Publications

In Press, 2016
Guo, Meiyu, Xi Lu, Chris P. Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Wenrui Shi, Yuntian Chen, and Xuan Yu. In Press, 2016. “Prospects for shale gas production in China: Implications for water demand.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
Cao, Jing, Mun S. Ho, and Huifang Liang. In Press, 2016. “Household energy demand in urban China: Accounting for regional prices and rapid economic change.” The Energy Journal.
Zhang, Ning, Xi Lu, Chris P Nielsen, Michael B. McElroy, Xinyu Chen, Yu Deng, and Chongqing Kang. In Press, 2016. “Reducing curtailment of wind electricity in China by employing electric boilers for heat and pumped hydro for energy storage.” Applied Energy. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Accommodating variable wind power poses a critical challenge for electric power systems that are heavily dependent on combined heat and power (CHP) plants, as is the case for north China. An improved unit-commitment model is applied to evaluate potential benefits from pumped hydro storage (PHS) and electric boilers (EBs) in West Inner Mongolia (WIM), where CHP capacity is projected to increase to 33.8 GW by 2020. A business-as-usual (BAU) reference case assumes deployment of 20 GW of wind capacity. Compared to BAU, expanding wind capacity to 40 GW would allow for a reduction in CO2 emissions of 33.9 million tons, but at a relatively high cost of US$25.3/ton, reflecting primarily high associated curtailment of wind electricity (20.4%). A number of scenarios adding PHS and/or EBs combined with higher levels of wind capacity are evaluated. The best case indicates that a combination of PHS (3.6 GW) and EBs (6.2 GW) together with 40 GW of wind capacity would reduce CO2 emissions by 43.5 million tons compared to BAU, and at a lower cost of US$16.0/ton. Achieving this outcome will require a price-incentive policy designed to ensure the profitability of both PHS and EB facilities.

Mei, Yanyang, Qingfeng Che, Qing Yang, Christopher Draper, Haiping Yang, Shihong Zhang, and Hanping Chen. In Press, 2016. “Torrefaction of different parts from a corn stalk and its effect on the characterization of products.” Industrial Crops and Products.Abstract

Torrefaction of biomass can reduce its undesirable properties for the subsequent thermochemical application. After separating a Chinese corn stalk into four parts (leaf, stem, root, and cob), torrefaction was performed at temperatures of 200, 250, and 300 °C respectively. The structural and components differences of various parts were analyzed, along with the solid, gas, and liquid products. The study showed that the root was the most sensitive to heat and the cob showed the biggest increase in CO2 and CO yields with the increase temperature, due to their different content of hemicellulose and cellulose. The torrefaction temperature of 250 °C was especially significant for the formation of acids. Liquid product from the leaf was simpler in composition and lower in yield due to higher content of organic extractives and ash. Generally, various parts have different torrefaction properties due to the differences in chemical composition and cellular structure. And with the thermochemical application of biomass were more widely used in the chemical industry especially fine chemical industry, screening and classification may be necessary.

