As the largest producer of coal chemical products in the world, China faces tremendous pressure to reduce its carbon emission. An accurate quantification of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emission of coal chemical industry in China is therefore necessary. However, due to the variety of coal chemical products and limitations of CO2 emission factors, the total CO2 emission of coal chemical industry has yet to be determined. In this study, local CO2 emission factors of coal chemical products in China are published based on first hand data from twenty-three coal chemical enterprises and the total CO2 emission of China’s coal chemical industry is extrapolated. The provincial-level spatial distribution of the CO2 emission of coal chemical industry is presented to assist the government in identifying key emission reduction areas. Additionally, scenario analysis of CO2 emission for China’s modern coal chemical industry in 2020 is conducted to determine whether the development of the modern coal chemical industry will have a significant impact on future CO2 emission, as well as the effect of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies on the reduction in carbon emission. The estimate shows that the total CO2 emission of the coal chemical industry in 2015 was 607 million tonnes (Mt), accounting for approximately 5.71% of China’s total CO2 emission. The figure is higher than the total annual CO2 emission of a country such as Canada (555 Mt) or Brazil (486 Mt). Quantifying the emission of the coal chemical industry is therefore critical to understand the global carbon budget. The spatial distribution shows that Shandong, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi release one-third of the coal chemical industry’s total CO2 emission. Considering the development of the modern coal chemical industry, its CO2 emission is predicted to be as high as 416.52 million tonnes in 2020. However, the CO2 emission could be reduced by 317.98 million tonnes when carbon capture, utilization and storage are applied to process and energy systems simultaneously. This paper quantifies the CO2 emission of the coal chemical industry in China for the first time, identifies key chemical products and the provinces in which they are produced, explores the carbon reduction potential by scenario analysis, and provides specific data to support the assessment of effective CO2 reduction policy.
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