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Effect of strengthened standards on Chinese ironmaking and steelmaking emissions

Abstract

China has produced roughly half of the world’s steel in recent years, but the country’s iron and steel industry is a major source of air pollutants, especially particulate matter, SO2 and NOx emissions. To reduce such emissions, China imposed new emission standards in 2015 and promoted ultralow emission standards in 2019. Here we use measurements from China’s continuous emissions monitoring systems (covering 69–91% of national iron and steel production) to develop hourly, facility-level emissions estimates for China’s iron and steel industry. In turn, we use this data to evaluate the emission reductions related to China’s increasingly stringent policies. We find steady declines in emission concentrations at iron- and steelmaking plants since the 2015 standards were implemented. From 2014 to 2018, particulate matter and SO2 emissions fell by 47% and 42%, respectively, and NOx increased by 3%, even as the production increased by 14%. Moreover, we estimate that if all facilities achieve the ultralow emission standards, particulate matter, SO2 and NOx emissions will drop by a further 50%, 37% and 58%, respectively. Our results thus reveal the substantial benefits of the Chinese government’s interventions to curb emissions from iron and steel production and emphasize the promise of ongoing ultralow emission renovations.

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Fig. 1: Geographic and temporal distributions of Chinese iron- and steelmaking smokestack concentrations, 2014–2018.
Fig. 2: Emission intensities and total emissions for Chinese iron- and steelmaking facilities, 2014–2018.
Fig. 3: Emissions from Chinese iron- and steelmaking facility groups in 2018.
Fig. 4: Measures to meet the strengthened emission standards.

Data availability

The CEAIS database that supports the findings of this study is available in Supplementary Tables 1–10 or at http://www.ieimodel.org/. Supplementary Table 2 presents a summary of the CEAIS dataset. The data used in the estimation for emission intensities and total emissions include the smokestack concentrations presented in Fig. 1, Supplementary Figs. 1, 2 and 5, and Supplementary Table 4, the flue-gas rates provided in Supplementary Tables 8 and 9, and the plant-level information provided in Supplementary Table 10.

Code availability

All computer codes generated during this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank L. Wang (Associate Professor of Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences) for satellite data collection and R. Zhen (Professorate Senior Engineer of Capital Engineering & Research Incorporation Ltd.) for helpful discussions on data preprocessing. X.B. acknowledges support from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2019YFE0194500) and the National Research Program for Key Issues in Air Pollution Control (DQGG0209-07). L.T. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71971007). S.W. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71988101). X.C. acknowledges support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (72032006 and 11771012).

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Contributions

X.B., L.T., Z.M. and S.W. planned the project. X.B., W.C. and X.C. processed and analysed the CEMS data. G.D., M.J. and X.X. compiled and analysed the facility-based information for Chinese iron- and steelmaking plants. S.W., M.J., X.X., J.R. and B.Z. conducted the experimental work. X.B., L.T. and Z.M. wrote the paper. S.J.D. polished the paper. All authors contributed to developing and writing the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ling Tang, Zhifu Mi or Shouyang Wang.

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Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Hongyou Lu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–5, Figs. 1–14 and references.

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Supplementary Data 1

Supplementary Tables 1–10.

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Bo, X., Jia, M., Xue, X. et al. Effect of strengthened standards on Chinese ironmaking and steelmaking emissions. Nat Sustain 4, 811–820 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00736-0

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