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Beijing Clearing Air Ahead of Olympics

Posted on Apr. 18, 2008 – Energy Tribune – By Lee Geng

In an effort to improve Beijing’s dismal air quality before the Olympic Games, authorities are closing factories and implementing stricter sulfur standards for motor fuel.

To curb Beijing’s pollution, the closure of some factories – particularly cement, coke, and small steel producers in northern China – has been ordered. Polluting factories believed to be partially responsible for the capital’s poor air quality have already been closed in the provinces and municipalities of Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Shanxi, Tianjin, and Beijing. There are also plans to curb auto use and halt construction in Beijing before the Games begin.

As of March 1, Chinese refineries are required to produce gasoline and diesel that meet the Euro IV emission standards. The maximum sulfur content for both gasoline and diesel is capped at 50 parts per million, compared with the previous maximum for gasoline of 150 parts per million and diesel of 350 parts per million.

Sinopec’s and PetroChina’s refineries in the north have been upgraded to meet the new standard, with capacity to supply 505,000 tons per month, the bulk produced by Yanshan Petrochemical, one of Sinopec’s largest refineries. Beijing’s demand for oil products stands between 500,000 and 550,000 tons per month. The upgrades will be costly for the refiners, as the government is prohibiting them from raising prices to recover their investments.

However, that issue is taking a back seat to ongoing concerns about air pollution in Beijing. Last year, the smog there was so bad that Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee’s president, said some of the events might have to be rescheduled. And Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, who holds the world record for the marathon, has already said he won’t compete in that event because he fears Beijing’s poor air quality will damage his health.

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