China's Guangdong province plans special emission curbs on steel, petchem

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s southeastern manufacturing hub of Guangdong is planning to impose tougher emission curbs on its steel, petrochemical and cement firms starting from June as it bids to meet state air quality standards, the local environment bureau said.

The Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau said on Tuesday that industrial emissions curbs will be extended to the entire province as it aims to bring average concentrations of hazardous, breathable particles known as PM2.5 to around 30 micrograms per cubic meter by 2020.

The draft guidelines, issued this week and currently subject to public consultation, will force all new steel, petrochemical and cement plants to meet tougher standards on particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, starting from June 6. Existing capacity must comply with the new restrictions by Dec. 1.

Firms that do not meet the new requirements will be subject to punitive measures, including production restrictions, fines and even closures, the document said.

Guangdong is the location of the 9-million tonne per annum Zhanjiang steel base run by the Baowu Iron and Steel Group. The province produced 28.9 million tonnes of crude steel last year, up 24.7 percent compared to 2016.

It is also the home of several major petrochemical complexes and saw total refining volumes reach 51.8 million tonnes in 2017, up 3.1 percent on the year. Cement production also rose 7.7 percent last year to 157.85 million tonnes.

The province is a major part of the Pearl river delta, which was one of the few regions to meet China’s national 35-microgram air quality standard in 2017. The environment ministry does not expect the country as a whole to reach the standard until 2035.

Average PM2.5 throughout China reached 43 micrograms per cubic meter last year, but stood at as high as 65 micrograms in the heavily industrial northern region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei. Northern China has already imposed its own “special emissions restrictions” on local enterprises this year.

China is currently drawing up a new three-year action plan to tackle pollution after completing all its air quality targets for the 2013-2017 period, but experts have warned that the war on smog is now set to get harder as the country tries to tackle rising ozone levels.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Shri Navaratnam