Tracing fossil-based plastics, chemicals and fertilizers production in China.

Jiang, M., Cao, Y., Liu, C. et al. Tracing fossil-based plastics, chemicals and fertilizers production in China. Nat Commun 15, 3854 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-47930-0

Abstract

Phasing down fossil fuels is crucial for climate mitigation. Even though 80–90% of fossil fuels are used to provide energy, their use as feedstock to produce plastics, fertilizers, and chemicals, is associated with substantial CO2 emissions. However, our understanding of hard-to-abate chemical production remains limited. Here we developed a chemical process-based material flow model to investigate the non-energy use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in China. Results show in 2017, the chemical industry used 0.18 Gt of coal, 88.8 Mt of crude oil, and 12.9 Mt of natural gas as feedstock, constituting 5%, 15%, and 7% of China’s respective total use. Coal-fed production of methanol, ammonia, and PVCs contributes to 0.27 Gt CO2 emissions ( ~ 3% of China’s emissions). As China seeks to balance high CO2 emissions of coal-fed production with import dependence on oil and gas, improving energy efficiency and coupling green hydrogen emerges as attractive alternatives for decarbonization.

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