The conference "New Generation: 'Second Coal Wave', the Gas Market and the Reform of Thermal Electrical Engineering" was held in Moscow in December 2006. It was organized by the Export RA rating agency and the Expert analytical center with the support of the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Russian Federation. Its participants proceeded from the fact that the shortage of power generating capacities is increasingly felt in the country with the gap growing ever wider between the requirements of electric and thermal power and the potential for its generation. Methane is now the predominant kind of fuel in Russia*. It accounts for 52 percent of the country's total power consumption and for 68 percent in heat generation. This Russia's indicator is eight times higher than that of Germany and six times higher than that of the USA. Apart from the climatic and geographic factors, this difference is attributable to wasteful production methods and consumption of cheap natural fuel in this country.
However, its sources are not inexhaustible and will soon diminish. Gas production at Gazprom's basic gas fields- Medvezhy, Urengoy, Yamburg and Zapolyarny - reached its peak in the early 1990s, while, according to forecasts, it will drop 3 to 7 times by 2012. Anyway, in the short-term perspective (until 2010) Gazprom will not only preserve its former indicators but also raise gas production from 548 to 560 bin m3 by operation of small gas fields. While new large gas fields that may compensate for a lower gas production level after 2010 are located in regions of austere climate lacking the required infrastructure (the Shtokman, Yamal, and East Siberian gas fields).
There are also some other reserves for the output of raw fuel, i.e., from associate gas (up to 30 bin m ) and from independent producers (up to 180 bin m ). True, the latter are hampered by the limited carrying capacity and a high degree of fixed assets wear and tear (about 60 percent) of the country's unified gas-supply system.
In a word, imbalance in this branch of the economy is on the upgrade. That is why in the long-term perspective it is necessary to develop simultaneously coal, nuclear and hydraulic power engineering in combination with the gradual reduction in the gas share. Any of these kinds of fuels naturally has its positive and negative aspects. The "ideal", or unified structure of generating capacities, is simply nonexistent, so each country makes use of its own natural, economic, scientific-and-technological and other kinds of potential. For instance, electric power generation is based on nuclear power engineering in France, on hydraulic power generation in Canada, on coal in China, Australia, Poland, the Republic of South Africa, Germany and the USA, although for the purposes of ensuring energy security each of the states seeks to avoid dependence on a single power source.
Russia ranks second-third in the world for its coal stocks and fifth for its mining (it left the world far behind in this respect before the 1990s). However, not a single electric power station has been put into operation in Russia in the past 15 years, while most of those operating have become gas-fueled. To reverse this process, i.e., to replace gas with coal, is in many cases quite problematic. The fact is that the old technological chains have not been preserved while new ecology-friendly and effective ones have not yet been prepared. RAO UES of Russia has elaborated the respective program for approximately 30 electric power stations, but they may become a reality not earlier than in 2012.
According to the country's economic development scenarios, wholesale gas price will reach $70 - 100 per thous. m, and the goal-oriented ratio of the price of coal and gas (on the basis of conditional fuel)-1:1.7. Given normalization of these proportions, coal electrical engineering will have good prospects for development not only in Siberia, where it currently predominates, but also in the Urals and in Central
* See: A. Ruban, V. Zaburdeyev, "Mine Methane", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2006; "Marsh Gas", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2006. - Ed.
European Russia. It was stressed at the Moscow conference that a broader utilization of coal electrical engineering in the country's fuel-and-power balance will make it possible to resolve many urgent problems. It will rapidly compensate to a great degree for the shortage of generating capacities, extend the period of the country's provision with gas and oil resources, expand time limits for investments in the development of new gas- and oil-rich territories and water areas, with the saved stocks of raw hydrocarbons used to meet international obligations and attain geopolitical goals.
Today coal is an object of important scientific research and high-tech innovation development carried out in over 40 institutes of the Siberian, Ural and Far Eastern RAS branches. Many projects are currently implemented for the construction of electric power stations of a new technical and ecological level with zero polluting emissions. Several pilot demonstration facilities have been built and put into operation. The results of certain spheres of research testify to the economic efficiency of coal processing into liquid or gaseous fuel* for aircraft. According to certain reports, nanotechnologies change fundamentally the properties of coal as a power source, among others.
The participants in the conference came to the conclusion that in the long run coal will figure as the basic fuel in our country's energy balance by ruling out in this way the upward trend in electric power shortage. The elaboration of the National Coal Program of Russia will also contribute to it.
S. Alexeyenko, N. Voropai, G. Gritsko, "From Gas to Coal", Science in Siberia, No. 4, 2007
Prepared by Yaroslav SIBIRTSEV
* See: A. Rozovsky, "Motor Fuel from Coal", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2001; "Gas from Coal", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2005. - Ed.
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