China: To fight air pollution, steel city orders closing of more plants

The city will also close all cement plants and coal-fired power plants that did not reach the minimum emission standards

By: Reuters | Beijing/manila | Published:November 22, 2016 3:51 pm
china pollution, air pollution, smog, china smog, china smog control, china pollution control, control air pollution, steel plant closing china Office workers wear masks for protection against the pollution in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s top steelmaking city has ordered many of its industrial factories to curb production or even close for as long as four months through to March in a bid to clear the skies of smog. Tangshan, a city in northern Hebei province, will seek to reduce steel production by requiring producers to cut emissions by as much as 50 percent from November 15 to December 31, according to a document published in the official Tangshan government newspaper late on Monday.

Steel plants with sinter facilities – those that process smaller particles of iron ore into lumps – that do not have desulfurization equipment are required to partially shut during the period, the document said.

The curbs may only have a limited impact on steel output from Tangshan since blast furnaces, or the big machines used to make steel, “are basically not impacted,” said Richard Lu, analyst at CRU consultancy.

“That is actually not new to the steel industry there as the Tangshan government has implemented the same measures several times this year,” said Lu.

Tangshan accounts for about half of the steel output in Hebei where nearly a quarter of China’s total steel is made.

The city will also close all cement plants and coal-fired power plants that did not reach the minimum emission standards for four months from November 15.

Coke production furnaces will be required to extend their production period to 36 hours before the new year. After January 1, the production period will be further extended to 48 hours if the emission standard is still not met.

Tangshan will also limit the times vehicles can drive in the city between November 23 and March 15.

“The pollution-related mandates are now increasingly used by local government in northern cities as a key way to fight smog,” said a coal analyst with a Shanghai-based securities firm who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The latest restrictions in Tangshan may further curb supply of coke, he said. “Coke inventory is very low because of weather factors, transportation difficulties and tight coking coal supply,” he added.

On Monday, about half a dozen listed Chinese companies, mainly in the pharmaceutical sector, temporarily halted production in China’s northern city of Shijiazhuang as part of an anti-pollution drive.

China has adopted various measures over the years to reduce the smog that covers many of the country’s northern cities in the winter, causing hazardous traffic conditions and disrupting daily life.