Skip to main content

On How to Align Economics and Environmental Science

On the eve of the New Year holidays, Czech President Milos Zeman criticized the so-called “Green Deal,” one of the founding documents based on which many strategic decisions in the European Union are made. He said, in particular, that “out of the original serious environmental science, a religion emerged, and like every religion, this one too has its prophets” (Greta Thunberg, above all).

“The Green Deal for Europe prescribes that we stop heating with natural gas in 2030 and that we don’t drive cars with internal combustion engines since 2035. All this will undermine our energy sector in that it will lead to energy poverty, leading to lower living standards and economic indicators,” Zeman warned.

Indeed, more and more experts point out that despite seemingly good intentions - the fight against climate change - the result of EU environmental initiatives is not a reduction of CO2 emissions, but a rise in global inflation and a decline in energy security in the Old World. Record prices for natural gas lead a priori to an increase in the cost of all end-consumption goods without exception, and also contribute to an increase in the amount of coal burned in thermal power plants. This is taking place even in such a developed country like Germany.

In the first seven months of 2021, according to data from the Ember Research Center, the share of the “dirtiest resource” in total electricity generation in Germany was 26.1 per cent. This is almost 7% more than during the same period in 2020. In other words, it turns out that the “green deal” has led not to a reduction in emissions, but, on the contrary, to an increase in them. It’s simple: if cleaner raw materials are in short supply and their prices are at historic highs, we will have to return to coal-fired generation. The country’s citizens should not be deprived of light and heat.

©, крупнейший открытый угольный разрез Германии Гарцвайлер

Is it possible to combine environmental initiatives and economic realities? In search for an answer to this question, Forpost addressed St. Petersburg Mining University, whose scientists conduct research both in the field of increasing the profitability of traditional power facilities and in the field of environmental conservation. For example, one of the university’s research teams is currently working on a project of an environmentally friendly power supply for oil production facilities that are far away from centralized networks.

It is too expensive to pull power lines there, so usually, diesel generators are used when developing deposits that are located in hard-to-reach areas. Of course, this isn’t very good for the environment. Considering that Yakutia alone has 37 producing fields of this kind, the level of the problem is undoubtedly evident.

© Форпост Северо-Запад

“We analyzed the potential of all types of off-grid power systems that could be used in this case to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we concluded that solar panels would be the most efficient. There is a perception that the warmer the climate, the more energy they can generate. But this is not exactly the case. The number of clear days per year and the intensity of solar radiation are much more important. We did our calculations for the enterprises stationed in the Sakha Republic. There, this figure is no less than 4 kWh per square meter. This is a good coefficient. For comparison, in Astrakhan Oblast and Tatarstan it reaches 5.5 kWh, which is the maximum for our country,” said Valeria Starshaya, a postgraduate student of St. Petersburg Mining University.

She says that the technology, for which a feasibility study has already been developed, will reduce emissions into the atmosphere by about six times. This figure takes into account the negative impact on the environment of the plants producing polysilicon, the raw material needed to create photovoltaic batteries, as well as the factories where the panels are made and disposed of.

Missing content item.

However, as the scientists explain, solar power plants are needed not only to minimize the anthropogenic impact on the biosphere. They are part of the electrical complex, the task of which is to remove paraffin deposits that arise in the well. These are heavy components of oil that stick to the inner surface of the field equipment, reduce its efficiency and lead to increased machinery downtime. And they form when the temperature of black gold gets too low.

“Usually paraffin deposits are removed mechanically, with the help of scrapers. Or by flushing the equipment with various solvents. But these methods don’t eliminate the problem entirely. We offer to solve the problem through the work of a special heating cable, which is powered by a solar power plant. The most important thing is that there is no need for a constant power supply in this case because there is no need to remove sediments in 24/7 mode. That is, the main problem of renewable energy sources - the inability to provide stable generation in cloudy or windless weather - will not be a disadvantage when implementing this technology. And we won’t have to think about ways to accumulate energy, which, due to their high cost, would have a significant impact on the cost of production,” said Valeria Starshaya.

Besides her, the research team includes Alexey Belsky, associate professor at the Department of Electric Power Engineering and Electromechanics, and Yaroslav Shklarsky, head of the Department of General Electrical Engineering at St. Petersburg Mining University. The innovation they are working on solves two problems at once. Firstly, to significantly reduce air emissions from diesel generators, and secondly, to increase the productivity of oil production.

Missing content item.

As calculations show, the inter-repair period of equipment increases by about 1.7 times in the case of using the electrical complex. This is extremely important for the industry, and the proof of this is the scholarship of the President of the Russian Federation, which was assigned to Valeria Starsha “for the development of priority areas of science” for the entire period of her postgraduate studies.

Several domestic energy companies are already interested in this progressive development. And not only them. The project has also attracted the attention of the European scientific community. Most recently, a representative of the oldest technical university in our country was awarded a grant, which allows them to continue their research in the Federal Republic of Germany among twenty young Russian scientists.

Research Paper "The influence of technological changes in energy efficiency on the infrastructure deterioration in the energy sector"

The initiator of the joint Russian-German program “Natural Resources - Energy – Sustainability” is Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of St. Petersburg Mining University. The Program is implemented on a parity basis: it is equally funded by the German academic exchange service DAAD and the International Competence Center for Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO, established in the city on the Neva.

Young people, who will go to Germany in a month, can simultaneously receive both Russian and European scientific degrees (PhD). All of them confirmed their intention to return to their “alma mater” and continue their scientific work in the homeland.