AMID high oil and gas prices and falling coal costs, Chinese companies are revisiting the idea of transforming coal into more useful and higher-value derivatives such as chemicals, oil and gas, which could mitigate energy security concerns.
Still, government policy will dictate how fast the coal-conversion industry is developed. Some analysts said they believe it will remain a niche industry in China for some time, given water scarcity and carbon emission issues.
China has the world's third-largest proven coal reserves, at 114.5 billion tons, trailing only the US and Russia, according to BP Plc estimates. High transport costs to eastern markets and the central government's campaign to shift development strategy westward have pushed companies to focus their investment on local projects tapping large coal reserves in underdeveloped western regions of China.
In terms of coal-to-gas capacity, projects involving 15 billion cubic meters have so far secured approval from the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top planning agency.
Projects entailing as much as 55 billion cubic meters are under construction, with a further 115 billion cubic meters on drawing boards, according to estimates by analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein.
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