China's chemical industry set for massive changes

By ng Cong and Wang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/11 21:08:40

Nation mounts drive to reduce environmental impact, move up value chain

Aerial view of the debris of the chemical plant of Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, East China's Jiangsu Province on March 23 after an explosion. Photo: IC

China's chemical industry could see major relocations and closures of plants and industrial parks this year amid a nationwide safety crackdown following a couple of deadly factory blasts in East China. 

Experts said that the industry is shifting to a greener, more efficient model, with a focus on developing high added-value materials.

Initial assessments by regulators have revealed that about 30 percent of the country's 676 chemical industry parks have no safety regulation platforms, the Economic Information Daily reported, citing an unidentified official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Two-thirds of the industrial parks lacked proper facilities to handle hazardous waste, and nearly 9 percent of industrial parks lacked proper sewage treatment facilities, according to the report.

The MIIT is reportedly working with other government agencies to set up standards to evaluate chemical industrial parks and conduct a thorough assessment of safety risks, which could result in relocations and even closures.

The chemical sector has been under close regulatory scrutiny after a pair of deadly explosions at chemical plants in East China's Jiangsu Province killed a total of 85 people and injured dozens more in March.

Both the central and local governments have in recent days moved swiftly to launch crackdown campaigns to eliminate risks. 

So far, at least half a dozen provinces where chemical plants are concentrated, including East China's Jiangsu and Shandong provinces, have announced rectification measures.

An employee at Jiangsu Debang Chemical Group told the Global Times on Thursday that the company significantly enhanced its security procedures after being informed of rectification measures by local governments shortly after the deadly explosions.

Another chemical company based in Zibo, Shandong Province said it was also informed of similar rectification measures recently.

The Jiangsu provincial government reportedly plans to close as many as 30 industrial parks that house chemical plants and shut down thousands of individual plants. Shandong, which reportedly shut down more than 1,500 chemical plants in 2018, has also announced a three-month special safety inspection.

Under harsh environmental regulations and pressure to cut excess capacity, local governments have already moved to relocate or close down chemical companies. At the end of 2018, local officials identified 1,176 companies that required rectification, including 337 that should be shut down, according to the Economic Information Daily. 

Wang Julin, a professor of College of Materials Science and Engineering at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, told the Global Times on Thursday it's obvious that China is accelerating moves to rectify and shut down companies that use lots of energy, produce large amounts of pollution and have excess capacity, while stepping up plans to develop high added-value materials and products.

"China is upgrading the chemical industry to international standards. Energy-intensive products and basic materials are expected to be imported in the future," Wang added.
Newspaper headline: Chemical industry set for massive changes


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