Our first museums - repositories of learning and wisdom, of our cultural and intellectual heritage - appeared way back in the 15th and 16th centuries. Early in the 1990s Russia had as many as 1,200,000 museums. And quite recently two remarkable museums were opened in Siberia - museums in the proper sense of the word plus data banks for scientists, industrialists and business entrepreneurs too.
Western Siberia is a mineral-rich territory. A territory very rich in natural oil, or petroleum, too. But what do we know about oil? Say, what color is it? Black? - Wrong! Natural oil may be colorless, green, brown, yellow or red. Each of these colors has different shades and hues to it as well. There are also other distinctive characteristics, fluidity and viscosity for one. Some oil grades are fluid like water, while others are pretty viscous - so much so that the stuff will not flow out of a vessel even if you overturn it, bottom up. Yet these are the outward tokens only. Each grade of oil is unique in its composition and properties.
This is the domain of the Tomsk-based Petroleum Chemistry Institute affiliated with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of
Sciences. Its research takes in a wide spectrum of the oil science, starting from the evolution of natural hydrocarbons and down to such matters as oil mining, refining and processing, and the environment*. The research staff, involved with all that for nearly thirty years, has designed innovative techniques and instruments that have made it possible to collect a wealth of data on the composition, structure and characteristics of oil grades found in various parts of Russia and abroad. All these copious data should be evaluated and brought together so as to enable those who take an interest to see for themselves and learn. That's what the Tomsk Museum of Oil is tor-Russia's only museum of this kind opened in 1991 at the initiative of Dr. Ye. Sirotkina, director of the Petroleum Chemistry Institute, and with the support of Academician V. Koptyug, then heading the RAS Siberian Branch. Worldwide there are only four museums like that. The Tomsk museum comprises three sections: exhibits proper, an oil storage facility and a data base on oil properties and characteristics.
The exhibition shows various hydrocarbon and core samples. As a matter of fact, petroleum is not found in the form of underground lakes, it is recovered from oil- bearing rock fractures (strata). That is why only 30 to 40 percent of the explored oil deposits is considered recoverable. So, even a 1 percent gain in the recovery rate would mean an extra millions and millions of tons of this precious raw material.
The Oil Museum features research and practical accomplishments of the Petroleum Chemistry Institute in its specific field, petrochemistry, particularly in achieving better recovery rates, in oil transportation and processing. Environmental protection technologies are likewise represented - namely, those for eliminating petroleum and associated products from water, soil and air; also, for cleaning effluents from heavy metals. A battery of research instruments and devices hold pride of place, such things as densitometers, microca-lorimeters, viscosimeters, cryo-stats, thermostats, octanors and what not. Side by side we can see all the various samples of petroleum products (some obtained from wastes) and those from coal and peat. The array is quite impressive - stabilizers, guides, additives, lubricants, dopes, greases, dyes, reagents, sensitizers, biologically active substances, salves, creams. And so on and so forth...
Displayed next room are over two thousand petroleum samples and more than five thousand oil-bearing rock cores from Siberia and other parts of Russia, from Kazakhstan and other CIS republics. The computer data base takes in six thousand oil grades (each described for 50 characteristics); so one can pick and choose the required amount for R&D purposes.
Always open to visitors, the Tomsk oil museum is expanding its stock.
Coal producers now have a museum of their own too: in 1999 the Kemerovo- based Institute of Coal and Coal Chemistry opened Russia's first museum featuring coal and related products. Under market economy conditions it is very important to have centralized repositories of standard coal samples. Coal miners should know the competitiveness of this or that grade of coal, its marketing opportunities and thus plan ahead its extraction. The museum is located in the Kuznetsk Coal Basin, this country's major coal-producing area, unrivaled in the deposits and grades of coal, and in the variety of mining techniques. Coal miners here rely on the century-old experience and traditions of their trade.
Besides, the coal museum acts as a public information center involved with the earth sciences related to coal formation and occurrence, extraction and processing, and the uses of coal and coal products. Coal sample collections and data bases substitute for archives cum library.
At present the museum staff are working on new collections of coal samples from various deposits so as to furnish an insight into coal metamorphism and its stages, and products of industrial processing. This unique fuel occurs in a variety of structural and textural forms and
* See: S. Pshirkov, "Science Center in the Heart of Siberia", Science in Russia, No. 5, W&.-Ed.
bedding, and in a multivariant pattern of fracture formation and cleavage*, native inclusions, lustre and other characteristics.
The Kuznetsk basin coal has a wide spectrum of grades, ranging from low- capacity candle (long-flame) coal to anthracite, or hard
coal. Each grade is valuable per se. Say, at Tomsk and Sibirginsk (Krasnogorsk stripping) metamorphosed and lean coals are recovered. Depending on the depth of occurrence and thermal characteristics, preference is given to kindred coals, and these are coking coal, anthracite, semi-anthracite and calcined coal. Now tested, concentrates have shown good results as coke substitutes in blast- furnace processes and in the sintering of ferrous and nonferrous metals.
Apart from commercial specimens, the museum also displays samples of historical value, e.g. recovered from abandoned and inundated mines.
There is a complete line of associated products obtained through carbonization, low-temperature carbonization and gasification as well as such items as electrodes, coal bitumens, waxes and the like.
The museum offers a multilevel system of visual aids - bright pictures and video- tape recordings to tell guests about coal, its uses and role in human life. All that attracts children in the first place. As to experts, they can access data bases on coal technologies, geological conditions of occurrence, and qualitative characteristics of coal and associated products. The museum is expanding its data bank along two lines. First, by catering to visitors and their interests directly, and second, by enabling contacts and information exchanges with any point of the globe. The data bank presents generalized models - both of particular coal- mining enterprises and of the Kuznetsk basin at large.
Nauka v Sibiri (Science in Siberia), 1999
Prepared by Arkady MALTSEV
* Cleavage-in mineralogy, the tendency of some minerals to break in definite planes, producing smooth surfaces. - Ed.
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