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Life-cycle comparison of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption for coal and shale gas fired power generation in China

Chang, Yuan, Huang, Runze, Ries, Robert J., Masanet, Eric
Energy 2015 v.86 pp. 335-343
coal, combustion, electricity, electricity generation, emissions factor, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, infrastructure, life cycle inventory, models, power generation, prices, shale, shale gas, China
China has the world's largest shale gas reserves, which might enable it to pursue a new pathway for electricity generation. This study employed hybrid LCI (life cycle inventory) models to quantify the ETW (extraction-to-wire) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and water consumption per kWh of coal- and shale gas-fired electricity in China. Results suggest that a coal-to-shale gas shift and upgrading coal-fired power generation technologies could provide pathways to less GHG and water intensive power in China. Compared to different coal-fired generation technologies, the ETW GHG emissions intensity of gas-fired CC (combined cycle) technology is 530 g CO2e/kWh, which is 38–45% less than China's present coal-fired electricity. Gas-fired CT (combustion turbine) technology has the lowest ETW water consumption intensity at 960 g/kWh, which is 34–60% lower than China's present coal-fired electricity. The GHG-water tradeoff of the two gas-fired power generation technologies suggests that gas-fired power generation technologies should be selected based on regional-specific water resource availabilities and electricity demand fluctuations in China. However, the low price of coal-fired electricity, high cost of shale gas production, insufficient pipeline infrastructures, and multiple consumers of shale gas resources may serve as barriers to a coal-to-shale gas shift in China's power sector in the near term.