China Eyes Geothermal as Solution to Cleaner Air

Smog over Beijing, China (source: flickr/ gmetrail, creative commons)
By Alexander Richter November 2016

Chinese oil company Sinopec is planning to build “20 smokeless cities” utilising geothermal energy during the next five years, as part of the government’s 13th five year plan.

The company plans to increase space heated by geothermal by 100 million square meters of geothermal heating & cooling, with the addition of 500 MW of installed geothermal capacity,” Wang Zizong, Deputy Chief Engineer of Sinopec Group, said at the 2016 China Geothermal International Forum in Beijing this week.

Sinopec built China’s first smokeless city using geothermal power in Xiong county, Baoding city, Hebei province, making it a replicable and sustainable demonstration project. At present Sinopec has expanded its geothermal development projects to 14 provinces and cities in China, with geothermal heating area exceeding 40 million square meters.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Geothermal ground source heat pump systems are one of the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available. About 70 percent of the energy used by a geothermal heat pump system comes in the form of renewable energy from the ground.   High-efficiency geothermal systems are on average 48 percent more efficient than gas furnaces, 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces, and 43 percent more efficient when in the cooling mode.

Since a geothermal heat pump system burns no fossil fuel on-site to produce heat, it generates far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional furnace, and completely eliminates a potential source of poisonous carbon monoxide within the home or building. Even factoring in its share of the emissions from the power plant that produces electricity to operate a geothermal heat pump system, total emissions are far lower than for conventional systems.

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