Technology lifts quality of Shanxi's industries
Source: China Daily

A huge wind power generation component is produced at a plant in the county of Dingxiang. Dingxiang has developed into one of the advanced manufacturing bases in Shanxi thanks to the application of new technologies. [Photo by Sun Rongxiang for China Daily]

Cleaner and more efficient coal production, boosted agricultural yields and massive growth in service sector the results of upgrading campaign

From energy development to manufacturing, from agriculture to services, almost all the industries in the North China province of Shanxi are being upgraded with the application of high technologies and new sciences.

The moves are in accordance with Shanxi's campaign of economic transformation, which reduces reliance on coal mining, pushes manufacturing sectors to an advanced level and cultivates emerging industries as new drivers for economic growth.

Gengyang New Energy Corp, a coking company based in the county of Qingxu in the provincial capital of Taiyuan, is one example of such a transformation.

In March, it pulled down a 55-meter-tall coke wet-quenching tower to replace it with a more efficient and environmentally friendly facility. It was an important moment in the upgrading of the coking industry in Taiyuan as well as the entire province, according to local officials.

Gengyang New Energy, founded in 2018, is a company which boasts multiple operations including the manufacturing of coke, new materials and coal-based chemicals.

Wet quenching is the traditional cooling technique in coke production, which features a higher level of carbon dioxide emissions as well as emissions of other pollutants like hydrogen sulfide and dust, according to Mi Jingxuan, president of Gengyang.

The executive said the company will soon build a facility with a more advanced dry-quenching technique. It is scheduled to be operational by April 2023.

"With such a facility, which has a capacity of processing 190 metric tons of coal per hour, 100 percent of the coke of our company will be produced with the wet-quenching technique," Mi said.

Compared with wet quenching, Mi said the new technique has economic and environmental benefits.

"We estimated that the new facility can save 120,000 tons of water and 21,000 tons of coal a year compared with conventional facilities with a similar capacity," Mi said. "In addition, it can also lead to the reduction of 18 tons of hydrogen sulfide and 116 tons of dust a year."

The coking unit of Jinnan Steel Group, based in the city of Linfen, is another example of upgrading the coking industry with new technologies.

With the application of digital technologies, the group's production is now controlled by an integrated control center.

Zhang Tianfu, president of Jinnan Steel Group, said the coking process-including such procedures as coal loading, coking, coke quenching and coke unloading-is now automatic thanks to the use of digital technologies and a 5G network.

"The process can be actually controlled by one person, who works remotely at the control center, far away from the coking furnace," Zhang said.

In addition to manufacturing, agriculture is another sector in Shanxi that has been upgraded through modernization and new techniques.

Yao Jianmin, a researcher at Shanxi Agricultural University, recently posted the pictures of a millet harvest on his WeChat account. He said that "these are the best crops that I have ever seen in Shanxi's dryland farming fields".

In recent decades, Yao said he has spent much more time in fields than in the labs and classrooms of his university. He has been offering technological services to farmers in more than 50 counties in Shanxi.

One of the solutions he promotes is the use of water-permeable film.

"Unlike the regions in the south and east of China, dryland farming is the characteristic of Shanxi's agriculture," Yao said. "Water-conserving irrigation, developing suitable crop varieties, and improving soil quality are the key elements for better dryland farming."

Effective and water-saving irrigation is especially important in dryland farming and that is why he focuses his energy on the water-permeable film technique.

"Water permeable film can effectively prevent evaporation and erosion of the soil and thus help to retain water and nutrition," Yao said.

Gao Zhiqiang, another researcher from Shanxi Agricultural University, said the use of digital technologies can boost agricultural production, be it dryland or water-dependent farming.

He is now leading a team of agronomists from his university to offer technological services to farmers in the county of Yicheng.

During the recent wheat harvest season, a farm in Yicheng's Dongguan village, which his team took care of, reported a per-hectare yield of 12.83 tons, breaking the record for water-dependent wheat farming in Shanxi province.

Gao said the team's proposal to improve output is a data-analysis-based solution. The scientist said the most effective way to increase output and improve quality is the proper use of water and fertilizers. This can be calculated according to the conditions of the farm, such as soil moisture, the level of nutrition in soil, as well as light and heat exposure.

Dongguan village's record was made after the sowing of seeds was delayed for about a month for weather-related reasons. "This shows that a scientific approach to farming can help to offset the negative influence of natural uncertainties by working out remedies for farming delays caused by such natural disasters as flood, drought and cold weather," Gao said.

The service industry in Shanxi was also promoted to a higher level of development with the use of digital technologies.

According to the Shanxi Department of Commerce, the service industry in the province saw an increase of more than 300 billion yuan ($44.35 billion) in revenue during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), thanks to the use of e-commerce powered by digital technologies. The industry has accounted for more than 50 percent of the local economy for several years, becoming a new engine of local growth.

Leng Xue contributed to this story.


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