Submitted
Chen, Xinyu, Zhiwei Xu, Chris P Nielsen, and Michael B. McElroy. Submitted. “Plug-in electric vehicles: Opportunities to reduce emissions of CO2 and conventional pollutants in China.” Environmental Science & Technology.
Xie, Rong, Sabel Clive, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Haidong Kan, Chris P. Nielsen, and Haikun Wang. Submitted. “Long-term trend and spatial pattern of PM2.5-induced premature mortality in China.” Environment International.
Wang, Haikun, Yanxu Zhang, Xi Lu, Weimo Zhu, Chris P. Nielsen, Jun Bi, and Michael B. McElroy. Submitted. “Trade‐driven relocation of air pollution and health impacts in China.” Nature Communications.
Wu, X.D., Q. Yang, G.Q. Chen, T. Hayat, and A. Alsaedi. Submitted. “Progress and prospect of CCS in China: Using learning curve to assess the cost-viability of a 2x600 MW retrofitted oxyfuel power plant as a case study.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
2016
Nature Energy Cover
Lu, Xi, Michael B. McElroy, Wei Peng, Shiyang Liu, Chris P. Nielsen, and Haikun Wang. 2016. “Challenges faced by China compared with the US in developing wind power.” Nature Energy 1 (6). Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC held in Paris in December 2015, China pledged to peak its carbon emissions and increase non-fossil energy to 20% by 2030 or earlier. Expanding renewable capacity, especially wind power, is a central strategy to achieve these climate goals. Despite greater capacity for wind installation in China compared to the US (145.1 versus 75.0 GW), less wind electricity is generated in China (186.3 versus 190.9 TWh). Here, we quantify the relative importance of the key factors accounting for the unsatisfactory performance of Chinese wind farms. Different from the results in earlier qualitative studies, we find that the difference in wind resources explains only a small fraction of the present China-US difference in wind power output (17.9% in 2012); the curtailment of wind power, differences in turbine quality, and delayed connection to the grid are identified as the three primary factors (respectively 49.3%, 50.2%, and 50.3% in 2012). Improvements in both technology choices and the policy environment are critical in addressing these challenges. 

Lu et al. is the cover article of this issue of Nature Energy. It is also subject of a "News and Views" commentary in the same issue, by Joanna I. Lewis.

Xia, Yinmin, Yu Zhao, and Chris P. Nielsen. 2016. “Benefits of China's efforts in gaseous pollutant control indicated by bottom-up emissions and satellite observations 2000-2014.” Atmospheric Environment 136 (July): 43-53. Publisher's VersionAbstract

To evaluate the effectiveness of national air pollution control policies, the emissions of SO2, NOX, CO and CO2 in China are estimated using bottom-up methods for the most recent 15-year period (2000–2014). Vertical column densities (VCDs) from satellite observations are used to test the temporal and spatial patterns of emissions and to explore the ambient levels of gaseous pollutants across the country. The inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs match well except for SO2. Such comparison is improved with an optimistic assumption in emission estimation that the emission standards for given industrial sources issued after 2010 have been fully enforced. Underestimation of emission abatement and enhanced atmospheric oxidization likely contribute to the discrepancy between SO2 emissions and VCDs. As suggested by VCDs and emissions estimated under the assumption of full implementation of emission standards, the control of SO2 in the 12th Five-Year Plan period (12th FYP, 2011–2015) is estimated to be more effective than that in the 11th FYP period (2006–2010), attributed to improved use of flue gas desulfurization in the power sector and implementation of new emission standards in key industrial sources. The opposite was true for CO, as energy efficiency improved more significantly from 2005 to 2010 due to closures of small industrial plants. Iron & steel production is estimated to have had particularly strong influence on temporal and spatial patterns of CO. In contrast to fast growth before 2011 driven by increased coal consumption and limited controls, NOX emissions decreased from 2011 to 2014 due to the penetration of selective catalytic/non-catalytic reduction systems in the power sector. This led to reduced NO2 VCDs, particularly in relatively highly polluted areas such as the eastern China and Pearl River Delta regions. In developed areas, transportation is playing an increasingly important role in air pollution, as suggested by the increased ratio of NO2 to SO2 VCDs. For air quality in mega cities, the inter-annual trends in emissions and VCDs indicate that surrounding areas are more influential in NO2 level for Beijing than those for Shanghai.

Deng, Yu, and Sumeeta Srinivasan. 2016. “Urban land use change and regional access: A case study in Beijing, China.” Habitat International 51: 103-113. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the recent past Beijing has experienced rapid development. This growth has been accompanied by many problems including traffic congestion and air pollution. Understanding what stimulates urban growth is important for sustainable development in the coming years. In this paper, we first estimate a binary auto-logistic model of land use change, using physical and socioeconomic characteristics of the location and its access to major centers within the city as predictors. We find that variables determining regional access, like time distance to the city center, the Central Business District (CBD), industrial centers, employment centers, and the transportation system, significantly impact urban land conversion. By using measures of access to predict land use change we believe that we can better understand the planning implications of urban growth not only in Beijing but other rapidly developing cities.

