China is aggressively promoting hydrogen-related energy development to reduce emissions as it strives for carbon neutrality by 2060.


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The country aims to retrofit coal-based utilities to shift from coal to hydrogen for power generation, targeting 100 gigawatts of hydrogen-based generation capacity by 2050, and doubling that by 2060, according to Global Energy Interconnection Development & Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), a non-profit international group that promotes the sustainable development of energy worldwide.

China is striving to reduce emissions from power generation by using hydrogen, gas and renewable energy to completely phase out the use of higher-emission coal by 2060.

Pathways to carbon neutrality goal

That will significantly contribute to a lower-carbon future as part of its commitment to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

In its latest study, the Beijing-headquartered group has outlined multiple pathways to achieve a reduced carbon footprint through the use of natural gas and renewables.

The capacity of gas-fired power units will balloon to 185GW by 2030, expandable to 330GW by 2050.

The capacity of gas-fired power generation is expected to then decline to 320GW by 2060 as more renewable power comes online, said the report, released on 18 March.

Solar, wind and hydropower

Other initiatives include expanding the solar power generation capacity to 1 terawatt by 2030, 3.2TW by 2050 and 3.55TWby 2060.

Wind power capacity will be bolstered to 800GW in 2030, 2.2TW in 2050 and 2.5TW in 2060, according to the report.

In the meantime, the country will boost hydropower to 440GW in 2030, 570GW in 2050 and 580GW in 2060.

The next 40 years will also see nuclear power increase to 110GW in 2030, 200GW in 2050 and 250GWin 2060.

Oil consumption is expected to peak in 2030 at 1.06 billion tonnes of coal equivalent, and to drop to 220 million tonnes of coal equivalent by 2060.

Coal-fired power generation will be phased out over the next 40 years by 2060, after peaking at 1.1TW in 2025.

Addressing climate change is one of China’s urgent priorities as Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed last week that China will try to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Switching from coal to fuels such as natural gas and hydrogen can accelerate China's transition to a low-to-zero carbon future, the report said.

Hydrogen for power generation could come from multiple sources including bioethanol catalytic steam reforming, with and without carbon capture.

The report said that by 2060, China could produce 50 million tonnes per annum of hydrogen, up from 25 million tpa now.

Of its current hydrogen production, 3 million tpa are refinery byproducts, 3 million tpa are from natural gas, 10 million tpa are from coal, and 9 million tpa are from other technologies.

Industry officials said China has a long way to go to power electricity units with hydrogen, as it has to develop hydrogen-fuelled gas turbines with industrial scale.

US setting standard

GE is working to shift its combined cycle gas turbine power plant to run partially on hydrogen by late 2021, which is considered to be the world’s first industrial-scale power plant running partially on hydrogen.

The 485-megawatt facility is planned as a pure combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility.

Such a facility routes the waste heat from the gas turbine to a nearby steam turbine, which generates extra power.

The Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Hannibal, Ohio, in the US is now set to burn a percentage of carbon-free hydrogen in the power plant when commercial operations are expected to begin in November 2021.