Realizing the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C by the end of this century will most likely require deployment of carbon-negative technologies. It is particularly important that China, as the world’s top carbon emitter, avoids being locked into carbon-intensive, coal-fired power-generation technologies and undertakes a smooth transition from high- to negative-carbon electricity production. We focus here on deploying a combination of coal and biomass energy to produce electricity in China using an integrated gasification cycle system combined with carbon capture and storage (CBECCS). Such a system will also reduce air pollutant emissions, thus contributing to China’s near-term goal of improving air quality. We evaluate the bus-bar electricity-generation prices for CBECCS with mixing ratios of crop residues varying from 0 to 100%, as well as associated costs for carbon mitigation and cobenefits for air quality. We find that CBECCS systems employing a crop residue ratio of 35% could produce electricity with net-zero life-cycle emissions of greenhouse gases, with a levelized cost of electricity of no more than 9.2 US cents per kilowatt hour. A carbon price of approximately $52.0 per ton would make CBECCS cost-competitive with pulverized coal power plants. Therefore, our results provide critical insights for designing a CBECCS strategy in China to harness near-term air-quality cobenefits while laying the foundation for achieving negative carbon emissions in the long run.
The chemical mechanisms responsible for rapid sulfate production, an important driver of winter haze formation in northern China, remain unclear. Here, we propose a potentially important heterogeneous hydroxymethanesulfonate (HMS) chemical mechanism. Through analyzing field measurements with aerosol mass spectrometry, we show evidence for a possible significant existence in haze aerosols of organosulfur primarily as HMS, misidentified as sulfate in previous observations. We estimate that HMS can account for up to about one-third of the sulfate concentrations unexplained by current air quality models. Heterogeneous production of HMS by SO2 and formaldehyde is favored under northern China winter haze conditions due to high aerosol water content, moderately acidic pH values, high gaseous precursor levels, and low temperature. These analyses identify an unappreciated importance of formaldehyde in secondary aerosol formation and call for more research on sources and on the chemistry of formaldehyde in northern China winter.
pH is an important property of aerosol particles but is difficult to measure directly. Several studies have estimated the pH values for fine particles in North China winter haze using thermodynamic models (i.e., E-AIM and ISORROPIA) and ambient measurements. The reported pH values differ widely, ranging from close to 0 (highly acidic) to as high as 7 (neutral). In order to understand the reason for this discrepancy, we calculated pH values using these models with different assumptions with regard to model inputs and particle phase states. We find that the large discrepancy is due primarily to differences in the model assumptions adopted in previous studies. Calculations using only aerosol phase composition as inputs (i.e., reverse mode) are sensitive to the measurement errors of ionic species and inferred pH values exhibit a bimodal distribution with peaks between −2 and 2 and between 7 and 10. Calculations using total (gas plus aerosol phase) measurements as inputs (i.e., forward mode) are affected much less by the measurement errors, and results are thus superior to those obtained from the reverse mode calculations. Forward mode calculations in this and previous studies collectively indicate a moderately acidic condition (pH from about 4 to about 5) for fine particles in North China winter haze, indicating further that ammonia plays an important role in determining this property. The differences in pH predicted by the forward mode E-AIM and ISORROPIA calculations may be attributed mainly to differences in estimates of activity coefficients for hydrogen ions. The phase state assumed, which can be either stable (solid plus liquid) or metastable (only liquid), does not significantly impact pH predictions of ISORROPIA.
Emissions of air pollutants in East Asia play an important role in the regional and global atmospheric environment. In this study we evaluated the recent emission trends of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) in East Asia, and projected their future emissions up until 2030 with six emission scenarios. The results will provide future emission projections for the modeling community of the model inter-comparison program for Asia (MICS-Asia). During 2005–2010, the emissions of SO2 and PM2.5 in East Asia decreased by 15 and 12%, respectively, mainly attributable to the large-scale deployment of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) at China's power plants, and the promotion of highly efficient PM removal technologies in China's power plants and cement industry. During this period, the emissions of NOx and NMVOC increased by 25 and 15%, driven by rapid increase in the emissions from China due to inadequate control strategies. In contrast, the NOx and NMVOC emissions in East Asia except China decreased by 13–17%, mainly due to the implementation of stringent vehicle emission standards in Japan and South Korea. Under current regulations and current levels of implementation, NOx, SO2, and NMVOC emissions in East Asia are projected to increase by about one-quarter over 2010 levels by 2030, while PM2.5 emissions are expected to decrease by 7%. Assuming enforcement of new energy-saving policies, emissions of NOx, SO2, PM2.5 and NMVOC in East Asia are expected to decrease by 28, 36, 28, and 15%, respectively, compared with the baseline case. The implementation of "progressive" end-of-pipe control measures would lead to another one-third reduction of the baseline emissions of NOx, and about one-quarter reduction of SO2, PM2.5, and NMVOC. Assuming the full application of technically feasible energy-saving policies and end-of-pipe control technologies, the emissions of NOx, SO2, and PM2.5 in East Asia would account for only about one-quarter, and NMVOC for one-third, of the levels of the baseline projection. Compared with previous projections, this study projects larger reductions in NOx and SO2 emissions by considering aggressive governmental plans and standards scheduled to be implemented in the next decade, and quantifies the significant effects of detailed progressive control measures on NMVOC emissions up until 2030.