Yang, Qing, Yingquan Chen, Haiping Yang, and Hanping Chen. 2016. “Greenhouse gas emissions of a biomass-based pyrolysis plant in China.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 53 (January): 1580-1590. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Biomass pyrolysis offers an alternative to industrial coal-fired boilers and utilizes low temperature and long residence time to produce syngas, bio-oil and biochar. Construction of biomass-based pyrolysis plants has recently been on the rise in rural China necessitating research into the greenhouse gas emission levels produced as a result. Greenhouse gas emission intensity of a typical biomass fixed-bed pyrolysis plant in China is calculated as 1.55E−02 kg CO2-eq/MJ. Carbon cycle of the whole process was investigated and found that if 41.02% of the biochar returns to the field, net greenhouse gas emission is zero indicating the whole carbon cycle may be renewable. A biomass pyrolysis scenario analysis was also conducted to assess exhaust production, transportation distance and the electricity-generation structure for background information applied in the formulation of national policy.

2015
Zhao, Y., LP Qiu, RY Xu, FJ Xie, Q Zhang, YY Yu, C.P. Nielsen, et al. 2015. “Advantages of city-scale emission inventory for urban air quality research and policy: the case of Nanjing, a typical industrial city in the Yangtze River Delta, China.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 15: 12623-12644. Publisher's VersionAbstract

With most eastern Chinese cities facing major air quality challenges, there is a strong need for city-scale emission inventories for use in both chemical transport modeling and the development of pollution control policies. In this paper, a high-resolution emission inventory of air pollutants and CO2 for Nanjing, a typical large city in the Yangtze River Delta, is developed incorporating the best available information on local sources. Emission factors and activity data at the unit or facility level are collected and compiled using a thorough onsite survey of major sources. Over 900 individual plants, which account for 97% of the city's total coal consumption, are identified as point sources, and all of the emission-related parameters including combustion technology, fuel quality, and removal efficiency of air pollution control devices (APCD) are analyzed. New data-collection approaches including continuous emission monitoring systems and real-time monitoring of traffic flows are employed to improve spatiotemporal distribution of emissions. Despite fast growth of energy consumption between 2010 and 2012, relatively small inter-annual changes in emissions are found for most air pollutants during this period, attributed mainly to benefits of growing APCD deployment and the comparatively strong and improving regulatory oversight of the large point sources that dominate the levels and spatial distributions of Nanjing emissions overall. The improvement of this city-level emission inventory is indicated by comparisons with observations and other inventories at larger spatial scale. Relatively good spatial correlations are found for SO2, NOX, and CO between the city-scale emission estimates and concentrations at 9 state-opertated monitoring sites (R = 0.58, 0.46, and 0.61, respectively). The emission ratios of specific pollutants including BC to CO, OC to EC, and CO2 to CO compare well to top-down constraints from ground observations. The inter-annual variability and spatial distribution of NOX emissions are consistent with NO2 vertical column density measured by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI). In particular, the Nanjing city-scale emission inventory correlates better with satellite observations than the downscaled Multi-resolution Emission Inventory for China (MEIC) does when emissions from power plants are excluded. This indicates improvement in emission estimation for sectors other than power generation, notably industry and transportation. High-resolution emission inventory may also provide a basis to consider the quality of instrumental observations. To further improve emission estimation and evaluation, more measurements of both emission factors and ambient levels of given pollutants are suggested; the uncertainties of emission inventories at city scale should also be fully quantified and compared with those at national scale. 


