supplies increase.

China imported 9.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in May, 2018. China imported 9.6 million bpd in April and 8.76 million bpd in May, 2017.

China’s oil production was an average 3.76 million barrels per day for the first two months of 2018. China’s oil production is dropping about 1.6% from 2017.

China’s dependence on oil imports was over 66% in 2017 and is forecasted to rise to 80% by 2030.

The Trade War with the USA and arguments with Saudi Arabia are emphasizing the geopolitical and economic costs of foreign oil dependence to China.

Coal is causing China too much air pollution.

This leaves China with the option of massively scaling up nuclear power for cleaner energy and to help get to some amount of energy independence along with a mostly industrial economy.

The target adopted by the State Council in 2015 the target for nuclear capacity on line in 2030 was 150 GWe, providing almost 10% of electricity, and 240 GWe in 2050 providing 15%. However, the post-Fukushima slowdown may mean that the 2030 figure might be only about 120 GWe.

If greater energy independence (less oil and natural gas imports) becomes a priority for China, then building up nuclear power could see vastly higher targets.

New Nuclear plants for heating

China is developing deep pool reactors for heating to reduce coal usage for heating northern cities.

Each of the proposed heating plants would cost about 1.3 billion to 1.4 billion yuan (US$197 million to US$212 million) to build, a fraction of the price of a commercial nuclear power plan. The feasibility studies of DPR in some cities in China show that heating cost using nuclear energy is only one third of that by coal and only one tenth of that by nature gas.

China uses 4 billion tons of coal each year to produce 3900 TWh of electricity. China uses 1000 GW of coal plants. They are talking about getting rid of 12.5% of the coal with these systems. Displacing 125 GW of coal usage for heating would require about 300 of the 400 MW thermal plants. This would be 120 GW of thermal plants. It would cost about $60 billion.

Deep pool reactors are not high pressure and do not need 600 ton containment domes. Each reactor can be built in about two years.

Each steel-and-concrete reactor pool measures about 10 meters in diameter and 20 meters deep, and holds up to 1,800 tonnes of water. A nuclear core is submerged in the water and can create up to 400 megawatts of heat to water to about 90 degrees Celsius for distribution through the city’s public heating network.

Scaling to France levels of nuclear energy share of electricity

China already uses 30% more electricity than the USA. It will likely have two to three times the electricity in 2050 (8500 to 13000 TWh). 100 GWe of nuclear power can supply about 800 TWh each year.

A France like build where nuclear becomes 75-80% of the electricity supply would take 850 GWe to 1200 GWe of nuclear power if electricity needs were in line with larger GDP. The power needs would be even higher if electricity completely displaces oil for powering cars. China could then needs 1200 GWe to 1600 GWe of nuclear power.

China would have to scale nuclear power construction to their previous peaks in coal power production. China would need to build 100 GWe of nuclear power per year or about two one gigawatt nuclear plant completed every week.

China is spending several billion dollars to build their first molten salt nuclear reactors.

There is a molten salt nuclear reactor currently being developed by an american company in Indonesia. The Thorcon molten salt reactors could scale to 100 GWe of nuclear plant built each year. They plan to leverage modular ship building methods to enable shipyards to rapidly build the new reactors.