Vladimir Litvinenko: The future of Russia lies in economy of knowledge

Владимир Литвиненко
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Андрей Кучеренко

Technical malfunction on gas distributing station in Austria resulted in gas explosion which caused cessation of gas deliveries to several European countries. In Italy a state of emergency was introduced due to lack of the necessary energy supplies. Will this be a signal leading to a more active development of renewable sources of power? Will they prove able to replace oil and gas in the nearest future? And is it possible to decrease the number of accidents at power engineering facilities due to implementation of research innovation? These questions were addressed to Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the Mining university.

Vladimir Stefanovich, nowadays, much is spoken about investment in the development of alternative energy sources. State programs related to budgetary financing of the ,so called, “green” energy research are applicable in a number of European countries. Does research working for traditional national primary industry need investment?

Progress is impossible without research in any field of human activities inclusive of mineral resources complex. Accessible hydrocarbon reserves with high content of valuable component sweepingly run out. And the primary explored fields are located in hard-to-reach areas. To develop them and to build up necessary infrastructure more and more financing is demanded.

This means, that we should improve efficiency of hydrocarbons production and in , particular,we should apply innovative methods enhancing oil recovery factor. This will help to increase profitability of producing fields, to put onstream earlier abandoned fields, bring hard-to recover fields into exploitation. Innovations in long-term perspective will significantly prolong life of known reservoirs and will postpone for decades the moment of depletion of recoverable reserves of conventional hydrocarbons.

Lots of money is invested into research all over the world. For example, Canada invests into it up to 8 % from raw materials production cost. The same kind of thing is done in Norway, the USA. In Texas there are pumpjacks which make only 2-3 barrels per day, this means that they are nonproductive. But, nevertheless, the state invests in them as raw materials resources are not just a commodity but an instrument of geopolicy.

Фото © rosneft.ru

If it’s winter season and your home loses power and central heating , then it’s a challenge for you, your neighbors and utility service providers. But if power and heating loss lasts for several days at a time, then this situation becomes a political issue. That is why, replenishment of resource potential should happen daily and its development should be aided by research. Without research it’s impossible to work with heavy oils, do petrochemical products, these are the fields we practically neglect, whereas due to this our competitors get substantial added value.

Russia is a rich country and it is of paramount importance to be in command of our resources to maximum effect. In a point of fact we should enter the market not with crude commodity but with the goods of direct consumption. If say, we would process 30% of hydrocarbons, then we will at the minimum increase four times our gross domestic product .

At present hydrocarbon reserves are our strategic resource which allows us to keep up such level of power consumption which we are used to. And it is very high. Though Russia considerably cedes ground to US and China in this aspect, it makes the top four countries of global energy demand. For instance, Japan is lagging far behind us. Will the development of alternative power sources decrease the significance of hydrocarbons?

According to UN estimation, the world population will have amounted to 9 billion people by 2050. Tendency to raising of living standards will keep on especially in such countries as India. Mankind demands, including global power consumption, will continue growing. By the way , in 2016 global power consumption was up to 1 %. Estimates suggest that this dynamics will last out up to 2040. Moreover, demand for all resources will go up, and the base quantity of total power consumption will account for gas.

Regarding renewable energy sources, they will surely be also progressing. In Germany it is planned to produce 80 % of all power due to wind generators and solar batteries by 2050. However, there’s a number of fact-based issues which will not allow us to give up traditional raw material resources.For example, technologies making it possible to conserve energy generated by RES have not been still developed. Besides, wind generators break down very often. This impends electric line power losses or even radial switching.

Our main efforts should be concentrated not only on introducing expensive “green” technologies ( though in Russia there are plans for their development) but ,as well, on creating conditions for minimizing environmental damage by mining, processing and consumption of conventional resources, concurrently improving efficiency of these processes.

The present day tendency to an increasing number of accidents at fuel and energy facilities which do harm to global ecosystem and environment are in evidence. The latest example is an explosion at gas distributing plant in Austria. When it comes to statistics then 50 % of all industry- related greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for the power engineering facilities.. More than 70% of heat releases are generated by FEC facilities. As a result, harmful environment is the cause of 20% of fatal diseases.

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We must minimize risks of ecological hazards by bringing in the best equipment, the best technologies and scientific research. It’s necessary to build coal-water fuel CHP plants instead of coal-fired power plants. This will not only improve their efficiency but this will also significantly scale back emissions of harmful substances. One of the primary challenges of today’s Russian mineral-resources complex is to work out such knowhow for power plants working on conventional resources.

How important is it to promote scientific component in institutions of higher education, to involve young people in research which has the potential to be developed commercially?

Academic institutions cannot live in isolation from research, if such breakaway happens then a university ceases to be a university. A research teaching fellow frames educational process on an entirely different approach, and the teaching process is on a much higher level.

Knowledge becomes out of date very quickly these days. That is why without updating lecture courses, without including information about the latest scientific achievements which are ready to be implemented or those which are already implemented into mineral materials complex our faculty members are not allowed to start teaching on the 1-st of September. To train a qualified engineer, sought-after at manufacturing site we must provide the students with maximum possible information about current trends of industry, as well, as to engage them to empirical research.

Year by year scientific proportion integrated into educational process gets bigger. We make sure that for our students to do research is as natural as to use a pen at the lectures. Above 40 % of our university students are actively involved in scientific research. Many of them carry out joint research together with the representatives of foreign universities. Our university develops academic mobility, our students and faculty members go to practical trainings to Germany, America, Canada and other countries. This is very important.

Горный университет
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Андрей Кучеренко

Without practical skills theory will get you only so far. There are 8 square meters of labs per one square meter of classroom facilities in the Mining university.This is the only one university in Russia with such a level of scientific content and such technological facilities and resources. There 32 work places in the university, each of them is worth over 1,5 min, euro.

These are up-to-date laboratories equipped with ultrasensitive instruments which for example can define formation depth up to 10 kilometers. In doing this magnetic field of the Earth is used, whereas it takes 2-3 hours to get the necessary information. This technology was worked out jointly with Canadian colleagues, now it’s being implemented. By applying it we already opened three fields in Nenets Autonomous District. Its performance is about 8 times higher than the performance of conventional methods of prospecting and exploration used by our companies. The future of Russia without doubt lies in economy of knowledge. And its integral component, rather its basis is university research.

Горный университет
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Андрей Кучеренко