Zhao, Yu, Hui Zhong, Jie Zhang, and Chris P Nielsen. 2015. “Evaluating the effects of China's pollution control on inter-annual trends and uncertainties of atmospheric mercury emissions.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 15: 4317–4337. Publisher's VersionAbstract
China's atmospheric mercury (Hg) emissions of anthropogenic origin have been effectively restrained through the national policy of air pollution control. Improved methods based on available field measurements are developed to quantify the benefits of Hg abatement through various emission control measures. Those measures include increased use of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and selective catalyst reduction (SCR) systems for power sector, precalciners with fabric filter (FF) for cement production, machinery coking with electrostatic precipitator (ESP) for iron and steel production, and advanced manufacturing technologies for nonferrous metal smelting. Declining trends in emissions factors for those sources are revealed, leading to a much slower growth of national total Hg emissions than that of energy and economy, from 679 in 2005 to 750 metric tons (t) in 2012. In particular, nearly half of emissions from the above-mentioned four types of sources are expected to be reduced in 2012, attributed to expansion of technologies with high energy efficiencies and air pollutant removal rates after 2005. The speciation of Hg emissions keeps stable for recent years, with the mass fractions of around 55, 39 and 6% for Hg0, Hg2+ and Hgp, respectively. The lower estimate of Hg emissions than previous inventories is supported by limited chemistry simulation work, but middle-to-long term observation on ambient Hg levels is further needed to justify the inter-annual trends of estimated Hg emissions. With improved implementation of emission controls and energy saving, 23% reduction in annual Hg emissions for the most optimistic case in 2030 is expected compared to 2012, with total emissions below 600 t. While Hg emissions are evaluated to be gradually constrained, increased uncertainties are quantified with Monte-Carlo simulation for recent years, particularly for power and certain industrial sources. The uncertainty of Hg emissions from coal-fired power plants, as an example, increased from −48 ~ +73% in 2005 to −50 ~ +89% in 2012 (expressed as 95% confidence interval). This is attributed mainly to swiftly increased penetration of advanced manufacturing and pollutant control technologies. The unclear operation status or relatively small sample size of field measurements on those technologies results in lower but highly varied emission factors. To further confirm the benefits of pollution control polices with reduced uncertainty, therefore, systematic investigations are recommended specific for Hg pollution sources, and the variability of temporal trends and spatial distributions of Hg emissions need to be better tracked for the country under dramatic changes in economy, energy and air pollution status.
Huang, Junling, and Michael B McElroy. 2015. “Thermodynamic disequilibrium of the atmosphere in the context of global warming.” Climate Dynamics, no. (March). Publisher's VersionAbstract

The atmosphere is an example of a non-equilibrium system. This study explores the relationship among temperature, energy and entropy of the atmosphere, introducing two variables that serve to quantify the thermodynamic disequilibrium of the atmosphere. The maximum work, Wmax, that the atmosphere can perform is defined as the work developed through a thermally reversible and adiabatic approach to thermodynamic equilibrium with global entropy conserved. The maximum entropy increase, (ΔS)max, is defined as the increase in global entropy achieved through a thermally irreversible transition to thermodynamic equilibrium without performing work. Wmax is identified as an approximately linear function of (ΔS)max. Large values of Wmax or S)max correspond to states of high thermodynamic disequilibrium. The seasonality and long-term historical variation of Wmax and S)max are computed, indicating highest disequilibrium in July, lowest disequilibrium in January with no statistically significant trend over the past 32 years. The analysis provides a perspective on the interconnections of temperature, energy and entropy for the atmosphere and allows for a quantitative investigation of the deviation of the atmosphere from thermodynamic equilibrium. 

Zhang, Yanxia, Haikun Wang, Sai Liang, Ming Xu, Qiang Zhang, Hongyan Zhao, and Jun Bi. 2015. “A dual strategy for controlling energy consumption and air pollution in China's metropolis of Beijing.” Energy 81 (1 March): 294-303. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

It is critical to alleviate problems of energy and air pollutant emissions in a metropolis because these areas serve as economic engines and have large and dense populations. Drivers of fossil fuel use and air pollutants emissions were analyzed in the metropolis of Beijing during 1997-2010. The analyses were conducted from both a bottom-up and a top-down perspective based on the sectoral inventories and structural decomposition analysis (SDA). From a bottom-up perspective, the key energy-intensive industrial sectors directly caused the variations in Beijing's air pollution by means of a series of energy and economic policies. From a top-down perspective, variations in production structures caused increases in most materials during 2000-2010, but there were decreases in PM10 and PM2.5 emissions during 2005-2010. Population growth was found to be the largest driver of energy consumption and air pollutant emissions during 1997-2010. This finding suggests that avoiding rapid population growth in Beijing could simultaneously control energy consumption and air pollutant emissions. Mitigation policies should consider not only the key industrial sectors but also socioeconomic drivers to co-reduce energy consumption and air pollution in China's metropolis.

