Researchers call for carbon-negative power generation for China

A new study has found that China could adopt technologies that actually reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere in an economically competitive way. Bioenergy would play a big role here.

Many of us are familiar with carbon-neutral energy sources such as wind and solar. Carbon-negative technologies take that one step further: they are energy sources that actually reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The idea is not new, but implementing such technologies in an economically viable manner, particularly in large, coal-reliant countries like China, has proven impractical.

Now, an international team of researchers from the US, China and Australia has published a study showing that China could move towards negative carbon power without harming economic growth.

“The system we describe not only offers a carbon-negative alternative to generate electricity in the long run but also brings significant near-term co-benefit to reducing air pollution in China,” said first author Xi Lu of Tsinghua University.

Their solution is based on the process of converting biomass into energy and then capturing and storing the waste carbon dioxide, known as BECCS or bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. While a much talked-about system, it is not very efficient and requires massive amounts of land to grow the plants needed to power the plant, would in turn could result in global food and water shortages.

The researchers set out to make it more efficient by adding coal to the mix. While an unlikely solution for green energy, they discovered that when you combine biofuel with coal and gasify the mixture, it allow you to develop a pure source of hydrogen. They also looked at using crop residue as a biofuel and found that collecting the stubble after a harvest for biofuel would not only reduce CO2 but significantly improve air quality as it would no longer be burned by farmers clearing their fields of stubble.

Image credit: ©wusuowei – Fotolia

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