Life-cycle comparison of greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption for coal and shale gas fired power generation in China

Yuan Chang*, Runze Huang, Robert J. Ries, Eric Masanet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


China has the world's largest shale gas reserves, which might enable it to pursue a new pathway for electricity generation. This study employed hybrid LCI (life cycle inventory) models to quantify the ETW (extraction-to-wire) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and water consumption per kWh of coal- and shale gas-fired electricity in China. Results suggest that a coal-to-shale gas shift and upgrading coal-fired power generation technologies could provide pathways to less GHG and water intensive power in China. Compared to different coal-fired generation technologies, the ETW GHG emissions intensity of gas-fired CC (combined cycle) technology is 530 g CO2e/kWh, which is 38-45% less than China's present coal-fired electricity. Gas-fired CT (combustion turbine) technology has the lowest ETW water consumption intensity at 960 g/kWh, which is 34-60% lower than China's present coal-fired electricity. The GHG-water tradeoff of the two gas-fired power generation technologies suggests that gas-fired power generation technologies should be selected based on regional-specific water resource availabilities and electricity demand fluctuations in China. However, the low price of coal-fired electricity, high cost of shale gas production, insufficient pipeline infrastructures, and multiple consumers of shale gas resources may serve as barriers to a coal-to-shale gas shift in China's power sector in the near term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-343
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jun 15 2015


  • Coal
  • Electric power generation
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Shale gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Pollution
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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