China not ‘walking the walk’ on methane emissions

From EurekAlert!

Public Release: 29-Jan-2019

Chinese regulations on coal mining have not curbed the nation’s growing methane emissions over the past five years as intended

Carnegie Institution for Science

This is a coal mine. Credit Public domain

Washington, DC–Chinese regulations on coal mining have not curbed the nation’s growing methane emissions over the past five years as intended, says new research from a team led by Carnegie’s Scot Miller and Anna Michalak. Their findings are published in Nature Communications.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which is used to generate more than 70 percent of its electricity. It also emits more methane than any other nation, and the coal sector accounts for about 33 percent of this total. This happens when underground pools of methane gas are released during the mining process.

In the atmosphere, methane acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat and contributing to climate change. The detrimental impacts of climate change include increased heat waves, longer droughts, more-severe hurricanes, and a greater number of animal extinctions, leaving many policymakers around the world scrambling to reduce emissions.

In China, regulations to reduce methane emissions from coal mining took full effect in 2010 and required methane to be captured or to be converted into carbon dioxide. The team of researchers set out to use atmospheric modeling and data from Japan’s GOSAT satellite to evaluate whether these new rules actually curbed Chinese methane emissions.

“Our study indicates that, at least in terms of methane emissions, China’s government is ‘talking the talk,’ but has not been able to ‘walk the walk,'” explained lead author Miller, who is now at Johns Hopkins University.

Although the goal stated in China’s 12th Five Year Plan was to remove or convert 5.6 million metric tons (5.6 teragrams) of methane from coal mines by 2015, the team found that methane emissions instead rose by about 1.1 million metric tons (1.1 teragrams) per year between 2010 and 2015. This is in line with the nation’s annual increases methane emissions going back to 2000.

Overall, Chinese methane emissions increased by 50 percent from 2000 to 2015. This could account for as much as 24 percent of the total global increase in methane emissions over the same period.

“China had an aspiration and an opportunity to reduce its release of coal-mining-related methane, but our analysis of satellite data shows business-as-usual emissions of this harmful greenhouse gas,” Michalak said. “It’s therefore unlikely that China’s ambitious goals for reducing methane emissions from coal mining were met.”

Infrastructure and technology challenges may be hampering the nation’s ability to achieve their emissions reduction goals, the authors explained.

For example, the lack of pipelines to transport methane harvested from the remote, mountainous mining areas to more populated regions present a challenge. Likewise, methane capture tools are poorly suited to the conditions where coal seams are found in China, resulting in a low-quality product.


Other members of the research team included Robert Detmers and Otto Hasekamp of the Netherlands Institute of Space Research and Lori Bruhwiler and Stefan Schwietzke of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This work was supported by the ESA Climate Change Initiative Greenhouse Gases project, the Carnegie Distinguished Post-doctoral Fellowship, and NASA.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.


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January 30, 2019 2:05 am

It’s a great relief to know now that the science points to the fact that increased Methane will not greatly affect the Climate and will transform quickly to water and CO2 and that the additional CO2 will have a positive effect on vegetation across the World.

Reply to  Nicholas William Tesdorf
January 30, 2019 2:23 am

Dead Plants –> CH4
CH4 + 2O2 –> CO2 + H2O + O
CO2 + H2O + Sunlight–> Living Plants


Reply to  David Middleton
January 30, 2019 3:08 am

Communist party + media press release = reduction in emissions. 🙂

Those holding contrary thoughts will be discovered and their social credit scores reduced until they conform.

It’s much harder for China to hide the real pollution from burning coal, but after rereading Orwell’s 1984 it makes me wonder if they will try!

To the American readers, has Ocasio brought up social credit scores yet or is she waiting?

Reply to  joe
January 30, 2019 9:30 am

“joe January 30, 2019 at 3:08 am
Communist party + media press release = reduction in emissions.”


Communist party + media press release = propaganda
Not promises.
Not threats.
Not honest information.

China is keeping to their original commitment of increasing emissions from coal, at least until 2030.
They could not care less about international social media, and they tightly control social media in China.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  joe
January 30, 2019 9:56 am

“To the American readers, has Ocasio brought up social credit scores yet or is she waiting?”

She hasn’t brought it up yet, but I’m sure she and all the other control freaks in the Democrat party would love to have the ability to ostrasize those who oppose them. They do a pretty good job of it anyway, without social credit ratings, and with assistance from the Leftwing Media. They control the public narrative right now, but they don’t control the private narrative (internet) yet.

Authoritarians of all stripes want to shut their opposition up. Some use the megaphone of News, Entertainment and Education to shut up their opponents, and some use the barrel of a gun. The goal is the same: Retain power by eliminating the opposition.

