China Barely Slowed Coal Power Construction

Various satellite images show that half of the coal plants with “suspended construction” have actually been completed. China has restarted construction on more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of suspended coal-fired power plants. A study by Global Energy Monitor, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club claims that China could add 290GW in new coal-fired plants over the next few years. This would be more than the 261GW capacity of the entire US coal-power fleet in 2018. China is expected to put another 110 gigawatts (GW) of new power generation into operation in 2019. They put 120 GW into operation in 2018 after connecting a record 133.7 GW of new capacity in 2017, according to data from the China Electricity Council (CEC). China’s total installed capacity was expected to break the 2,000 GW barrier by the end of this year, rising around 5 percent from the end of 2018. Chinese electricity consumption rose to 6.84 trillion kilowatt hours in 2018, with growth hitting a six-year high of 8.5 percent year-on-year. The rise in consumption was led by the manufacturing industry and services sector. China’s coal-fired power capacity reached 1,010 GW by the end of 2018. If China goes to 1150 GW or higher for coal power by 2022, then the China will not meet its Paris Agreement promises. Nextbigfuture spoiler alert – China will not meet its Paris Agreement promises on coal.

SOURCES – Endcoal, Reuters, E&T, Graphic from BenHeubi, Satellite Picture by Planet Labs

Written By Brian Wang,

38 thoughts on “China Barely Slowed Coal Power Construction”

  1. We’ll have swapped every coal plant over to nuclear long before people are trusting enough to let an uncontrolled series of Liberian registered cargo ships, manned by unknown philipino crews, and regularly captured by pirates, have nukes on board.

  2. Oh, I agree. We need more nuclear ships including commercial shipping. Currently commercial ships are produced very competitively and are vastly cheaper than the military stuff. They are actually much more efficient than automobiles. But with the volumes of freight involved going nuclear still seems like a win. There are some countries that are neurotically against nuclear and won’t allow a nuclear ship in port. New Zealand is one. Not sure how many others there are.
    I think what you want is a small modular reactor that can be moved easily. I don’t really see an issue with retrofitting ships with nuclear power. Their systems should take up less space than what they replace. And the designers of such systems would consider the typical layout of the power and propulsion systems. These engines are quite large, so a small nuke should have little difficulty fitting in.

    A reactor like this should produce ample power, and should last far longer than 20 years at the power levels needed for a large ship

  3. From what I have read, titanium is supposed to be superior to stainless for corrosion resistance. Did you mean it is not very corrosion resistant when alloyed? I would have to think that would be contingent on what it is alloyed with.

    I think the main reason they don’t use it is because the cost is very high currently. But, as I was saying, with nuclear power and that new plasma refining method, the cost could come way down.

    For navel purposes, it should be excellent. Ships could be lighter and more maneuverable. Though I have nothing against stainless. The main issue is that chromium is not terribly abundant. It costs about $9,000/ton and decent stainless has to be about 30% chromium.

    Nickel alloys are not out of the question either. Quite plentiful in the Solar System. Some nickle can be sent to Earth via mass driver. Of course they will be looking for all that platinum first.

    Most of the nickel on Earth sank to the core when the Earth was molten. What we get is mostly from newer asteroid impacts. But there is a lot out there in the Solar System.

    Chrome plating seems less involved than your TNT stuff…if you wanted to go with a clad approach. Not that that is terribly easy. Though foam and pastes can be used instead of immersion tanks.

  4. There would be major changes to ship design if nuclear became the standard for propulsion. A number of fast, thirty knot freighters were built in the nineties, for the China export trade, but when fuel prices went up, they were too long and skinny to go slow, and too thirsty to go fast, so they were laid up at anchor. Uranium fuel would be cheaper even than bunker oil, especially if it was molten salt. That would make return on investment more important than conserving fuel, so fast trips and quick turnarounds would be the norm.

  5. Yo…Wu Mau!

    This is Godfree Roberts’ and Joe Wong’s wu mau territory. Go find some other forum to fluffer for Beijing.

  6. It is also funny that you are calling people old enough to be your father, children. Grow up and get out of your mom’s basement.

