Yanchang CCUS – a new slice of history

Monday, 24 April 2017

It seemed only fitting that China’s first large-scale CCUS facility should rise in a city renowned as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road and the home of the third century Terracotta army.

Now a bustling, modern city of almost 9 million people, Xi’an is home to 8000 earthenware warriors which were buried in a mausoleum in 210–209 BCE to protect the emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in his afterlife.

Pertinently, the warriors were not actually discovered until 1974 when a group of farmers were digging a water well not far from where the Yanchang CCUS Facility is sited.

Global CCS Institute Asia Pacific General Manager, Alex Zapantis, was quick to remind attendees at the Global CCS Institute/Yanchang Petroleum CCUS Symposium of this historical fact.

He also recalled that the 1970s were significant since CCUS it was first deployed in 1974 (in Texas).

In his welcome speech to delegates, Alex said the Yanchang CCUS Facility represents a new slice of history and a series of historic “firsts” for China and Yanchang Petroleum.

“This is the first large-scale Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage facility to enter construction in China.

It is the first large-scale CCUS facility to enter construction in Asia.

It is also the first large-scale coal-to-chemicals CCS facility in China.

And thanks to Yanchang Petroleum and the leaders of Shaanxi Province, it is the first-time China, has used large-scale CCUS to reaffirm its commitment to addressing climate change.

That’s at least “four firsts” already - (if there is such a thing.)

Four years ago, Yanchang was an industrial plant venting CO2 into the atmosphere. Today, just four years later, it is a standard-bearer for clean technology.

When it is operational, the plant will capture between six and eight million tonnes of CO2 over the course of its life.

In 2015, Yanchang CCUS was identified as one of the key cooperation projects in the US-China Joint Presidential Statement by President Obama and President Xi.

That marked a first-time collaboration on CCS by the US-China Climate Change Working Group and the US-China Clean Energy Research Centre. Through those initiatives, Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum has partnered with the University of Virginia to foster the acceleration of CCS.

Mr Zapantis said that marked another historical first.

“If you are counting, I think we are up to “five firsts” now.”

Five is an auspicious number in Chinese numerology and is associated with the five elements – water, fire, earth, wood and metal.

However many “firsts” Yanchang CCUS actually represents,attendees universally agreed that China’s first large-scale CCUS facility is a landmark moment and it represents a new shining piece of climate change history.

As far as CCUS goes, China is most definitely on the march.