Expediting the Development of Clean Gas Energy

08/19/2015       Author:Guo Jiaofeng, Gao Shiji, Hong       Source:DRC, State Council

Expediting clean gas energies can effectively ease enormous pressures arising from energy security, environmental protection and emission reduction that confront China and can also tap new sources of economic growth, which should become one of the important strategic options for China to realize its sustainable development. To this end, China should promote the status of clean gas energies in its energy strategy, accelerate the market-oriented reform of the energy field, establish and improve the market access and mining right management system, relax the restrictions on industry access for clean gas energies, reform the energy pricing mechanism, tighten the supervision over backbone gas pipe networks, and provide more support for the development of shale gas and combustible ice mining technologies and carbon capture and storage technologies, so as to transform China's energy supply and consumption structure, support sustainable development and enhance ecological awareness.

I. Clean Gas Energies Are Ideal High-quality Energies for China

Clean gas energies are substances that are gasses in physical state under normal temperature and can provide energy or motive power under present economic and social technical conditions. They are usually low-molecular-weight (LMW) combustible gasses, such as the CH4-based hydrocarbon, hydrogen and carbon monoxide, including conventional gas, shale gas, coal-bed gas, coal-made methane and combustible ice, etc.

Clean gas energies boast themselves to be efficient, clean, economical and safe, and they are ideal high-quality energies for China.

First, they are widely used. Clean gas energies can be widely applied in the fields of power generation, heat supply, communication and transportation for gas vehicles.

Second, they are utilized efficiently (Table 1). In terms of the full life circle from raw material production, transmission to power generation, the energy efficiency of gas power is about 40%, while that of coal power is only 30%, with the former being approximately 35% higher than the latter.

Third, they can help reduce gas emissions such as pollutants and CO2 (Table 2). Compared with the coal of equivalent heat value, every thousand cubic meters of gas energy can reduce CO2 emissions and sulfur dioxide emissions by 4.33 tons and 0.0483 tons respectively, and does not involve, in the main, such hazardous substances as lead dust, sulfide and PM2.5.

Fourth, they are economical. According to statistics, although now in China there is a world of difference in clean gas energy production costs, however, the costs are on the whole lower than imported gas prices (pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas) by about 0.1 yuan~2.0 yuan/CBM, and are 20%~50% or so lower than the gasoline prices of equivalent heat value, enjoying competitive advantages in market.

Fifth, they are safe and reliable. It is easy to transport gas energies. Pipeline can be used for long-distance transport, and liquidation can be conducted under certain conditions in order to make the transport more convenient. The gas power system can get close to power load centers in China, without incurring long-distance transport and safety problems whereas that may occur with coal power and wind power. Gas energy is one of the most reliable high-quality energies.

  Table 1 Energy Efficiencies of Full-Life Circle (Supply Side) of Power Generation with Gas, Oil and Coal

Raw Material

Energy Efficiency (%)

Heat Value Per Unit Raw Material

Efficiency Comparison


Gas Power


Gas 8900




Oil Power


Oil 9000




Coal Power


Coal 6800




Note: energy efficiency=recoverable energy efficiency×intermediate-link energy efficiency×terminal energy efficiency. according to the ratio between the heat value of the fuels and the input fossil energy amount of full life circle (output-input ratio).

Source: Prospects for China's Automotive Energy 2012 (China Automotive Energy Research Center, Tsinghua University).

Table 2 CO2 Emissions from Gasses, Oil and Coal


Raw Material

Unit CO2Emission

CO2Emission Per Kilo of Standard Oil







Crude Oil











Note: The nitric oxide, carbon dioxide and PM2.5 exhausted by gas power are equivalent only to 19%, 42% and 5% respectively of those exhausted by coal power. Compared with fuel oil, CO2, hydrocarbon, sulfur oxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide exhausted by automotive fuel gasses can reduce by 25%, 80%, 99%, 90% and 80% or so, respectively.

Source: IPCC data.

II. Expediting the Development of Clean Gas Energies Is an Important Channel for Effectively Alleviating China's Energy Shortage and Air Pollution

The resource-rich clean gas energies should become an important option for the strategic decision-making of China's national energy security. In recent years, the energy security has become increasingly pregnant with grim possibilities in China and China's dependence on overseas oil and natural gas had mounted up constantly to 58.0% and 29.3% respectively at the end of 2012, up by 4.3 percentage points and 13.4 percentage points respectively as compared to 2010. According to statistics, by 2050 the global recoverable clean gas energy resources will come to approx. 1500 trillion cubic meters or so, and such resources can be used for 500 years based on the current consumption level. China abounds with clean gas energy resources (the geological resources amount to approx. 220 trillion cubic meters and the recoverable resources amount to approx. 132 trillion cubic meters, being 105.6 billion tons of oil equivalent), with a potential for development on a large scale and the resource foundation to become the mainstream energy resources in the future. In terms of conventional gas, China's geological conventional gas resources amount to 52 trillion cubic meters and the ultimate recoverable resource volume amounts to approx. 32 trillion cubic meters. In terms of the shale gas, the shale gas resources are equivalent to natural gas resources in China, with the recoverable resource volume amounting to approx. 25 trillion cubic meters. In terms of coal-bed gas, the geological coal-bed gas resources buried 2,000 meters below the earth surface or deeper amount to approx. 36.8 trillion cubic meters, with the recoverable resource volume amounting to approx. 10.8 trillion cubic meters. In terms of the coal-made methane, the output of China's coal-made methane is expected to reach 200 billion cubic meters in 2020. In terms of the combustible ice, the combustible ice resources are mainly distributed over South China Sea and the East China Sea areas and in tundra of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with the geological resource volume reaching approx. 83 trillion cubic meters.

Expediting the development of the clean gas energies should become an important option for integrated control over environmental pollution in China. According to research findings, gas consumption will grow continuously and rapidly in China to 230 billion cubic meters in 2015 and is expected to reach 400 billion cubic meters and 800 billion cubic meters respectively in 2020 and 2030, accounting for 10% and 15% or so respectively of the primary energy consumption structure. It is predicted that by 2020, 2030 and 2050, the clean gas energies can make up 25%, 35% and 45% respectively of the newly increased primary energy consumption structure in China, reducing the greenhouse gas emission by 1.3 billion tons (15 million tons of sulfur dioxide), 3.0 billion tons (34 million tons of sulfur dioxide) and 4.8 billion tons (54 million tons of sulfur dioxide) respectively each year, and by 2020 and 2050 the contribution rate of CO2 emission reduction will reach 20% and 50% or so, respectively. In consequence, devoting greater effort to developing clean gas energies can considerably reduce emissions by CO2, SO2, NOX, VOCs and PM2.5 and protect the ecological environment, and will become an important channel for effectively alleviating the increasingly worsening air pollution.