  7. I’m with you buddy. 

    There are perfectly durable, strong, salt-water indefinitely-tolerant stainless steels that littoral and blue-was craft could be made from; there is also a game play in merely cladding underlying hard carbon “rusty” steel with atomically bonded stainless. Requires that base steel plates be pickled well, then excluded from oxygen; a stainless layer is laid on top; on top of that a ¼ inch of cheap TNT type explosive and a primer. Placed in a vacuum, the TNT is exploded; the stainless atomically bonds to the base metal plate. Indeed, the shock wave is so effective that if the underside also has a stainless plate, it too will be atomically bonded.  

    The misshapen (now) plate merely needs cold rolling to restore a perfectly smooth final form. Magnificent stuff. 

    Titanium, while a lovely metal, doesn’t fare well with alloying-and-salt-water environments. If it did, it’d be the material of choice for Navies. Tougher than most metals, almost as light as aluminum, and frankly rather surprisingly abundant as ores go. No problems with foreign entities cornering a critical resource. 

    But it ain’t so salt-and-alloy tolerant. I’d bet on the explosively formed stainless clad.

  8. And… tho’ I didn’t originally say it, there’s also the problem (thermodynamic) of taking CO₂ and H₂ (hydrogen), to effect this reaction:

    2 CO₂ ⊕ 7 H₂ ⊕ ε → C₂H₆ ⊕ 4 H₂O

    That ε is energy. A LOT of energy. And the 7 parts of H₂ doesn’t come in hydrogen-grapes hanging off hydrogen vines. It too requires a substantial amount of invested energy (usually from .. ahem … dehydrogenating natural gas CH₄ / methane with the water-shift reaction). The water-shift is somewhat endothermic, so cycles of CH₄ + O₂ are used to heat the catalyst beds, then CH₄ + H₂O (steam) to “shift” to mixed carbon oxides, alcohols and an abundance of free hydrogen. 

    The ethylene is anything but a gimme. 

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  9. You probably don’t have any clue how ridiculous your statistic is…

    C ⊕ O₂ ⊕ 4 N₂ → 4 N₂ ⊕ CO₂
    12 g/mol ⊕ 32 g/mol ⊕ 4×28 g/mol → 4×28 g/mol ⊕ 44 g/mol (total 156 g/mol)

    44 is 29% of 156, if using 20% as O₂’s proportion of atmosphere (its 20.95%). So the statement “engineers can collect and CONCENTRATE the CO₂ to 30%” is completely bunk. 30% IS the proportion of CO₂ in the exhaust gas of burning carbon, friend. 

    No “concentration” going on, you see. And no, 30%-CO₂-in-nitrogen is NOT a candidate for production of ethylene, either. So…

    Take the propaganda elsewhere, please.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  10. Eeewww. No “daddy” banter between you and NBA, please.
    The obvious sixual tension is embarrassing enough as it is.

  11. In a city of 20 million people growing at 6% p.a., 50 000 workers in a couple of polluting industries can lose their jobs while overall the number of jobs still goes up.

    No conspiracy needed.

  12. So? What does per capita have to do with anything? What matters is how much CO2 China spews out vs America.

    People who break this down as ‘per capita’ either are 1) idiots 2) don’t really believe in Global Warming as CO2 levels have nothing to do with ‘per capita’ or 3) are wu mau haters of America who post this crap.

  13. Yes all the world who is trying to curb emissions and to divert global warming

    No they are not. It is all BS.

    And nothing in your America-hating BS disproves that I predicted all this years ago; that Paris Agreement is complete bullsh!t.

  14. in china, coal power plants are as green as gas power plants. Chinese scientists/engineers can collect and concentrate the CO2 to 30%, that can be used to produce ethylene in lab..

  15. I will say that this is starting to be rectified in the major political power centers.

    Beijing and Shanghai have had fairly significant air pollution crackdowns in the last couple of years. Because that’s where the powers-that-be actually live. That’s where the rich people want a nice environment. That’s where foreign journalists (and these days everyone with a camera phone is a journalist) visit, take photos, and publish embarrassing critiques in the foreign media.

    What do I mean by crackdowns? I mean businesses going broke. People actually moving factories outside of the city limits. People losing their jobs. Measurable decreases in economic activity.

    (Note, the same factories end up opening again in a different location. The demand is still there.)