Reply to  David Middleton
January 30, 2019 4:28 am

Balance your hydrogens.
2 waters produced, not one. No single oxygen atom left over.

Reply to  TonyL
January 30, 2019 4:59 am

That’s what I get for doing chemistry, on my phone at 0400, while walking on a treadmill.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  David Middleton
January 30, 2019 9:30 am

DM – your 0400 behavior is much more dangerous to you than China’s methane emissions.

Reply to  Nicholas William Tesdorf
January 30, 2019 6:24 pm

minor correction:
CH4 +2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O
CH4 + 2O2 –> CO2 + H2O + O–

The number atoms on both sides of the reaction have to be the same.

Rich Davis
January 30, 2019 3:04 am

Let’s not forget…


Rod Evans
January 30, 2019 3:08 am

If our Chinese mining companies find it difficult to pipe the methane to populated centres from the mountain regions they are mining. Why don’t they simply build a methane powered electricity generation station and cable the power to the nearest city/town.
Or are we talking about vast distances?

GREG in Houston
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 30, 2019 7:35 am

Because the methane needs treating – dehydrating+removal of contaminants (this is not cheap), and because it’s very intermittent, and because the lost heat value is, in the grand scope of things, insignificant.

R Shearer
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 30, 2019 7:40 am

In socialist communist countries you do what you are told to do because the great leaders are all knowing. The great leaders are unlikely to consider other ideas because this would prove they are not all knowing.

Reply to  Rod Evans
January 30, 2019 10:18 am

I have worked on a few mine drainage gas power stations and they are not easy to control and unless the mine has very high gas levels are rarely profitable. The important thing is to get the gas safely out of the mine nothing else really matters.

Alastair gray
January 30, 2019 3:14 am

Tera grammes what sort of stupid unit is that did they choose it to sound sciency or to obscure the actual number (like zettajoules) millions of tonnes is a perfectly good unit

Reply to  Alastair gray
January 30, 2019 7:30 am

It is a stupid unit that is recommended by Climate Change witchdoctors and I believe is probably endorsed by the IPCC because it is used in the crazy thing called Global Warming Potential (GWP).

January 30, 2019 3:19 am

“In the atmosphere, methane acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat and contributing to climate change’

Is this relevant?

“But methane has another problem, its peaks line up with H2O peaks, so those spectral bands are nearly saturated”

“It is also impossible to build up large amounts of methane in an atmosphere which contains oxygen, because it quickly oxidizes in the presence of oxygen into H2O and CO2. That is why we use it for a fuel. The concentration of methane during mid-latitude summer is a tiny 1.7 PPM, but planets (including Earth) emit a lot of methane. Saturn’s moon Titan has methane seas. The reason Titan is able to hold its methane is because it has almost no oxygen”

comment image

January 30, 2019 3:23 am

China will do what the hell its likes and if others do not like that want can they do?
You will certainly not see the ‘green protesters’ on the streets of Beijing anytime soon.
They only signed up the whole IPCC game because it ask them to do nothing , and then judge themselves if they had done that.
And if other countries want to mug themselves chasing green ideology . there is simply no reason at all for China that to encourage it.

They not only have the winning hand , but the whole deck of cards to play with.

Steve O
Reply to  knr
January 30, 2019 4:05 am

I believe the Chinese consider CAGW to be some sort of Western affectation. They’ll participate to the extent it benefits them, but they’re not going to sacrifice any growth at the altar of the Church of Global Warming. If we want to pay them to do anything that they were going to do anyway, they’ll lend us the money though.

Reply to  Steve O
January 30, 2019 7:01 am

I’ve posted this before – but as a reminder
Their derogatory term for stupid western SJW’s

R Shearer
Reply to  Greg61
January 30, 2019 7:42 am

It specifically means “white left” and is inherently racist.

Reply to  R Shearer
January 30, 2019 9:06 am

Can’t be racist as it’s against a white person who have white privilege 🙂

It’s literally impossible to be racist to a white person.

SJW’s simply move definitions which are like gender open to interpretation.

Reply to  Greg61
January 30, 2019 7:42 am

Libtards and SafeSpacer are often used on internet to describe the more extreme because sometimes SJW is not extreme enough.

Reply to  Greg61
January 30, 2019 9:33 am

How about “champagne socialist”

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Steve O
January 30, 2019 1:58 pm

You mean Al Gore’s Church of Climatology. +100 on your post though

Jaap Titulaer
January 30, 2019 3:24 am

“Our study indicates that, at least in terms of methane emissions, China’s government is ‘talking the talk,’ but has not been able to ‘walk the walk,’” explained lead author Miller, who is now at Johns Hopkins University.

