China on Track to Increase Geothermal Energy Development and Utilization

Guan Fengjun, head of the Geological Environment department at the Ministry of Land and Resources said that China will start a geothermal energy exploration and development project over the next five years, with the intention of promoting the utilization of geothermal energy across the country. Usage is expected to reach 68.8 million tons of standard coal equivalent [in terms of generation, that’s equal to about 560,000 GWh of electricity*] by 2015, accounting for 1.7 percent in the country’s overall energy consumption.

Data shows that the amount of utilizable heat in shallow geothermal energy resources in the country’s 287 prefecture-level or higher cities, is equivalent to 350 million tons of standard coal annually (which could generate more than 2.8 million GWh of electricity*) based on the present development model. If properly harnessed, and after deducting the cost of electricity used for development and utilization, the country’s geothermal energy could keep 250 million tons of standard coal in the ground and reduce carbon emissions by 500 million tons.

Energy reserves in the country’s 12 major geothermal basins amount to 853 billion tons of standard coal equivalent (which could generate about seven billion GWh of electricity*), and the output of the country’s 2,562 hot springs is equivalent to 4.52 million tons of standard coal. In the present economic environment with available technologies, usable heat produced each year equates to 640 million tons of standard coal, reducing carbon emissions by 1.3 billion tons.

Geothermal energy has great potential in China as hot dry rock resources are at depths ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 meters. There are up to 860 trillion tons of standard coal equivalent (which could generate more than seven trillion GWh of electricity*), or 260,000 times more than China’s annual consumption of energy from all sources combined.

For many years, China has been utilizing more geothermal energy than any other country worldwide, Guan said. By the end of 2010, the surface area across the country where geothermal heat is being generated covered 35 million square meters, with total installed capacity of high-temperature geothermal power totaling 24-MW. Approximately 500,000 tons of standard coal equivalent of geothermal energy were used by spas and farmers as part of their planting process.

In order to advance the development and utilization of geothermal energy, the Ministry launched a shallow geothermal energy evaluation pilot project in 2008 in the city of Tianjin. The project demonstrated that shallow geothermal energy is more likely to be used by public use facilities such as exhibition centers and gymnasiums.

Chen Xiaoning, deputy director of the geological environment department of the Ministry of Land and Resources, said that the ministry plans to extend the pilot project to other provincial capitals over the next three years, in an effort to establish the size of available reserves of geothermal energy resources in each city, determine the areas where development and utilization are available and make proposals on the best use of identified resources, as well as establish a monitoring network.

In 2010, China’s coal consumption approached 3 billion tons with the overall energy consumption equal to 3.25 billion tons of standard coal. With such an extensive use of coal, it behooves the country to develop its geothermal energy sector as part of the overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions and move the country away from its overdependence on coal.

*All conversions calculated using this converter.

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Nanjing Shanglong Communications Liu Yuanyuan is Director of Operations and Co-Founder of Nanjing Shanglong Communications. Liu Yuanyuan previously held the position of office manager at the London Financial Times' China translation and editorial bureau in Nanjing overseeing 33 translators, editors and IT support personnel. Ms. Liu brought her many years experience of delivering, under deadline, more than 200 English-language news summaries of articles selected from Chinese-language newspapers and newswires daily as well as supervising the timely completion of 500,000+ word English-to-Chinese translation and localization projects to her role as co-founder and general manager at Shanglong. Ms. Liu joined Shanglong in 2002. In 2006, she added China Business News Service to the product suite – the service provides a continuous flow of well-researched and documented news articles to trade publishers and industry-specific websites looking to supplement their content with the latest news from China in their sector. She manages Shanglong's staff of translators, editors, desktop publishing specialists and support staff, selected from the top universities across China and well versed in the art of translation and in the technology of DTP. Ms. Liu graduated from the People’s Liberation Army Institute of International Relations - China’s elite military academy responsible for the training of the country’s foreign language specialists.

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