▪ Report blames ship emissions for poor air quality in areas of Hong Kong
Hong Kong has suffered the most from ship emissions in the Pearl River Delta, with locals accounting for 75% of deaths related to sulphur dioxide (SO2) released from vessels, the South China Morning Post reported.
Air quality at Kwai Chung and Tsim Sha Tsui could be the worst hit by ship pollutants, researchers behind a five-year study by Civic Exchange suggest. The think tank, founded by Christine Loh Kung-wai, now environment undersecretary, urged the city's administration to be more proactive in tightening restrictions and to seek support from its mainland counterparts.
The city's popular ship routes were partly to blame, because some vessels passed through Hong Kong waters on the way to twin ports in Shenzhen, the group said in its report.
"With so many ships berthing at the terminal in Kwai Chung, it's like a small power plant," said Simon Ng Ka-wing, Civic Exchange's head of transport and sustainability research.
According to the Civic Exchange report, jointly issued with the University of Science and Technology and the University of Hong Kong, the city saw 385 of the 519 deaths directly related to SO2 from ship emissions in the region. The number of deaths in the inner Pearl River Delta region was 93, while that in the outer region was 42.
The think tank suggested the government seek support from the central government and apply to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to set up an emission control area, which would require ships to switch to 0.1% sulphur fuel when they are within 100 nautical miles of Hong Kong. It said such a move could reduce deaths related to SO2 by 91%.
It also suggested that the government make it compulsory for ships to switch their fuel to 0.5% sulphur at berth.
▪ Jakarta's recent economic boom results in higher levels of air pollutants
Long among the most-polluted cities in the world, Jakarta had in recent years shown some signs of improvement. But recent government data point to a sharp increase in the level of airborne pollutants in the past year-and-a-half, as economic growth has surged, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Specifically, levels of particulate matter known as PM10, or large-particle dust, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide—which already far exceeded limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO)—rose by between 40% and 85% in 2011. The increase was the greatest one-year movement in the Jakarta government's records, dated 2005-2011.
New data show the higher levels have been sustained in the first half of 2012. Other studies, meanwhile, show that more than 50% of Jakartans have experienced illnesses related to air pollution.
The results are disappointing given that the government body that tracks the data—the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency, or BPLHD—reported a decline in the same pollutants from 2005 to 2010. Levels of all three pollutants, which are among the five that must be monitored under Indonesian law, dropped 29% to 58% over the period.
One other pollutant, sulfur dioxide (SO2), saw a significant decline in 2011 as power plants, the biggest contributor to airborne sulfur, began using less-polluting compressed natural gas, (CNG).
The BPLHD doesn't publish trend data for ozone, the fifth pollutant, as it only began monitoring it several years ago. But separate data from Indonesia's Environmental Ministry show ozone has been steadily climbing since 2001.
Part of the challenge for policy makers is that the data aren't as complete as many experts would like. For Jakarta to fully gauge its air quality, activists and the BPLHD say the city needs as many 30 automatic monitoring stations, and perhaps more than that to specifically monitor roadside air; it currently has four.
The agency also doesn't publicly measure PM2.5, the tiny dust particles that are considered more dangerous to human health than PM10.
The BPLHD says it is working to increase Jakarta's green space and is building up its network of automatic pollutant testing stations, with a fifth station coming online later this year.
Indonesia's Environmental Ministry, which spurred a 1999 law that lays out many of the nation's air-quality regulations, says it is also doing what it can. Ade Palguna, the assistant deputy minister for air pollution, says the ministry is pushing initiatives to improve the quality of diesel fuel and other fuels, and to promote the use of natural gas for public transportation.
▪ China could become a major petroleum product exporter, IEA says
In its latest medium-term outlook, the International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based global energy watchdog, said China could become a petroleum-product exporting powerhouse given current expansion plans.
The IEA recently predicted that global oil demand would rise to 95.7 million barrels a day by 2017, but the refining-sector expansion plans will likely take global refining capacity to 100.5 million barrels daily.
China will account for more than 40% of global refining capacity growth in the next five years, it said. However, the viability of the country's refining sector is under question because of recently sluggish demand and a weaker economic growth outlook, which has prompted some state-run oil firms to scale back expansion plans, the IEA said.
Analysts say that while Beijing can slow the pace of expansion by its state-owned oil companies, a surge in capacity addition by private refiners could undermine its balancing act.
Nearly half of the some 155 independent refineries spread across China have yet to be even legally identified by Beijing, according to a new study published by Argus Media.
Teapot refineries, which already make up more than a quarter of China's total refining capacity, may expand by 37% to 5.23 million barrels a day by 2015, according to the Argus study.
If so, together, the teapots will rival the entire oil refining capacity of big energy-consuming nations like India and Japan.