Deploying green hydrogen to decarbonize China’s coal chemical sector

Publication Year


Journal Article

China’s coal chemical sector uses coal as both a fuel and feedstock and its increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are hard to abate by electrification alone. Here we explore the GHG mitigation potential and costs for onsite deployment of green H2 and O2 in China’s coal chemical sector, using a life-cycle assessment and techno-economic analyses. We estimate that China’s coal chemical production resulted in GHG emissions of 1.1 gigaton CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq) in 2020, equal to 9% of national emissions. We project GHG emissions from China’s coal chemical production in 2030 to be 1.3 GtCO2eq, ~50% of which can be reduced by using solar or wind power-based electrolytic H2 and O2 to replace coal-based H2 and air separation-based O2 at a cost of 10 or 153 Chinese Yuan (CNY)/tCO2eq, respectively. We suggest that provincial regions determine whether to use solar or wind power for water electrolysis based on lowest cost options, which collectively reduce 53% of the 2030 baseline GHG emissions at a cost of 9 CNY/tCO2eq. Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Ningxia, and Xinjiang collectively account for 52% of total GHG mitigation with net cost reductions. These regions are well suited for pilot policies to advance demonstration projects.

Nature Communications
Date Published