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‘Super-Pollutant’ Emitted by 11 Chinese Chemical Plants Could Equal a Climate Catastrophe

‘Super-Pollutant’ Emitted by 11 Chinese Chemical Plants Could Equal a Climate Catastrophe

Emissions controls worked perfectly at Chinese plants, until a foreign subsidy dried up.

In December 2007, Charles Perilloux, an American chemical engineer, traveled to China to help install inexpensive and game-changing technology at a Chinese chemical plant that was spewing a climate "super-pollutant" into the atmosphere. The emissions quickly fell to near zero.

The state-owned Henan Shenma Nylon Chemical Company manufactures adipic acid, a key ingredient in nylon and polyurethane, which is used in everything from car parts to running shoes. While producing adipic acid, the factory emitted thousands of tons of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

Shenma's emission reductions had a greenhouse gas impact equivalent to taking one million cars off the road, records from the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) show. Through the program, Shenma reduced its emissions in exchange for lucrative carbon credits.

The plant's abatement technology produced a financial windfall. Shenma, and another, larger, state-owned adipic acid plant that also reduced its emissions, sold carbon credits over a five-year period that were worth as much as $1.3 billion, records from the U.N. and carbon markets show.

Then, in 2012, funding for the U.N. program dried up.

What has happened since at the two plants, and at nine others across China that now manufacture nearly half of the world's adipic acid, has been a mystery.
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