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Building the West Anew
Building the West Anew
UPDATED: January 19, 2010 Web Exclusive
Development Through Clean Energy
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region looks for clean energy solutions

Chen Jian, General Manager of Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Co. Ltd, briefs the information of the Hongsha nuclear power project (SHI GANG)

For Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the southernmost region in China's Western Development Strategy, energy shortage has become one of the major factors restricting local economic and social development.

In terms of geography, energy resources in Guangxi have always been deficient, as it lacks oil, coal and natural gas. Besides, the demand for electricity is gradually growing with the development of the region's Beibu Gulf economic zone.

According to Pang Hansheng, President of the Guangxi Federation of Social Sciences, the region should tap new resources and reduce expenses at the same time--on the one hand, exploring new resources such as nuclear energy, solar energy, wind energy, marine energy and biofuels, and on the other hand, establishing a social system of energy conservation and environmental protection, firmly carrying out the transformation of economic growth patterns.

Diversifying the energy system

December 2009 was the 10th anniversary of the launch of China's Western Development Strategy. Li Kang, Vice Chairman of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said the new focus of economic and social development in Guangxi is on diversifying the energy system, with clean energy as the highest priority.

"The 10th anniversary of China's Western Development Strategy is by no means an ending, but a new starting point," Li said.

Guangxi will take full advantage of a national incentive policy that gives priority to the development of new resources such as coastal nuclear power, biomass power and wind power. At the same time, regional authorities will encourage large projects and discourage small, energy-inefficient power plants. The thermal power plants in Beihai, Qinzhou and Fangchenggang will be expanded. A coastal coal distribution base, oil storage base, and the second pipeline of the West-to-East Gas Transmission Project as well as the Sino-Myanmar Gas Pipeline Project will be built as well, Li said.

Currently, Guangxi is developing several projects including the Longtan hydroelectric project, nuclear power projects in inland and coastal areas, the renewable energy power generation program, the Yunnan-to-Guangxi electric power transmission project, coal cooperation projects between Guangxi and the neighboring province of Guizhou, and energy cooperation projects between Guangxi and Viet Nam, Li said. 

The electric installed capacity of Guangxi will reach 60 million kilowatts by 2020, Li added.

In parallel with energy development, Guangxi is also paying attention to environmental protection. For instance, the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) Guangxi branch invested 1 billion yuan (about $146.4 million) in its 10-million-ton petroleum-refining project on environmental protection, covering everything from sewage and sulfur recycling equipment to the establishment of water pollution prevention and control measures.

The project meets the international environmental protection standard for clean production, with the sulfur recycling rate over 98.5 percent and the sewage recycling rate over 80 percent.

"Three alcohol product lines and 14 food industries producing cassava starch without clean production measures have been shut down over the past three years. The de-sulfurization system for thermal power plants has been intensified as well," Feng Zhennian, Deputy Director General of the department of environmental protection in Guangxi, told Beijing Review. "By the end of 2008, sulfur and carbon emissions had dropped 9.64 percent and 5.34 percent, respectively, compared with those of 2005. By the first half of 2009, sulfur and carbon emissions had dropped another 10.95 per cent and 2.04 per cent, respectively."

The region's first nuclear power station

The Hongsha nuclear power project, located in Hongsha Village in Fangchenggang City, southern Guangxi, is the first step in the region's development of nuclear power.

Chen Jian, General Manager of Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Co. Ltd, said the company will construct six 100kw nuclear power plants using pressurized water reactors (PWRs), with a total budget of 70 billion yuan (about $10.26 billion).

Presently, the first stage of construction is establishing two 100kw PWR nuclear power plants with a budget of 27.2 billion yuan (about $3.99 billion), Chen said.

According to Chen, a nuclear power station incurs lower costs in construction and environmental damage and covers less area than facilities generating clean energy, such as wind energy and solar energy. Meanwhile, it runs cleaner than a thermal power station.

"It is a relatively mature renewable energy for now," Chen said.

The station, located in the coastal area of Fangchenggang, will use a 5-km pipe to discharge sewage into the deep sea in order to reduce the impact on the coastal ecosystem.

Making use of biofuels

COFCO Group (under the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corp.) in Beihai, southern Guangxi, produces 200,000 tons of fuel ethanol per year by crushing and fermenting cassava, then mixing it with gasoline.

Since starting production in December 2007, the annual output of fuel ethanol of Biomass Energy Co. Ltd., a COFCO subsidiary in Guangxi, hit 200,000 tons. It has also pushed forward local agricultural development by demanding 1.5 million tons of cassava per year as raw material.

As the biggest cassava-producing region in China, Guangxi produces 6 to 7 million tons per year, accounting for 60 per cent of the national total. Previously, much of it was used for animal feed and industrial ethanol, with less value added and more pollution. The cassava-fuel ethanol project utilizes this rich resource more effectively.

According to He Xiaoping, Vice General Manager of Biomass Energy Co. Ltd., the project has three major advantages. First, it reduces the cost of gasoline by diluting it with 10 percent ethanol. Second, carbon emissions from ethanol-gasoline are 30 percent lower than those of regular gasoline, contributing to carbon emissions reduction and environmental protection. Finally, the project promotes the local economy, increasing annual revenue for cassava planters by 300 yuan per mu (about $660 per hectare).

"The production of fuel ethanol is based on the principles of a recycling economy and clean production," He told Beijing Review. "During production, cassava residue is used partly for animal feed, and partly for fuel ethanol. Meanwhile, after water treatment, the waste can be transformed into usable marsh gas, without any other pollution at all."

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