Huang, Junling, and Michael B McElroy. 2015. “A 32-year perspective on the origin of wind energy in a warming climate.” Renewable Energy 77 (May): 482-492. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Based on assimilated meteorological data for the period January 1979 to December 2010, the origin of wind energy is investigated from both mechanical and thermodynamic perspectives, with special focus on the spatial distribution of sources, historical long term variations and the efficiency for kinetic energy production. The dry air component of the atmosphere acts as a thermal engine, absorbing heat at higher temperatures, approximately 256 K, releasing heat at lower temperatures, approximately 252 K. The process is responsible for production of wind kinetic energy at a rate of 2.46 W/m2  sustaining thus the circulation of the atmosphere against frictional dissipation. The results indicate an upward trend in kinetic energy production over the past 32 years, indicating that wind energy resources may be varying in the current warming climate. This analysis provides an analytical framework that can be adopted for future studies addressing the ultimate wind energy potential and the possible perturbations to the atmospheric circulation that could arise as a result of significant exploitation of wind energy.    

Cui, Hongfei, Pan Mao, Yu Zhao, Chris P Nielsen, and Jie Zhang. 2015. “Patterns in atmospheric carbonaceous aerosols in China: Emission estimates and observed concentrations.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 15: 8657–8678. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China is experiencing severe carbonaceous aerosol pollution driven mainly by large emissions from intensive use of solid fuels. To gain a better understanding of the levels and trends of carbonaceous aerosol emissions and the resulting ambient concentrations at the national scale, we update an emission inventory of anthropogenic organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC), and employ existing observational studies to analyze characteristics of these aerosols including temporal, spatial, and size distributions, and the levels and contributions of secondary organic carbon (SOC) to total OC. We further use ground observations to test the levels and inter-annual trends of the calculated national and provincial emissions of carbonaceous aerosols, and propose possible improvements in emission estimation for the future. The national OC emissions are estimated to have increased 29% from 2000 (2127 Gg) to 2012 (2749 Gg) and EC by 37% (from 1356 to 1857 Gg). The residential, industrial, and transportation sectors contributed an estimated 76±2%, 19±2% and 5±1% of the total emissions of OC, respectively, and 52±3%, 32±2% and 16±2% of EC. Updated emission factors based on the most recent local field measurements, particularly for biofuel stoves, lead to considerably lower emissions of OC compared to previous inventories. Compiling observational data across the country, higher concentrations of OC and EC are found in northern and inland cities, while larger OC/EC and SOC/OC ratios are found in southern cities, due to the joint effects of primary emissions and meteorology. Higher SOC/OC ratios are estimated at rural and background sites compared to urban ones, attributed to more emissions of OC from biofuel use, more biogenic emissions of volatile organic compound (VOC) precursors to SOC, and/or transport of aged aerosols. For most sites, higher concentrations of OC, EC, and SOC are observed in colder seasons, while SOC/OC is reduced, particularly at regional sites, attributed partly to weaker atmospheric oxidation and SOC formation compared to summer. Enhanced SOC formation from oxidization and anthropogenic activities like biomass combustion is judged to have crucial effects on severe haze events characterized by high particle concentrations. Several observational studies indicate an increasing trend in ambient OC/EC (but not in OC or EC individually) from 2000 to 2010, confirming increased atmospheric oxidation of OC across the country. Combining the results of emission estimation and observations, the improvement over prior emission inventories is indicated by inter-annual comparisons and correlation analysis. It is also indicated, however, that the estimated growth in emissions might be faster than observed growth, and that some sources with high primary OC/EC like burning of biomass are still underestimated. Further studies to determine changing emission factors over time in the residential sector and to compare to other measurements such as satellite observations are thus suggested to improve understanding of the levels and trends of primary carbonaceous aerosol emissions in China.

