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Oil giant taps Chinese vast geothermal reserves

Power News - Published on Wed, 01 Mar 2017

Image Source: China Post
AFP reported that Chinese state-run energy giant Sinopec has drilled hundreds of wells across the country without finding a single drop of oil. But that was precisely the point: instead of black gold, the almost mile deep holes are providing clean heat for local homes.

While two-thirds of China's electricity is generated by coal, almost all of the homes in northern Hebei province's Xiong district -- home to 400,000 people -- are heated by wells as deep as 1,500 metres (5,000 feet).

In a new apartment in the district, a 60-year-old retiree watched his granddaughters hop about in bare feet, impervious to the frost outside.

Li Fuzeng said that "This floor heating works like a dream. And they say it's clean energy."

The temperature inside his home was 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) and a citrus tree in the corner showed no signs of winter.

Chen Menghui, director of Sinopec's geothermal branch in Hebei, said the process depends on a cycle of running water.

He said that "These underground wells are pumped with water, which comes out at a temperature of around 70 C before flowing into the heating system."

Though experts said that there is immense potential in China's subterranean heat reserves, they remain largely unexploited, accounting for less than 0.5 percent of the Asian giant's energy consumption.

Sinopec's geothermal projects in China make up for more than 40 percent of the total number of homes heated by geothermal energy in the country, making them a potential model for how it can tap this resource.

Before launching itself into the geothermal industry, Sinopec found an unusual partner in the Icelandic company Arctic Green Energy.

Sinopec needed technical support and Iceland is regarded as the leader in extracting energy from the ground.

In a joint venture beginning in 2009, they invested 400 million yuan ($58 million) into the Xiong project, where they drilled almost 70 wells. The idea was to apply the technology that had already been tested in the Nordic country to northern China.

Mr Wang Yanxin, a geological research officer at Sinopec, said that "Iceland, on the mid-Atlantic ridge, has exceptional resources, with temperatures exceeding 250 C -- hot enough to supply power plants. In China, with the exception of Sichuan and Tibet, there are hardly any temperatures exceeding 150 C, which forces us to concentrate on heating systems."

Sinopec, which has suffered in recent years from the tumble in oil prices and the slowdown of the Chinese economy, appears to be investing further in renewable energy, including solar and wind, as well as geothermal.

The company has geothermal facilities in 16 Chinese provinces, allowing it to heat some 40 million square metres of homes and factories -- and avoiding an estimated three million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

One potential benefit of the project could be a significant reduction in local air pollution, a problem that has plagued much of northern China.

According to Sinopec, Xiong has become China's first "smokeless town" by eliminating the coal-fired heating systems common throughout other parts of the country.

Source :

Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Wed, 01 Mar 2017
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