Coal Combustion and Mercury Emissions in China, 1984-2004

K.H. Tiedemann (Canada)


Mercury emissions, coal combustion, air pollution.


Mercury emissions have emerged as a major environmental issue over the past twenty years. Mercury is one of the most toxic heavy metals and has potentially significant impacts on fetal development and human health. The major anthropogenic sources of mercury are coal combustion and metal smelting, and the increased industrialization of China has made that country a significant and growing source of worldwide mercury emissions. Analysis of Chinese coal combustion and related mercury emissions has been substantially strengthened by the recent publication of comprehensive data sets on sector coal consumption and mercury emissions. This paper provides a description of recent tends in Chinese coal consumption and related mercury emissions as well as an analysis of the impact of coal washing and particulate controls on mercury emissions from coal combustion in China. The study has several major findings. First, coal consumption increased from 671 million tonnes per year in 1994 to 1,612 million tonnes per year in 2004. Second, coal combustion-related mercury emissions rose from 112 tonnes per year in 1984 to 282 tonnes per year in 2004. Third, coal washing and particulate controls removed about 16% of embodied mercury from combusted coal in 2002. Fourth, mercury emissions are forecast to increase to 316 t per year by 2011 under a business as usual scenario, and this could be reduced by 65-90 tonnes per year through near universal washing of coal and by 45-50 tonnes per year by making electrostatic precipitators mandatory for all power generation boilers.

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