The changing face of the Chinese energy industry

The energy landscape in China has seen rapid changes over the last 30 years, with the country’s economic boom, an increasing need for energy and now moves towards a lower emission future. With over 100 years of control technology experience, ABB is in a leading position to help customers harness the opportunities of this changing landscape.

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Climate change, and different countries’ level of commitment to combating it, has recently made headlines around the world. Having signed up to the Paris climate agreement in 2015, China is now seen as one of the leading countries in making the Paris pledges a reality.

China’s increased commitment to environmental protection has an impact on its energy landscape, which has already seen great changes due to the country’s economic progress over the last three decades. Now the world’s second largest economy, China’s manufacturing sector has leapt from seventh placed in 1980 to the global number one producer, while during that time GDP per capita doubled in a decade. The effect has been a growing demand for power, which China is meeting by developing advanced ultra-efficient 1000+ MW power plant units on a massive scale.

While China’s development model was originally environmentally costly, its strategy for the future is moving increasingly away from that. According to the World Economic Forum, China’s current 13th Five Year Plan commits, for example, to an 18 percent reduction in carbon emissions per unit of GDP from 2015 levels by 2020. The new plan has a greater focus on ‘clean coal’ and hydropower in the energy sector and suggests greater diversity in its overall approach.

“Growth rates in Asian markets remain the strongest on a global scale, with China one of the world’s largest markets for energy, if not the largest. However we expect to see some changes with a slowing growth rate and shift towards greater use of renewables,” says H-Wei Han, Manager of Hub China, within ABB’s Power Generation & Water business unit. “ABB has the experience and expertise to meet customer’s needs in response to these changes.”

Meeting UN clean development standards

A leading example of the new type of power plant in China is the ultra-supercritical (USC) thermal power plant in Wanzhou, part of the Chongqing Municipality, in one of the country’s fastest growing regional economies. Built by the world’s largest coal company – Shenhua Group – to fill the region’s power deficit, the plant’s first two 1,000 megawatt units are now in operation.

These high-efficiency units are designed to reduce fuel costs and emissions, and include a flue gas desulfurization system, which uses high-tech equipment to remove sulfur dioxide from the exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants. The units have a low pollution level that complies with United Nations CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) standards.

Shenhua chose the ABB Ability™ Symphony® Plus distributed control system to monitor, control and optimize the entire production process at these two units. The system is also capable of handling one of the largest PROFIBUS fieldbus installations in China, and indeed ABB-supported plants in China have one of the largest installed bases of PROFIBUS worldwide and contribute nearly 150 gigawatts to the grid.

Wanzhou is not the only plant where ABB Ability Symphony Plus is installed; other USC 1000+ MW plants have been or are being commissioned in Guangdong, Anhui, Jiangxi and Ningxia provinces and regions. While offering customers insights based on the analysis of digital plant data, Symphony Plus has a flexible architecture that allows it to meet the needs of diverse applications, from conventional to solar and hydro – making it ideally suited to partner the Chinese energy industry into a more sustainable future.

The future is global

Another forward-looking Chinese initiative is the recently launched the ‘Belt and road’ project to set up trade links on the scale of the Old Silk Road. Large-scale investment in infrastructure outside China has seen the country supporting increasing power needs in other regions of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, China is responsible for 30 percent of new capacity additions over the past five years – with large energy projects also completed in the Middle East and South America.

“China’s energy outlook is increasingly global,” says H-Wei Han. “With more than 6,800 control system installations worldwide, and operations in around 100 countries, we can help industries make their large-scale power infrastructure projects a reality, and we can do this on a global scale.”

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