A worker of the geothermal arm of Sinopec Group checks the temperature of a room heated by geothermal power at a house in Zhengzhou, Henan province. TONG JIANG /FOR CHINA DAILY
State-owned Sinopec Group's interest in geothermal energy has grown as it seeks to diversify beyond oil and gas production.
Sinopec Star Petroleum Ltd, China Petrochemical's geothermal energy development arm, said it would come up with a plan to create 20 smokeless cities, replacing coal with geothermal energy, covering 100 million sq m in the 13th Five-Year Plan(2016-20) period.
Sinopec has geothermal business in 16 provinces so far, covering a total area of 40 million square meters. That is equivalent of 1.16 million tons of standard coal each year－reducing carbon dioxide emissions by three million tons.
According to Wang Zizong, deputy chief engineer of Sinopec Group, geothermal energy has the potential to partially replace coal-fired heat while reducing the country's carbon footprint especially in big cities.
Geothermal energy is heat energy generated and stored in the Earth. China is rich in geothermal energy resources, and developing these resources will be crucial for reducing the nations carbon footprint, Zizong said.
China has recently issued the 13th Five-Year Plan for geothermal energy, the first such plan in the country, in a bid to boost clean energy development and improve the environment.
From 2016 to 2020, China will add geothermal power installed capacity by 500 gW, which could drive investment worth 40 billion yuan (.8 billion). In the same period, China will also add to the geothermal heating area by 1.1 billion square meters.
By 2020, the country is aiming for a geothermal power installed capacity of 530MW and a geothermal heating area of 1.6 billion square meters, according to the country's energy planner.
Chinese cities have implemented tougher emission reduction requirements on coal-fired power plants in recent years to combat pollution, and local governments are also under pressure to set ambitious plans to phase out coal-fired heating facilities.
Despite some geothermal projects being expensive to develop, projects in locations with good resources are still modestly profitable.
The best geothermal resources in China are in Tibet, and Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, which are also the key places where the country plans to boost its geothermal energy.