  16. Part of the solution to tragedy of the commons type problems is to lead by example. The more examples there are, the fewer excuses there are for you not doing it. Hence every country should be pushing their governments to lower CO2 emissions.

  17. Also unions would have messed everything up 1950s-1980s. Now, most of what I propose, could be almost completely automated, other than building everything. There would still be people but a fraction of what would be needed today (employed globally) and a small fraction of what would have been needed those decades ago.
    There is really no reason we can’t do this stuff. A lot of people still prefer glass bottles to plastic. If we get energy prices down and get Borosilicate glass made cheaply with that energy, they will prefer that over plastic. The main negative of glass is that it breaks when dropped. That will be reduced dramatically with Borosilicate glass.
    And plastic is not really recycled. Not new bottles. It is turned into other stuff like doormats. Glass can be fully recycled, and leaves no nasty taste. If we had cheap titanium we would use it to can foods. No need for those nasty plastic liners which do who knows what to our food. No need to throw away dented/rusted cans for fear that there might be something nasty growing in there because the can metal might have been exposed within. Are we likely to stop using cans and jars in the near future? I doubt it. We have been using jugs/jars for upwards of 9,000 years in the form of gourds:
    It was probably used far before that, but 9,000 years ago is when we began to breed it for variety in shape. Every culture that can grow these had these, which suggests very ancient origins.

  18. The production would be for the World. The world is still building infrastructure. Africa will need a great deal of it, if its population grows as expected. And the whole transport industry will move to noncorrosive materials as ships are not undergoing massive changes in design. The computers, canals and port capabilities have already established the optimal hull shapes and such, so there is little risk in building ships out of more expensive materials that last much longer and require far less maintenance. Maintenance and replacement costs will greatly exceed the increase in initial cost.
    When will the world not want concrete? Formulations can be improved, but we will still want concrete. I also think environmentalists will begin to ask for concrete roads more. Concrete roads cost about twice as much, but last upwards of 3 times as long. And when the price of concrete comes down and is no longer made using fossil fuels, environmentalists and taxpayers will insist on quality concrete roads for more than highway use. And I sort of alluded to improving these materials. They can be improved. Take glass. Most is soda-lime glass which is easily broken and handles changes in heat poorly. Borosilicate glass though is far better. Very durable and heat change tolerant. That is what the good Pyrex glass is made of.
    We have huge deposits of boron so adding some boron trioxide is no big deal. Who wouldn’t prefer better glass?

  19. This should not be taken as an attack on labor itself…unions undermined labor with their shenanigans. We would still have absolutely massive industry employing tens of millions of workers if it were not for unions. And workers would still be getting very good wages. Not a-new-pickup-truck-every-2-years, wages, but a lot better than Walmart, trucking, and Welfare. Unions are eager to claim that working conditions were crap until they came along. That is highly inaccurate. Working conditions changed as a result of muckraking reporters convincing the public to change laws, by describing the abuses the public hadn’t known about. We owe a lot to muckraking. The unions had squat to do with it. Many of the people pushing unionization were either union organizers who stood to make a lot of money and often were involved with organized crime, and genuine communists, some of which were financially supported by the USSR. They wanted our economy to fail and for us to turn communist. It wasn’t far from turning that way in the depths of the depression either. In my opinion, it would have, had they not been such ardent atheists and promoters of class hate. It is just too wide of a gulf for a country, in part founded on religious freedom, and deeply devout groups founding colonies.
    So many people of a wide variety of denominations came to these shores for freedom…or to impose their own little rules in their own little community.

  20. At all International round tables the United States is like the guy at the weekly poker game who doesn’t know “who is the sucker at the table“. And we all know who that guy is!

  21. Given how the economy changes so much, such an investment as you mention makes far more sense in 1950s-1980s America than it does in the America of the future where people will change professions — not just jobs but entire professions — at least a few times in their lifetime. So building infrastructure tied to assumed use that in reality will no doubt change isn’t exactly smart. Not talking about the nuke power for electricity as we will always need electricity, but for thermal heat for use in nearby planned industrial facilities that you mention.

  22. No. They’ve always lied about it. The Indians also.

    And the Brits and French and Germans….list goes on and on.

    It’s called institutional hypocrisy. And how do you know who does it the most? Easy: The ones that screamed the most about Trump pulling out of Paris because by doing so he exposed what a total sham it was.

