Murmansk develops industrial scale energy efficiency project based on rubbish

Publish date: January 21, 2011

MURMANSK – The Murmansk Region in Russia’s far north is demonstrating an example of effective energy use in the form of using the Murmansk Rubbish Incineration Plant as a source of heating the city, allowing several environmental problems to be solved in this city, the largest above the Arctic Circle.

The project, which is very important for the environment of the region, was launched by the Kola Peninsula branch of TGC-1, the leading producer of electricity and heat in Northwest Russia. The power company has built a steam pipe uniting the eastern boiler of Murmansk with the rubbish incineration plant. The essence of the project is to use the high temperature steam produced in the incineration of daily waste. In the past, this steam has simply been emitted into the atmosphere – with negative environmental consequences.  Now, this steam is used to heat water in boilers, which are used to provide heat and hot water to residential buildings.

“At this, the condensate that forms when the steam cools comes back to the plant for a second use,” said Alexander Antipov, director of the Kola Peninsula branch of TGC-1. “The company will save up to 15,000 tons of heating oil a year.” According to Bellona data, this corresponds roughly to 35,000 tons of carbon gasses a year. Moreover, in the long perspective, that use of steam could be increased by several times – at which point more trash would be required.

In this manner, energy specialists will decrease their expenditures on fuel and can destroy a greater quantity of rubbish, which is a pressing issue for the 500,000 strong population of Murmansk. The city currently has only on landfill for rubbish storage – which is clearly splitting at the seams – and only one rubbish incineration facility. Most importantly, as a result of using so-called rubbish steam, the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere during burning of huge amounts of trash is greatly reduced. The energy industry, regional officials, Murmansk residents and, of course, local environmental organizations, would seem to be coming out ahead.

“This project was long under discussion, and here, finally it has been realized,” said Yury Sergeyev, Bellona Murmansk’s coordinator of energy projects. “The introduction of energy efficient technologies is a positive influence on the environment of any region, so analogous projects are being realized in Norway and Germany and a host of other European countries. And the use of steam from waste incineration facilities to heat residences is not a very large step in the direction of realizing the huge potential of energy efficiency in the (Murmansk) region.”

Bellona hopes that the quantity of energy efficiency and savings projects will increase. A number of structures have formed in the Murmansk Region: The Coordinating Council on Energy Savings and Increasing Energy Efficiency in the Murmansk Region (Ministry of Energy and the Housing Maintenance and Utilities Board); a working group on issues of raising the energy efficiency of the Murmansk Region’s economy (The Union of Industrialists and Businessmen of he Murmansk Region), and the Energy Efficiency Agency of the Murmansk Region (autonomous).

“Such powerful administrative and business support is bound to demonstrate results of its activities in the near future,” said Sergeyev.

According to Oleg Sutkaitis, Director of the Barents Sea regional office of the World Wildlife Fund, much attention is currently focused on problems of global climate change.

“It is the activities of our industries that in the first place impact the climate. And one element of reducing the negative impact on the climate is, of course, the introduction of energy efficient technology,” said Sutkaitis. “And we hope that we will be working in this direction with the Kola Peninsula branch of  TGC-1.

In order that rhetoric not depart from reality, the Barents Sea area office of the WWF has signed with energy producers an agreement of cooperation. The two sides plan to cooperatively promote ecological enlightenment and preservationist activities. This is the first document signed in the Murmansk Region between a leading environmental organization and a substantial energy and heat production company.

The agreement provides for cooperative educational programs and projects, as well as conducting conferences and seminars on nature preservation themes geared toward young people. Environmentalists are planning to visit TGC-1 installations. The WWF often signed cooperative agreements with companies that take an active approach to he environment. And the Kola Peninsula energy sector yearly strives to reduce negative impacts on nature, introducing contemporary technologies at hydroelectric plants.

“This is likely not noticeable to the inhabitants, but is extremely necessary. We are putting cleansing equipment at our hydroelectric stations for waste waters, and are introducing recirculation schemes of water conservation,” said Antipov.

“Likewise, we are recycling all of our waste – mercury lamps, battery units, tires, used grease,” he said.  

According to Antipov, equipment for neutralizing the overflow of grease from transformers at the Raikosky Hydroelectric Plant have been introduced. When transformers fail, they can spill 50 tons of grease. If it flows into the Paz River near the border with Europe, the results would be catastrophic. Now, this grease can be poured into a special storage tank.

One important problem for Murmansk remains undecided – the caustic smells emitting from TGC-1’s thermoelectric power and heating plant. These odours are highly irritating for Murmansk resident and impact not only the health but the genral mood of the populace. The odours arise during the unloading of heating fuel while stationary railway cisterns are being steam cleaned. The energy industry knows how to solve this problem but does not have the funding – switching the technology is estimated at 1.5 billion roubles ($49 million).

However, by signing the agreement with the WWF, Antipov has committed himself to solving this issue. It has already been decided that, soon, new technologies will be applied to small boilers. If this produces a real effect, then a search for investment to introduce the innovation at the Murmansk TGC-1 thermoelectric power and heating plant. But this will not happen without the help of city authorities.

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