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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The potential role that biofuels might play in China's future transportation needs Li, Ling

Abstract

From 1980 to 2010 China’s energy use increased six fold to 2430 Mtoe/yr and it is projected to further increase by about 50% to 3359 Mtoe/yr by 2020. Currently renewable energy, such as bioenergy, hydro, solar and wind, contributes less than 9% of this total. During China’s “industrial revolution” phase of economic growth (in the 1970/80’s), coal was the major source of power and electricity with oil and natural gas playing a much lesser role. More recently, due to the rapid increase in the number of motorized vehicles, the country has gone from oil self-sufficiency in the early 1960’s to importing more than 271 Mt/yr of oil in 2012. China’s biofuels industry is in its infancy with its current bioethanol production (primarily from corn) at 2.5 GL/yr and biodiesel production (primarily from waste cooking oil) at 0.4 GL/yr. Although the national goal is to produce 12.7 GL bioethanol and 2.3 GL of biodiesel by 2020, the potential for growth of so-called first generation or conventional biofuels is very limited due to food-vs-fuels concerns and China’s desire to be as self-sufficient as possible in food production. Thus, research, development and demonstration (RD&D) is being encouraged to grow and process so-called one-and-a-half generation crops such as sweet sorghum with a goal of producing 9 GL of ethanol by utilizing 40% of the available marginal land. However, to date, few plantation or conversion facilities have been built. Regarding so-called second-generation facilities, China has the potential to annually produce 22 GL of cellulosic ethanol by utilizing 15% of its 874 Mt agricultural residues. This could increase to 29 GL bioethanol by 2020, using 15% of the 1150 Mt residue that is anticipated to be available at that time. Biodiesel growth is expected to be achieved by growing oil-bearing trees with the potential of producing 2.5-6.7 GL/yr grown on 10% of the available marginal land. However, it is unlikely that biofuels will contribute substantially to China’s transport sector and that, even with aggressive importation, biofuels will play a relatively minor role for quite some time.

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