The Xinjiang Province located in the far western part of China, is one of China’s great industrial hubs. The Province a resource power house with abundant coal, gas and oil. The rapid development of Xinjiang’s economy has meant that the region’s total energy consumption has risen over 1000%. This rise is only matched by a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Around 100Mt of CO2 is emitted from industry facilities in the region, namely coal to X (CTX). The ‘X’ being everything from the foundation liquid of plastics to transport fuels — basically everything we use today. And during the production process a highly pure stream of CO2 is also made.
The Xinjiang Province off the Gobi Desert is not only isolated but it is also dry. Surface and ground water is scarce. Due to industrial and population growth in the region, as well as increasingly the impacts of climate change, water supply is stressed. According to the WRI, the Xinjiang Province has a high to extremely high water risk, the highest possible rating.
Chinese researchers are actively pursuing an innovative benefit of the CCS process — enhanced water recovery. By undertaking normal CO2 storage operation, researchers are looking to extract formation water to the surface at the same time as injecting CO2. This water can be used for industrial processes such as power stations and the CTX enterprises. An added benefit of water recovery is increasing CO2 injection rates and overall storage resource available over the life of a project.
For CCS operations, enhanced water recovery is still in the theoretical stage. But today significant amounts of formation water are produced during oil and gas production, in some cases exceeding the amount of oil or gas produced from a field.
Enhanced oil recovery is not the only use of CO2 in the region. Enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, using the abundant CO2 produced by the surrounding (in places next door) CTX industries is increasingly being appraised to reduce emissions and improve oil and gas recovery rates. Three companies Xinjiang Guanghui Fuyun Coal Gas CCUS Demonstration, Karamay Dunhua Oil CCUS and PetroChina’s Xinjiang Oilfield CCUS are currently undertaking feasibility studies and CO2 injection testing is underway
CCS for purely emissions reduction is also being pursued. The storage basins of the Province are highly suitable. According to the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, the total storage potential of the region is over 1000 gigatonnes of CO2 storage. In just one basin alone, the Junggar Basin in the north of the Province, there is a total storage resource of around over 90 gigatonnes of CO2 storage potential according to the China Geological Survey. These values significantly eclipse the total required to store CO2 from industrial and power sector source for the region and in fact China
Speaking to University students at Xinjiang University, the economist, botanist, geoscientist and engineers all recognised firsthand the impact of climate change. Their winters, which replenish water supplies are shorter and their famous Tien Shan Urumqi Glacier is receding. A final quote from a Student at the CCS School I attended. “we produce products for the world to use, but we are also a curse due to climate change, CCS can break this cycle”.
This article was written after the author attended a Workshop and CCS school hosted by Geoscience Australia and Administrative Centre for China’s Agenda 21, organised by Xinjiang University. More information can be found here.