  23. Nextbigfuture spoiler alert – China will not meet its Paris Agreement promises on coal.

    Only prob, Brian: *I* made that prediction on NBF YEARS AGO. 🙂

    But all the wu maus and greentards on here refused to believe me. And guess what? They will continue to not believe even with this hard proof. Because Watermelonism is a religion to them, that’s why.

  24. This is an important point.

    There’s people who want to build nuclear power plants in the USA and Europe; it makes more sense pragmatically to build two for the same price in China when you’re targetting GHG. Greenhouse gasses are a global impact/phenomenon.

    You’re much more likely to get that 2x as cost effective scenario with a globally agreed GHG tax.

  25. I would actually start with titanium. Titanium ore is cheap and plentiful similar to aluminum ore. It is the energy and currently other required materials in processing into titanium metal that makes titanium expensive. But there is a new process that just requires turning the ore to plasma which would be done with electricity. If we can make electrical power at the sub 1 cent/kWh, I think we can make millions of tons of the stuff. It can be alloyed with steel or used on its own to make piping, autos, trains, ships, and commercial aircraft. The reduction in weight in these transportation options can reduce fossil fuel use further. I am especially optimistic about the use of titanium in ships as they would last longer, need overhauled less, and require no paint and corrosion repair. The US Navy spends over $12.5 billion on paint and corrosion repair annually. Ships made with stainless and titanium would be far more economical long term.

  26. Yes, and getting the notoriously nefarious coal-power operators to keep whatever/any/not-working scrubbers scrubbing is an even bigger problem. As an allegory for the “scrubber wars”, this article’s citing of Chinese official-story-versus-satellite-photographic-evidence is similar for the scrubbers. 

    The Machine of Government — even for the Maoist not-quite-ex-commies — is still the largest employer, and its apparatchiks enjoy the most uniform abundance of creature comforts and income of all workers. And power. 

    So, it behooves them to microcast thru an informer network the upcoming power plant inspections with enough lead time that the scrubbers will be in operation then. Within a day or two, they’re back to only being on when the optics is bad (i.e. widely visible) showing the noxious clouds. 

    Which is to say, daylight and clear-not-cloudy weather. 

    The Chinese may officially be holding pogroms to fight air quality abusers, but they know full well that the effort(s) are mostly superficial.

    Saving face, after all … is a big deal, in China.


  27. My guess is they ran the numbers and running the brand new coal plants with better efficiency was the cheapest way to reduce emissions (they’ll idle the older ones for more hours of the year) Less coal burned for a kWh means less of everything, not just GHG.

    This was probably only because they were half built already (so capital cost was effectively half price).

    Air quality is a much more urgent issue in China than GHG by far.

  28. Yes and No. A lot of the coal power in China is being used to power the manufacture of cement, steel, iron, aluminum, and glass mostly for export. The US is capable of producing all these things at even lower prices and at equal or larger volumes if we build either very large conventional nuclear power or medium sized molten salt reactors, preferably as part of the refineries to take advantage of waste heat and to prevent energy price markup between energy production and use. Some of the infrastructure is in place like the rail system. We know where the minerals are and you just need to build well designed absolute peak of the art facilities capable of producing 75% or more of the world demand for these materials and at superior quality. And make them available to any nation regardless of politics.
    No need for negotiations with China or nonbinding agreements and other nonsense. If we drastically reduce these Chinese export industries via competition, we effectively shut down hundreds of coal power plants. And they will try to copy us with nuclear of their own. And that is a win for the environment as well.
    This would require government loans and such to companies to escalate like this and build the dozens of nuclear power plants required, but I think this is a worthwhile investment.
    And we have to end collective bargaining; it has slaughtered US heavy industry and mining. The market should set wages just as it sets the prices for commodities. Union is labor monopoly.

  29. I don’t know how much coal power China will install but I do know that people who think that they can fix AGW by focusing on the US are not going to solve any problems.

    The focus needs to be on base load that is cheaper than coal. Not cheaper with subsidies, just cheaper due to lower cost.

    And maybe it is time for the AGW crusaders to focus on China and India and ignore the US and Europe (unless of course this was nothing more than domestic politics).

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