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Main application, prospect of carbon neutralization technologies

The Ministry of Science and Technology recently organized the first meeting of the National Carbon Neutralization Technology Expert Committee in Beijing to assess the implementation progress of the “Technology to Support Emission Peak and Carbon Neutralization Implementation Plan (2022-2030)” (Plan).

Main application, prospect of carbon neutralization technologies
Main application, prospect of carbon neutralization technologies

The role of technology in emission peak and carbon neutralization has received further attention. Currently, carbon neutrality technology is mainly reflected in several key areas such as clean and efficient utilization of coal, renewable energy technology, low-carbon utilization and energy efficiency improvement technology, and net zero carbon technology such as carbon capture and storage. In the future, digital energy based on digital technologies such as AI, big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things will become a new form of energy development and an important force in promoting carbon neutrality.

I. Technology is the main driving force for achieving emission peak and carbon neutralization

On March 1, 2023, the Ministry of Science and Technology organized the first meeting of the National Carbon Neutralization Science and Technology Expert Committee in Beijing. The expert committee evaluated the implementation progress of the Plan and puts forward suggestions on major key issues such as the innovative development path of dual carbon technology.

Achieving emission peak and carbon neutrality is a complex system engineering involving values, industrial structure, energy system, consumption patterns, and many other aspects. The core is to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon absorption. According to Academician Ding Zhongli’s estimation, the current global annual carbon dioxide emissions are about 40 billion tons, of which 14% come from land use and 86% come from fossil fuel utilization; About 46% of the carbon dioxide emitted remains in the atmosphere and 54% is absorbed by marine and terrestrial carbon sink resources.

Meanwhile, according to the “2022 Carbon Dioxide Emission Report” released by the IEA, China’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2022 were 11.48 billion tons, with power generation accounting for about 47%, and consumer ends such as industrial processes and residents’ lives accounting for 53% in total, with industrial processes accounting for the vast majority of consumer end carbon emissions.

Therefore, promoting the clean and low-carbon utilization of fossil fuels at the power generation end and improving the development and use of non carbon energy, promoting the development of low-carbon and zero carbon at the energy consumption end, as well as improving the ability of man-made carbon sequestration become the main driving force for achieving emission peak and carbon neutrality. The above three directions cannot be separated from the support of technological innovation.

II. Main application, prospect of carbon neutralization technologies

The Plan systematically proposed innovative directions for science and technology to support emission peak and carbon neutralization, and focused on clean and low-carbon energy, zero carbon utilization technology, low carbon and zero carbon industrial process reengineering technology, low carbon and zero carbon technology for construction and transportation, carbon emission reduction technology, cutting-edge disruptive low carbon technology, and other directions. Since the plan was introduced, many local governments in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hebei and other provinces have issued relevant supporting requirements, including clean and efficient utilization of coal, renewable energy, hydrogen energy, energy storage, smart grid, controllable nuclear fusion, carbon capture, utilization and storage, industrial process reengineering, ecological carbon sink, carbon emission monitoring and other technologies.

1) Clean and efficient utilization of coal

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council proposed in the “Opinions on Completely and Accurately Implementing the New Development Concept and Doing a Good Job of Emission Peak and Carbon Neutralization” that by 2060, the proportion of non fossil energy consumption in China will reach over 80%, that is, fossil energy consumption will still maintain a certain proportion.

Currently, China’s standard coal consumption per kilowatt hour of thermal power generation has decreased for three consecutive years, and the raw coal selection rate has increased from 66% in 2015 to 71.7% in 2021. Coal washing technology and equipment have reached the international advanced level. However, basic, original, and disruptive technological research on efficient, low-carbon, flexible and intelligent utilization of coal still needs to be strengthened.

2) Renewable energy technology

It mainly includes new energy power generation, non electric utilization of renewable energy, energy storage technology, smart grid, etc. China’s wind and solar renewable energy technology has made significant progress. However, there are still some problems. For example, the energy generated by solar and wind power generation varies greatly under different weather conditions, requiring support from storage technology to ensure the stability of energy supply. At the same time, environmental protection and resource utilization need to be considered when implementing construction of new energy facilities. Therefore, the development of renewable energy technologies needs to balance technological innovation, policy support, and resource utilization.

3) Low carbon utilization and energy efficiency improvement technology

Low carbon utilization technologies are mainly reflected in industry, transportation, and construction, including low carbon and zero carbon industrial process reengineering technology, electrification and intelligent transportation technology, optical storage, direct and flexible, building solar integrated technology system, etc. As of February 2023, China’s new energy vehicle ownership has exceeded 13.1 million, becoming an important force in low-carbon transportation. The application of intelligent transportation systems can also effectively reduce carbon emissions and improve road traffic efficiency. However, the development of low-carbon transportation technology needs to address issues such as insufficient energy supply and inadequate charging infrastructure.

In the industrial field, industrial process reengineering and energy efficiency improvement technologies can effectively improve the energy use situation of industrial enterprises and reduce carbon emissions, but they require significant investment and technical support. At the same time, this technology needs to receive sufficient support at the policy and market levels to ensure that enterprises and individuals are willing to adopt efficient and energy-saving equipment and measures.

4) Net zero carbon technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

This technology includes making carbon dioxide into chemicals, making carbon dioxide into fuel, producing microalgae, carbon capture in concrete, improving the collection rate of crude oil, carbon capture and storage of bioenergy, weathering of silicate rocks (CCUS technology), as well as mineral carbonization, afforestation, soil organic carbon and soil inorganic carbon, burning straw from crops into charcoal and returning it to the field.

Overall, China’s CCUS and other net zero carbon technologies are in the industrialization demonstration stage, which is comparable to the overall international development level, but some key technologies still lag behind. In the future, it is necessary to carry out core technology research around key links such as low concentration carbon dioxide capture, industrial utilization, storage, and carbon sink measurement.

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