(Yicai Global) Jan. 17 -- China's environmental ministry has enforced maximum fines on two coking companies for excessively discharging sulfur dioxide in the northern province of Shanxi as the country looks to crack down on its pollution problem.
Data shows some companies discharged pollutants above the permitted limits and failed to build desulfurization or denitrification facilities, said the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. The average daily pollution released at Shanxi Coking Group Co. and Shanxi Sanwei Ruide Coking Co. has exceeded limits since the new year and the former has not used appropriate anti-pollution facilities for its six coking production lines.
Coking is a refining process that creates petroleum coke, a fuel similar to coal.
The concentration of sulfur dioxide in Linfen, Shanxi peaked at 1,303 micrograms per cubic meter earlier this year, Li Ting, postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said on social media. Both of the companies fined are located in Linfen.
The average concentration was 366.85 micrograms per cubic meter during the first two weeks of the year, well above the 24-hour, 150 micrograms per cubic meter limit set by the national government. Per the World Health Organization's guidelines, concentrations up to 500 micrograms per cubic meter are dangerous to humans after 10 minutes' exposure. For 24 hours' exposure, the figure should be below 20 micrograms per cubic meter. The cause of the excessive concentration could not be identified due to a lack of data, said Li.
The ministry has also found Hebei companies breaching pollution discharge regulations, it said. Some 720 people were detained for violating environmental protection laws in 2016, receiving a total of USD21.8 million in fines.