China is the largest atmospheric mercury (Hg) emitter in the world. Its Hg emissions and environmental impacts need to be evaluated. In this study, China's Hg emission inventory is updated to 2007 and applied in the GEOS-Chem model to simulate the Hg concentrations and depositions in China. Results indicate that simulations agree well with observed background Hg concentrations. The anthropogenic sources contributed 35–50% of THg concentration and 50–70% of total deposition in polluted regions. Sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the impacts of mercury emissions from power plants, non-ferrous metal smelters and cement plants. It is found that power plants are the most important emission sources in the North China, the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) while the contribution of non-ferrous metal smelters is most significant in the Southwest China. The impacts of cement plants are significant in the YRD, PRD and Central China.
Field measurements and data investigations were conducted for developing an emission factor database for inventories of atmospheric pollutants from Chinese coal-fired power plants. Gaseous pollutants and particulate matter (PM) of different size fractions were measured using a gas analyzer and an electric low-pressure impactor (ELPI), respectively, for ten units in eight coal-fired power plants across the country. Combining results of field tests and literature surveys, emission factors with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by boiler type, fuel quality, and emission control devices using bootstrap and Monte Carlo simulations. The emission factor of uncontrolled SO2 from pulverized combustion (PC) boilers burning bituminous or anthracite coal was estimated to be 18.0S kg t−1 (i.e., 18.0 × the percentage sulfur content of coal, S) with a 95% CI of 17.2S–18.5S. NOX emission factors for pulverized-coal boilers ranged from 4.0 to 11.2 kg t−1, with uncertainties of 14–45% for different unit types. The emission factors of uncontrolled PM2.5, PM10, and total PM emitted by PC boilers were estimated to be 0.4A (where A is the percentage ash content of coal), 1.5A and 6.9A kg t−1, respectively, with 95% CIs of 0.3A–0.5A, 1.1A–1.9A and 5.8A–7.9A. The analogous PM values for emissions with electrostatic precipitator (ESP) controls were 0.032A (95% CI: 0.021A–0.046A), 0.065A (0.039A–0.092A) and 0.094A (0.0656A–0.132A) kg t−1, and 0.0147A (0.0092–0.0225A), 0.0210A (0.0129A–0.0317A), and 0.0231A (0.0142A–0.0348A) for those with both ESP and wet flue-gas desulfurization (wet-FGD). SO2 and NOX emission factors for Chinese power plants were smaller than those of U.S. EPA AP-42 database, due mainly to lower heating values of coals in China. PM emission factors for units with ESP, however, were generally larger than AP-42 values, because of poorer removal efficiencies of Chinese dust collectors. For units with advanced emission control technologies, more field measurements are needed to reduce emission factor uncertainties.
Intake fractions, an emissions-intake relationship for primary pollutants, are defined and are estimated in order to make simple estimates of health damages from air pollution. The sulfur dioxide (SO2) and total suspended particles (TSP) intake fractions for five cities of China are estimated for the four main polluting industries—electric power generation, mineral (mostly cement) products industry, chemical process industry and metallurgical industry (mainly iron and steel smelting). The Industrial Source Complex Long Term (ISTLT3) model is used to simulate the spatial distribution of incremental ambient concentrations due to emissions from a large sample of site-specific sources. Detailed population distribution information is used for each city. The average intake fractions within 50 km of these sources are 4.4 × 10- 6 for TSP, and 4.2 × 10- 6 for SO2, with standard deviations of 8.15 × 10- 6 and 9.16 × 10- 6, respectively. They vary over a wide range, from 10- 7 to 10- 5. Although the electric power generation has been the focus of much of the air pollution research in China, our results show that it has the lowest average intake fraction for a local range among the four industries, which highlights the importance of pollutant emissions from other industrial sources. Sensitivity analyses show how the intake fractions are affected by the source and pollutant characteristics, the most important parameter being the size of the domain. However, the intake fraction estimates are robust enough to be useful for evaluating the local impacts on human health of primary SO2 and TSP emissions. An application of intake fractions is given to demonstrate how this approach provides a rapid population risk estimate if the dose-response function is linear without threshold, and hence can help in prioritizing pollution control efforts.
The Harvard-China Project adopted an Open Access policy in September 2017. Journal articles that are already made open access by the publishers are available on our publications page as PDF attachments, while the final manuscripts of other articles published since our adoption of the policy are available in the Harvard University open-access repository, DASH, under the Harvard-China Project collection. There is usually a six-month delay after the article is published before its manuscript is uploaded to DASH.