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China & Coal

May 18, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




As we know, coal consumption has stalled in the last year or so in China. This has led to much speculation about the role of renewable energy and China’s promise to reduce the carbon intensity of their economy.




Without wanting to disappoint the greenies, the reality is rather more mundane.

The simple fact is that steel output in China has not only stalled as well, but provisional data for 2015 shows it declining.




Steel production, of course, is heavily dependent on coal, both for coke in the blast furnace process, and for electricity.

Moreover, steel consumption in China is falling faster than output, which is being held up by increased exports. The World Steel Association statistics show that consumption fell by 25 million tonnes, or 3% between 2013 and 2014. No figures are available for 2015 yet, but it seems inevitable that there will be an even bigger drop.

This all means that, as well as reduced coal consumption in the steel making processes, there has also been reduced activity in downstream steel using industries, themselves highly energy intensive.

What the future holds for China’s economy is anybody’s guess. My own view is that GDP growth will be much less than they have planned for. If this is so, energy consumption and emissions will grow much more slowly in the past.

But none of this will have anything to do with the Chinese wanting to save the planet.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    May 18, 2016 11:53 am

    With prescient timing, a few hours ago the Beeb reports a factor which will further assist a steel-related CO2 emissions reduction from China:

    “US slaps China steel imports with fivefold tax increase”

  2. NeilC permalink
    May 18, 2016 2:07 pm

    What are facts to the BBC, anything that fits with the big green scam.

  3. John F. Hultquist permalink
    May 18, 2016 9:53 pm

    Along with all the other things going on, there is this:
    Because Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs) can produce steel from 100% scrap – or cold ferrous – feed, less energy per unit of production is needed. As opposed to basic oxygen hearths, operations can also be stopped and started with little associated cost. For these reasons, production via EAFs has been steadily increasing for over 50 years and now accounts for about 33% of global steel production.

    Minor correction to your post: XXXX = than
    If this is so, energy consumption and emissions will grow much more slowly XXXX in the past.

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    May 19, 2016 12:37 am

    I guess this belongs here:

    I commented before on how China’s coal statistics are a can of worms. I dug out my history of BP World Energy Reviews to produce this chart based on 2011, 2014 and 2015 reviews. It shows domestic production and its implied average calorific value (in kcal/kg, the standard measure in coal trading), and consumption as reported in each year in mtoe.

    The first thing to note is the massive changes in implied calorific value of production: in 2011, BP had shown a history of steadily improving average quality. By 2014 they were completely unsure of themselves, and so used a flat figure of 5,000 throughout as a holding device. In 2015, they appear to have had some grounds for revising the calorific data from 2000 onwards – ending with sharp falls from 2007 onwards in average quality mined, implying a large increase in lignite production at the expense of quality coals (with likely emissions consequences, no doubt…).

    It’s also worth noting that the upward revision in historical consumption figures is entirely responsible for the decline: the mtoe figure previously reported for 2013 was actually 1.9% lower than the 2014 figure. The figures for consumption in 2007 range between 1320 and 1573 mtoe – nearly 20%. That’s a lot of rope for conveying whatever message you want to convey. In China’s case it seems they now prefer to warm the past to make the future look better. I’ll leave others to note some of the other discrepancies that the varying statistics produce.

  5. May 19, 2016 9:35 am

    Some relevant China stats here.

    ‘Electricity generation in 2015 increased only 0.3%, to 5.81 PWh. That from fossil fuels was 4242 TWh, from hydro 1126 TWh, nuclear 171 TWh and renewables 271 TWh, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Nuclear was the fastest-growing electricity source in 2015 (29% growth), while generation from fossil fuels dropped 2.7%, due to weak economic conditions more than the ongoing energy transformation.’

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