Factories in China’s industrial heartland making everything from steel sheet to tofu and ceramics are struggling with soaring costs or facing closure as they wait for authorities to approve new gas-powered boilers, five industry executives told Reuters. The problems illustrate the burden that is falling on China’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers because of Beijing’s radical shift from coal to natural gas and will raise concerns of insufficient power supply for industry. China’s central government has ordered regions near the capital to shut 44,000 coal-fired boilers that provide steam and energy for factories, including steel rolling mills, ceramics and chemical manufacturers, and convert or replace them with gas-fired boilers or switch to electricity by the end of October.
The change is part of the government’s push to wean the country off coal and reduce the amount of smog emitted by its industries. Other measures include cutting steel and aluminum output and curbing construction in northern regions. The city of Tangshan, in the province of Hebei which surrounds Beijing, set an earlier deadline of Oct. 9 for the conversions and said it would shut companies that did not comply. Tanghsan is China’s biggest steel-producing city.