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Chinas Thirsty Coal Industry.pdf - China’s thirsty coal...

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Winner of Nine Pulitzer PrizesSpecial reportsLOSING GROUNDThe struggle to reduce CO2Reporter Hal Bernton brings you storiesfrom the front lines of China's changingenergy industry. Read moreRelated story:Originally published May 4, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Page modified May 5, 2014 at 3:34 PMChina’s thirsty coal industry guzzles precious waterPlants turning coal into gas, chemicals and electricity are sucking up vast amounts of water in a nation already struggling with serious shortages.That threatens many communities and could crimp the industry’s plans for expansion.By Hal BerntonSeattle Times staff reporterSecond of three partsHEXIGTEN QI, CHINA —On a bitter cold day in Inner Mongolia, the grasslands here hold anunexpected sight: a shallow lake so warm that the surface is shrouded insteam.This lake is a recent addition, formed by water discharged from a new plantthat converts coal into methane gas.When operating at full capacity, the Datang International plant will requiremore than 7 billion gallons of water each year. And this is just a side streamof the vast flows of water demanded by plants turning coal into gas, chemicalsand electricity in Inner Mongolia and other regions of China’s north and west.China’s thirsty coal industry guzzles precious water | Special reports pages......1 of 65/6/2014 9:21 AM
These coal complexes rank among the planet’s largest industrial emitters of carbondioxide, which in the decades ahead will escalate climate change and acidification of theoceans.But right now, the coal industry’s massive thirst may be both its biggest liability and thebiggest constraint to expansion in a nation of more than 1.3 billion people struggling withserious water shortages.Vast amounts of water are used for cooling and processing some 4 billion tons of coalthat China consumes each year.Some 15 percent of the nation’s annual waterwithdrawals are claimed by the coal industry, withmany mines and plants located in arid areas whererivers are under stress, underground aquifers are indecline and pollution is rampant.In the decades ahead, climate change will aggravateChina’s water problems by melting glaciers that helpsustain the summer flows of some major rivers. By2030, the basin of the Yellow River, China’s second-longest river, is forecast to be 18 percent short of thewater needed to meet demand, according to a studyfrom China’s Institute of Water Resources andHydropower Research.Conservation efforts by the Chinese governmentinclude the construction of new coal-fired powerplants that recirculate the water used for cooling.China also is spending $62 billion to redistributewater by canals from wetter areas of the country todry zones in one of the biggest construction projectsof all time.

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Term
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Tags
Water supply, Water crisis, Inner Mongolia

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