Deng, Yu, Shenghe Liu, Jianming Cai, Xi Lu, and Chris P Nielsen. 2015. “Spatial pattern and evolution of Chinese provincial population: Methods and empirical study.” Journal of Geographical Sciences 25 (12): 1507-1520. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China has been experiencing an unprecedented urbanization process. In 2011, China’s urban population reached 691 million with an urbanization rate of 51.27%. Urbanization level is expected to increase to 70% in China in 2030, reflecting the projection that nearly 300 million people would migrate from rural areas to urban areas over this period. At the same time, the total fertility rate of China’s population is declining due to the combined effect of economic growth, environmental carrying capacity, and modern social consciousness. The Chinese government has loosened its “one-child policy” gradually by allowing childbearing couples to have the second child as long as either of them is from a one-child family. In such rapidly developing country, the natural growth and spatial migration will consistently reshape spatial pattern of population. An accurate prediction of the future spatial pattern of population and its evolution trend are critical to key policy-making processes and spatial planning in China including urbanization, land use development, ecological conservation and environmental protection. In this paper, a top-down method is developed to project the spatial distribution of China’s future population with considerations of both natural population growth at provincial level and the provincial migration from 2010 to 2050. Building on this, the spatial pattern and evolution trend of Chinese provincial population are analyzed. The results suggested that the overall spatial pattern of Chinese population will be unlikely changed in next four decades, with the east area having the highest population density and followed by central area, northeast and west area. Four provinces in the east, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Jiangsu, will remain the top in terms of population density in China, and Xinjiang, Qinghai and Tibet will continue to have the lowest density of population. We introduced an index system to classify the Chinese provinces into three categories in terms of provincial population densities: Fast Changing Populated Region (FCPR), Low Changing Populated Region (LCPR) and Inactive Populated Region (IPR). In the FCPR, China’s population is projected to continue to concentrate in net immigration leading type (NILT) area where receives nearly 99% of new accumulated floating population. Population densities of Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang will peak in 2030, while the population density in Guangdong will keep increasing until 2035. Net emigration leading type (NELT) area will account for 75% of emigration population, including Henan, Anhui, Chongqing and Hubei. Natural growth will play a dominant role in natural growth leading type area, such as Liaoning and Shandong, because there will be few emigration population. Due to the large amount of moving-out labors and gradually declining fertility rates, population density of the LCPR region exhibits a downward trend, except for Fujian and Hainan. The majority of the western provinces will be likely to remain relatively low population density, with an average value of no more than 100 persons per km2.

Wang, Haikun, Yanxia Zhang, Xi Lu, Chris P Nielsen, and Jun Bi. 2015. “Understanding China's carbon dioxide emissions from both production and consumption perspectives.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 52: 189-200. Publisher's VersionAbstract

China is now the largest emitter of CO2 in the world, having contributed nearly half of the global increase in carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010. The existing literature on China’s carbon emissions has focused on two dimensions: the amount of CO2 emitted within China’s geographical boundaries (a production-based perspective), and the drivers of, and responsibility for, these emissions (a consumption-based perspective). The current study begins with a comprehensive review of China’s CO2 emissions, and then analyzes their driving forces from both consumption and production perspectives, at both national and provincial levels. It is concluded that China’s aggregate national CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption and cement production maintained high growth rates during 2000-2010. National emissions reached 6.8–7.3 billion tons in 2007, nearly 25% of which were caused by net exports (i.e., exports minus imports) to other countries. However, emission characteristics varied significantly among different regions and provinces, and considerable emission leakage from the developed eastern regions to inland and western areas of the country was found. The objectives of China’s policies should therefore be broadened from continued improvement of energy efficiency to accelerating regional technology transfer and preventing mere relocation of carbon-intensive economic activities from developed coastal regions to less developed, inland provinces. To rapidly and effectively cut down China’s carbon emissions, moreover, its energy supply should be aggressively decarbonized by promoting renewable and low carbon energy sources.

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