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China must ‘use UK gas expertise’ to decarbonise, says Chinese tycoon

China must learn from the UK’s natural gas market and use UK expertise to expand its gas network in order to reach its decarbonisation targets, according to Chinese gas tycoon Alfred Chan.

Speaking to Utility Week, Chan, managing director of The Hong Kong and China Gas Company (Towngas), insisted there are opportunities for people in the UK gas trade for “lots of things” including investment in the Chinese gas infrastructure.

“Opportunities are there in China, and the UK has got so much expertise because of the five or six decades of natural gas development,” he said.

He added that UK gas experts would also have the opportunity to “supply training and solve specific gas-related problems” in China.

“China as a country has got a smog problem, which the UK doesn’t have today. Only 6 per cent of the energy use in China comes from natural gas, and in the UK this is 35 per cent,” he said.

“The infrastructure in the UK has been well-developed; China has got a lot of infrastructure expansion. Once you expand the network, you reach new markets. Today, the two different countries [UK and China] are at different natural gas development stages.”

“If UK people, knowing their own domestic market is quite limited, I’m not saying that they should abandon this market in the UK, but they have other opportunities in China.”

The only way for China to fulfil its “strong” greenhouse gas emission reduction commitment, he argues, is to use natural gas.

China is the largest consumer of coal in the world. Chan stressed the importance of replacing coal with natural gas, a cleaner alternative, in order to reach its ambitious emissions reduction goal.

“There are a lot of toxic emissions, so how can China turn this around? Of course you can use renewables: solar, wind, maybe nuclear, but today, natural gas seems to be the natural choice. It is the cleanest fossil fuel and it is abundantly available globally,” he said.

“China has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity by 40 per cent by the year 2020, measured from 2005. That is a very strong commitment and the only means they can achieve it is to use more natural gas.”

Last year, China signed a joint deal with the US to ensure its emissions output is capped by 2030 or before. The country has also pledged to increase its use of renewable energy to 20 per cent by 2030.

Lois Vallely
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