Currently, the energy issues for China to face up have become common concerns of the whole nation. Among such issues, it is likely that those concerning petroleum are where the most conspicuous conflicts lie.

By Li Dadong

Currently, the energy issues for China to face up have become common
concerns of the whole nation. Among such issues, it is likely that
those concerning petroleum are where the most conspicuous conflicts lie.

With the high-speed development of China’s national economy, energy
consumption, especially petroleum consumption, is continuously
increasing. As for the effective utilization of petroleum resources, it
relies on saving petroleum and replacing petroleum with alternative
energy resources First of all, let us look at where petroleum is being
used in China. In terms of the present status of consumption, 50% of
the petroleum consumption has been used for industrial purposes with a
large part of such a proportion, i.e. 35 percent of the total
consumption of petroleum, used as fuels. And fuel oil is directly
combusted in power stations or for the use of boilers. As fuel oil is
the most important part of residual oil produced by the oil refining
industry, it is a thousand pities to have fuel oil combusted directly.

Now our country is carrying out the program of coal liquefaction
(i.e. converting coal into a kind of oil). I think it necessary to take
such a program into account with a view on the national strategy for
energy safety. But there is also a question to be considered: how about
the input-output ratio during coal liquefaction? It needs an investment
of RMB100 million to produce 10,000 tons of oil in this way. In
contrast, it will take a refinery in coastal areas RMB1 billion to
increase its capacity by one million tons of crude oil, i.e. an
investment of RMB10 million for the production of 10,000 tons of oil.
Thus, it is clear that coal liquefaction needs too many funds.
the effective utilization of resources, the hydrogen content in coal is
only 4% to 5%. So it is necessary to add a mass of hydrogen so as to
convert coal into a kind of cleanly oil product, which needs a mass of
funds. The hydrogen content in fuel oil is 10~11%, which is over twice
that in coal. And the hydrogen content in fuels used by transportation
vehicle, such as gasoline and diesel oil, is respectively about 13.5%
and 13%. So it is a great waste of resources if fuel oil is directly
combusted as a fuel for power stations and boilers without conversion.

Either natural gas or coal can be used as the fuel for power
stations and boilers. In terms of the effective utilization of
resources, our annual consumption of fuel oil has amounted to about
50,000,000 tons with a half being produced by ourselves. With all fuel
oil converted into lightweight oil, 30,000,000 to 40,000,000 tons of
oil can be produced. Certainly, it is not easy to achieve such an
objective, but it is necessary for us to made up our mind to solve
problems in this aspect because there exists a tremendous potential of
resource saving and it is also possible for us to manage it in the
first place.
Moreover, as for the oil
refining industry, crude oil should be mainly used for the production
of cleanly transportation fuel and raw materials for the petrochemical
industry; and efforts should be made to cut down or even simply stop
the production of fuel oil in the medium- and long-term. The recovery
rate of lightweight oil in developed countries is about 80%. If we will
need to refine 0.45 billion tons of oil in 2020 and recovery rate of
lightweight oil in China can be improved to over 80% from the present
recovery rate of 73%, it will be possible for us to produce an extra
sum of 30,000,000 tons of lightweight oil. This is another great

China has made a great progress in terms of its refining
technologies during the past decades, and it is not inferior to other
countries in certain fields. For example, in the field of converting
crude oil into diesel oil and gasoline, China possesses many
internationally competitive technologies; for instance, China’s
technology of converting high-sulfur and high-metal residual oil is
able to match those in other countries. Of course, in order to realize
the above-mentioned objects, it is also necessary for us to develop
more economical and more effective technologies for the conversion of
inferior dregs oil.
Thus, I hereby propose the following suggestions on these problems:
to plan oil saving in various industries as a whole, make explicit
objectives and reduce oil consumption intensity. Besides the high oil
consumption of automobiles, the comparatively high proportion of oil
reserved for the use in the petroleum industry and the petrochemical
industry as well as the excessive proportion of oil used in the
electricity industry, the metallurgy industry and the building
materials industry are also causes for the high oil consumption. It is
proposed that the government do the job of an organizer to work out an
overall national oil saving layout and an oil saving layout for key
industries with efforts made to do a good job on oil saving and oil
replacement in key industries including the electricity industry, the
iron and steel industry, the industry of building materials, the petrol
and petrochemical industry, and the chemical industry.

(2) to further enhance adjustments to automobile structure with
transportation oil saving as the key point. On basis of meeting users’
needs, try to manufacture vehicles with low oil consumption and a high
burning value. To develop diesel automobiles is also one of the methods
for transportation oil saving.

(3) to promote the development and application of alternative fuels
with a better efficiency of to take place of petroleum. In terms of the
global trend in energy development, petroleum will be partially
replaced by coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, wind energy and solar
energy in the end while various new energies including biological
energy will attract more and more attention.

(4) to insist on relying on technical progress for saving oil, make
efforts to boost the demonstration and spread of oil-saving
technologies and improve the technical level of industry and products.

(5) to strengthen lawmaking on oil saving, study and consummate policies continuously so that they can play an orienting role.

The author is an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Source :