Shenhua Named and Shamed in Greenpeace Report

by China Water Risk 23 July, 2013

23 July 2013 – Greenpeace issued a report titled: “Thirsty Coal 2: Shenhua’s Water Grab” investigating the possible over-extraction of groundwater and illegal discharge of wastewater by Shenhua Group’s Ordos Coal-to-Liquid demonstration project. Thirsty Coal 2. Shenhua's Water Grab

In the report they focus on what they call the most controversial component of China’s coal strategy: the proposed scaling up of the coal chemical sector. Greenpeace focused their investigation on the largest of the nine coal-to-chemical demonstration projects. This was the Shenhua project located in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, which has been in operation since December 2008.

The investigation covered two aspects of Shenhua’s coal-to-chemical demonstration project:

  1. Its water demand and extraction levels
  2. The quantity of wastewater and the method of disposal

The report described Shenhua’s activities on this project as the equivalent of a “water grab”, saying that they went to extraordinary lengths to secure the water they needed. The report also outlined evidence of what they called widespread ecological and social damage, resulting from the short span of eight years of operations. This included:

  • Shenhua extracts around 14.4 million tonnes of groundwater per year. Since 2006, every artesian well in the region has gone dry and wells less than 30 metres deep have been abandoned
  • There has been a clear decline in the surface vegetation in the region as well as the surface area of Subeinaoer Lake, the main lake in the region
  • Large increases in desertification, as a result of decline in surface vegetation
  • 80,000 hectares of land affected by severe water scarcity affecting 5,752 people
  • Groundwater samples taken at the discharge sites found dangerous levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens such as Benzo(a)pyrene, Xylene, Styrene and Dichloromethane.

The report concluded with Greenpeace calling for:

  • Shenhua to stop cease activities that will further damage both water resources and the environment
  • The National Development Reform Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Environmental protection, to set clear, scientific and applicable rules limiting coal expansion on the basis of water capacity. They should also set strict standards for water usage and environmental impact for all planned and existing coal-to-chemical plants

This was a follow up to their 2012 joint study with the China Academy of Sciences called: Thirsty Coal: A Water Crisis Exacerbated by China’s New Mega Coal Bases.


See the full report here and the press release here.