China Daily ( 11-09-2006 )
BEIJING, April 27 -- After five years of efforts to promote an energy-saving invention in East China's Anhui Province, Na Xuefang seems close to realizing his dream.
He has found a big client in neighbouring Jiangsu Province for his powder, an additive to coal that helps it burn more efficiently. Na needs his product to be a success because by the end of last year, all the money he put into the project was spent.
Na had to give up his office in Hefei, Anhui's capital, and move into a small room in a suburb for a rent of 100 yuan (US$12.5) per month, where he continued to promote his invention.
"I hope the newly-released long-term scientific plan, which prioritizes energy-saving technology, will serve as a turning point for my invention," Na said.
A nationwide call to turn China into a resource-saving country has sparked the zeal to make energy-saving technological advances.
But some environmental experts say that innovations alone are not enough and that the government needs to set the proper foundation to take advantage of them through establishing the right laws and policies.
In the National Guideline on the Medium- and Long-Term Programme for Science and Technology Development (2006-20), issued by the State Council in February, developing energy-saving technology is a high priority.
In his report to the National People's Congress last month, Premier Wen Jiabao called on the nation to cut energy use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 per cent by 2010 from the 2005 level.
China's high consumption of energy has raised widespread concern. According to a national guideline released in 2004 by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's energy consumption was 3.1 times the world's average per unit of GDP in 2002.
To reach the energy-saving goal, policies are being drafted, including establishing an index to evaluate how local governments have cut energy consumption in relation to GDP growth.
The policy to encourage energy saving promotes researchers seeking new approaches.
Na was one of them.
Since 1991, Na, who was trained in chemistry, has been engaged in developing a way to make coal burn more efficiently.
"I often saw after burning that much unburnt coal was left. This was a great waste," Na said.
"In coal mining areas of Henan Province, people pour salt onto high-sulphur coal to make it burn more fully. That caused me to think about finding other chemical additives."
In nine years of experiments, Na found that some chemicals would lower the temperature for coal to start burning, and that others produce oxygen in the stove. The two chemicals, when combined, resulted in more efficient burning. He also mixed some chemicals into his additive to dissolve sulphur dioxide, a major pollutant from high-sulphur coal.
In the late 1990s, Na eventually succeeded in making the additive. According to Tang Hanyong, deputy director of the government-backed Anhui Technological Promotion Centre, Na's powder can make coal burn up to 20 per cent more efficiently and reduce the emission of sulphur dioxide, sulphur trioxide and carbon monoxide. It obtained an invention patent from the State Intellectual Property Office in 2000.
"Considering the price of the additive, coal users will still save at least 12 per cent on their coal costs," Na said.
However, he used up much of his money and could not get his invention into production. "Many investors are interested in my project, but all of them set conditions unacceptable to me," Na said.
Returning to his hometown, Wuwei County in Anhui, in late 2000, Na hoped his product could win the favour of power stations and other major coal users in his hometown.
But not one company in Anhui has committed to use Na's powder so far.
"Once Na had earned some money, he spent it to have samples of his powder made and then took it to electricity generation factories or major coal users for a demonstration," Tang said.
"Each time the expected effect was achieved, but still no one would use it."
Na said the next step should be taken by the government. "Although State policy has stressed energy-saving, no punitive taxes have been waived to encourage people to truly reduce energy use," he said.
"For private entrepreneurs, it makes sense even if the powder can reduce just 5 per cent of their costs." ...
Coal Saving Powder
international: C10L9/10; C10L9/00; (IPC1-7): C10L9/10
Abstract --- The coal-saving powder is produced by mixing smoke suppressor, desulfurizing agetn, comburant agent, aerating agent, activator and puffing agent according to a certain proportion, and contains tween-60, ferric oxide, magnesia, manganese carbonate, calcium oxide, sodium chloride, potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, potassium permanganate, dodecyl sodium bensosulfonate, sodium exametaphosphate, trisodium phosphate and vermiculite. When used, it is added into coal and can make coal combust completely and reduce CO, sulfide and oxide pollution to atmosphere.