Pollution control in China has been at the forefront of the environmental reform portion of the latest China Five Year Plan. Coal fired power stations account for a vast majority of air and water pollution. The percentage of pollution that comes from these stations is determined by a few factors. One of these factors is the purity of the coal itself. “Dirty” coal can come from excess sulfur & phenol and generally produces a higher level of ash. Coal ash itself can be highly toxic if the coal is of low quality and is not burned or processed efficiently.
According to new testing completed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) in the north of China, this “dirty” coal is being commonly used. Samples were taken from areas in and around the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. Samples were collected from over 180 coal distribution centers. In each city, excessive pollutants were found in anywhere from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of all samples. MEP also inspected 10 thermal power coal stations used for residential heating in these areas and found that 7 of them had failed to meet coal quality standards.
This information comes at a time of interest to the Chinese public as northern China turns on central heating for the winter months, which increases energy demands for power plants. The smog that Beijing and other northern provinces experience year round then thickens due to this increase. As the new Five Year Plan unfolds from the People’s Republic, the issue of clean coal will need to be addressed to fit with the current emphasis on industry reform and environmental sanctions.