Coal difficult but necessary choice for Sino-Russian energy expansion

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-10 23:58:01

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Editor's Note:

China has expressed its willingness to increase its import of Russian coal and electricity. What role will coal play in Sino-Russian energy cooperation? How can its environmental impact be minimized? The Beijing News Center of RIA Novosti Agency held a video conference to analyze the prospect of China-Russia coal cooperation and invited experts on energy to exchange views.

Ivan Grachev, chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for Energy

It is widely reported that we have entered into an era of shale gas revolution with Europe and North America striving to develop shale gas. However, such remarks somewhat distort the facts about the world's energy situation.

In actuality, natural gas will enjoy rapid development because of its green and environment-friendly nature. It is estimated that the production of coal, natural gas and crude oil will reach similar levels and solar energy and wind power will account for more than 6 percent during 2035 and 2040.

Moscow attaches great importance to the utilization of coal, since the establishment of coal power plants will become a focus of Sino-Russian energy cooperation in the near future.

Russia has a large territory to accommodate energy projects and therefore China can invest in a number of highly efficient and environmentally friendly power plants.

China's proposal of green energy utilization is a significant step forward and we should also enhance our cooperation over this for the sake of the deteriorating environment.

Moreover, both Moscow and Beijing lag behind in developing the added value of energy products and can thereby collaborate more on coal refining and processing.

After being engaged in exporting pure mineral resources for a long time, Russia is willing to learn coal mining machinery and manufacturing technologies from its Chinese counterparts. Meanwhile, it can provide more scientific support for China in coal exploitation and development.

Sun Yongxiang, a research fellow with the Euro-Asian Social Development Research Institute of the Development Research Center of the State Council

With easy access and low costs, coal has long been the most widely used energy source in China. With an output of 3.66 billion tons in 2012, China has become the biggest coal producer. Nonetheless, with a rapidly growing economy, China is expected to import about 15 million tons of coal from Russia a year.

However, coal burning has caused severe pollution. Many industrialized cities in China, especially Beijing, are shrouded in a murky haze with high PM 2.5 readings, which is caused by the irrational energy structures. China needs to consider implementing long-term energy policies from a strategic perspective and integrate them with economic and social development as well as people's demands.

Some 90 percent of the combustive components of coal have not been used in an appropriate way.

In addition, most open cast coal mines throughout Russia are in desperate need of both human resources and financial support given their outdated facilities and high costs. 

We must attach importance to reasonable use of coal apart from complementing each other's advantages. We should also communicate more about coal liquefaction and gasification technologies.

Chen Yafei, a research fellow with Beijing Research Institute of Coal Chemistry of China Coal Research Institute

Developed countries take oil and natural gas as major forms of energy while coal is the principal power source in China and will definitely enjoy development by leaps and bounds.

We have to distinguish between coking coal and power coal. China lacks high-quality coking coal. It has advanced blast furnace technology that requires a great deal of coking coal, and relevant authorities have already named it as a protected resource. Russia has an edge in possessing such a natural resource to feed its partner's huge market.

As for the specific ways to expand Sino-Russian cooperation in coal, we need to make proper plans, conduct meticulous evaluations of coal in both countries, and build more railways.

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