Jeez, these people are dumb! Or dishonest. Did they honestly believe that the Chinese would act otherwise?
Of course they only Talk the Talk.
They do not believe and they will become #1 in everything, including in the production of CO2 and CH as well as leading in increases in those production rates.’
For example: 200 (TWO HUNDRED) new airfields in the coming few years!


kent beuchert
January 30, 2019 4:38 am

Notice the complete lack of interest from the Greenies about China.

January 30, 2019 4:48 am

Compared with the supposed effects of burning the coal, the methane is a rounding error.

If CO2 is such an existential problem, the world should not tolerate China’s use of coal. Once again we have the leftist mantra that only the West is responsible for the world’s problems and only the West has to do anything about those problems. The unavoidable conclusion is that the left is trolling us.

January 30, 2019 4:59 am

Just like Napolian , China will continue to let the West make mistakes. In this case of course its the belief in Global Warming come climate change and whatever new name the Greens will dream up next.

And if the West wants China to supply them with solar panels and windmills, then China is happy to do so.


January 30, 2019 5:30 am

Not a shock to us that China and many other countries are riding the hobby horse of AGW for all they can get. For countries like China and India that’s a competitive advantage. For a majority of the countries in the UN that’s a potential hand out.

“There’s a sucker born every minute” and of course also someone who will take advantage.

January 30, 2019 5:39 am

There are also miles apart in respecting IP property rights. In other words the rules only apply to others.

Joel O’Bryan
January 30, 2019 5:40 am

Doesn’t anyone remember what INDC stands for in the Paris Climate Agreement?
It’s the good intentions that count for the UNFCCC-COP process.
Greens are committed to paving the road with ‘em.

January 30, 2019 6:05 am

China may not be up to snuff on it’s methane commitments but they are keeping their commitments to rouge governments. Venezuela being the prime example. Having run their own children over with tanks they are probably recommending the same to Maduro.

The Watermelons have strange bedfellows

January 30, 2019 6:06 am

The one equation that matters

6 CO2 + 6 H2O + sunlight and chlorophyll = C6H12O6 (sugar to plant substance to our food) + 6 O2 (our vital life sustaining gas).

What’s not to love about CO2 ?

January 30, 2019 6:06 am

Excellent China! Well done!
Keep it going as nature is providing the planet with the window of opportunity to get atmospheric CO2 levels up to 600ppmv (or more), and so the greening of the planet will be magnificent.

My sincere thanks to China, Indonesia, India, Russia, Germany, etc., for all your venting of methane and CO2.
Nature is doing the heavy lifting but ‘Every little helps’ .
Forward to a greener world!

michael hart
January 30, 2019 6:48 am

Hmmm…How do they spectroscopically measure methane emissions from a coal mine by satellite, peering through all that water vapor in the atmosphere overlying the methane emission bands, unencumbered by the additional methane emissions from general vegetative decomposition, paddy fields, and cows’ ar$es?
I’m calling BS.

Tom in Florida
January 30, 2019 6:55 am

The beauty of it all is that I can get my warmer planet and still be able to politically blame someone else.

January 30, 2019 7:05 am

Clearly what is needed is for the West to send China billions and billions of dollars/Euros, and to forgive them for their emissions, and to self-flagellate of our own, diminishing output.

D. J. Hawkins
January 30, 2019 8:17 am

I don’t get how they are expected to collect the methane in any economic quantities. Methane in coal mines has been an issue forever. It used to be referred to as “coal damp”. It’s also why miners took canaries down into the mines. It was a suffocation hazard as well as an explosion hazard. But the pockets that are uncovered are relatively small and occur unpredictably. Usually it’s just a slow trickle from the mine walls and is controlled by the forced ventilation of the mine. You’d have to sweep the entire volume of the mine to collect the gas, and then separate it and compress and store it, or flare it. It’s like carbon capture and storage, only in reverse, but with just as bad economics.

michael hart
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
January 30, 2019 4:17 pm

Yes. I can see an argument being made on the grounds of safety for the miners, but the amounts of methane are economically and environmentally insignificant. When the Chinese authorities passed whatever laws/regulations they did, I’m confident that the sanctimonious concerns of Western environmentalists were not at the front of their minds.

Bruce Cobb
January 30, 2019 8:50 am

China doesn’t believe in “global warming” (though they pretend to). China believes in China.

January 30, 2019 1:53 pm

China not shaping up? Shocking. They also are responsible for most of the great ocean garbage patch we are made to feel guilty for.

January 30, 2019 11:45 pm

Methane is Fuel! CO2 is not fuel, H2O is not fuel, but CH4 is Fuel! How long could it actually last in an atmosphere with free O2? Not long…

January 31, 2019 1:18 am

How about the alarmists are asked what is an acceptable percentage of methane in the air.

1% or 0.1% or 0.01% or 0.001%?

There is 0.00018% of methane in the air. It is negligible, and it decomposes soon enough.

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