Visitors check out the booth of Meijin Energy during a clean energy expo in Beijing in March. [Photo provided to China Daily]

TAIYUAN — Meijin Energy, a coal and coke producer from North China's Shanxi province, has in recent years expanded into the clean hydrogen sector by making use of oven gas from its coke production.

After several years of development, Meijin is now able to extract 96,000 metric tons of hydrogen from coke oven gas annually, enough to power 10,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles for a year.

Besides producing hydrogen, Meijin has also gone downstream in the industrial chain and is manufacturing new energy buses and trucks that operate using hydrogen.

"Green transition is by no means easy for an energy company," said Yao Jinlong, board chairman of the company. "Over the past decade, we have tried many ways and done many things. We are now confident that we are doing the right thing on the right track."

Hydrogen demand is on the rise in China, boosted by the rapid development of new energy vehicles that use hydrogen for power. Compared with cars powered by lithium-ion batteries that are mostly for personal use, hydrogen vehicles are primarily developed for commercial purposes, such as buses and trucks, with advantages for heavier and longer hauls.

According to a government plan on the hydrogen sector released last year, China aims to have 50,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2025, up from about 10,000 at the beginning of this year. The number is expected to rocket to 1 million by 2035, said the China Society of Automotive Engineers.

Yao, whose grandfather founded the company in the 1980s, hails from China's coal-rich Shanxi province. He studied abroad to get his bachelor's and master's degrees and joined Meijin when he returned home.

Yao decided to lead the company into the hydrogen sector in 2016 after he studied a number of modern energy technologies and found separating hydrogen from coke oven gas a viable option to produce hydrogen at low costs.

"As a large coke producer, Meijin has plenty of raw materials to work with. That is our advantage," Yao said.

Meijin is one of such companies in Shanxi, and China as a whole, eager for energy transition as the country races toward its carbon peaking and neutrality goals.

The nation is in pursuit of high-quality development after decades of fast expansion. It has seen a change in its energy structure, with clean energy making up around a quarter of total energy consumption by the end of 2021, up from 14.5 percent about a decade ago, a white paper released earlier this year showed.

In Yao's estimation, China has huge potential to cut carbon emissions from heavy goods transport, as heavy-duty diesel trucks now contribute nearly half of the country's carbon dioxide emissions by vehicles, but account for only 8 percent of the total number of vehicles.

Meijin is using hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks to transport coal, trying to get more people's attention on the use of such vehicles and joining the race to decarbonize China's heavy-duty trucking industry.