Water Footprint Assessment for Coal-to-Gas in China

Abstract

To increase its domestic gas production and achieve cleaner end-use utilization of its coal resources, China is actively promoting its coal-to-gas (CTG) industry. However, one of the major concerns for CTG development is the consequent significant water usage. To better understand this aspect, this paper presents a quantitative assessment of the water footprint (WF) for China’s CTG industry. The results show that the WF of CTG in China is typically in the region of 0.055 m3 water per cubic meter of produced gas. In addition, the analysis of the components of this WF indicates that most of the water resources are used both in the process of CTG production itself, and also in the dilute discharge of pollutants. In terms of the planned production capacity of China’s CTG projects, this paper finds that the water use in some regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Liaoning may account 30–40% of regional water resources, which means the large-scale development of CTG projects may present significant risks to regional water resources. Therefore, this paper suggests that the status of regional water availability should be one of the key factors considered by policy makers in order to achieve sustainable development of the country’s CTG industry.

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Acknowledgments

This study has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71874201, 71673297, 71503264 and 71874202) and the Humanities and Social Sciences Youth Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (Grant No. 15YJC630121). We also appreciate receiving the helpful comments from anonymous reviewers of this paper, Dr Roger Bentley of the Petroleum Analysis Centre, Ireland, and Dr. Xinqiang Wei of Economics & Technology Research Institute, CNPC, Beijing, China.

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Correspondence to Jianliang Wang.

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Wang, J., Liu, X., Geng, X. et al. Water Footprint Assessment for Coal-to-Gas in China. Nat Resour Res 28, 1447–1459 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11053-018-9446-8

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Keywords

  • Coal-to-gas
  • Water footprint
  • Water resources
  • China