A Strate­gic Re­source

Peat has al­ways played a no­tice­able role in the power en­gi­neer­ing in­dus­try and the whole econ­omy of Be­larus

Economy of Belarus - - POWER ENGINEERING -

The fuel that used to dom­i­nate the en­ergy con­sump­tion mix, grad­u­ally gave way to easy-to-use liq­uid and gas fu­els. How­ever, to­day this fuel is in the fo­cus again. Ac­cord­ing to the re­cently de­vel­oped En­ergy Se­cu­rity Con­cept, peat and other lo­cal fu­els are among the main fac­tors con­tribut­ing to higher re­li­a­bil­ity and ef­fi­ciency of the coun­try’s en­ergy sys­tem and the en­tire econ­omy.

Peat: Yes­ter­day, To­day…

To­day there are about 9,000 peat de­posits in Be­larus with the to­tal area of 2.4 mil­lion hectares and 4 bil­lion tonnes of peat. Be­larus boasts the 2nd largest peat de­posits in the CIS and 10th in the world. This is vir­tu­ally the only sig­nif­i­cant en­ergy re­source of Be­larus. The commercial de­vel­op­ment of peat de­posits started in the 19th century and peat bri­quette pro­duc­tion was launched over 60 years ago.

Over 200 peat com­pa­nies were set up on the back of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion in the 1930s. They in­tro­duced milling, ex­ca­va­tion and hy­draulic pro­duc­tion tech­niques. The aver­age share of peat in the fuel con­sump­tion mix of Be­larus rose from 26% in 1932 to 63.5% in 1940. By the way, peat was used to op­er­ate the first state district power plant in Be­larus. Af­ter the war, peat played an im­por­tant role in the eco­nomic re­cov­ery of the coun­try as it was the pri­mary en­ergy source.

In the 1950s-1960s the big­gest peat min­ing com­pa­nies were built in all oblasts of Be­larus. They served as base­lines for big en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties. About 15 mil­lion tonnes of peat was ex­tracted, which gave Be­larus its nick­name “peat Don­bass”. By the way the tech­nolo­gies of peat ex­trac­tion and burn­ing de­vel­oped in Be­larus have been adopted by many for­eign coun­tries and are still in use. How­ever, since the 1970s the use of this lo­cal fuel has been de­clin­ing: 9.2 mil­lion

tonnes were ex­tracted in 1970, some 3.4 mil­lion tonnes in 1990, 1.8 mil­lion tonnes in 2003. Now the ex­trac­tion vol­umes sta­bi­lized at 2.5 mil­lion tonnes a year.

In the time when Be­larus was part of the USSR, peat was sub­sti­tuted by nat­u­ral gas that was piped from Siberia, which was quite log­i­cal in con­di­tions of one united coun­try. Nowa­days nat­u­ral gas is an im­ported com­mod­ity and Be­larus has to re­vert to us­ing its own fu­els.

To­day peat bri­quettes in Be­larus are mainly used in schools and hos­pi­tals and small boiler houses. The main con­sumers of peat are ru­ral res­i­dents. It is also used to make a num­ber of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. As for its in­dus­trial use, boil­ers run­ning on peat or mixed peat-wood fuel are in­stalled when build­ing new power gen­er­at­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Thus, peat is used at Zhodino CHP, Pruzhany mini-CHP, Bo­bruisk CHP1, Be­laru­sian State District Power Plant, Baran mini-CHP, which are part of the Be­laru­sian state elec­tri­cal com­pany Be­len­ergo, mu­nic­i­pal boiler houses of the towns of Braslav, Osh­myany, Tolochin, and many oth­ers.

Peat ac­counts for about 2% to 3% of the to­tal fuel con­sump­tion mix of Be­larus and for 15% of the lo­cal fu­els used in Be­larus. It helps save about 800 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of nat­u­ral gas worth $150 mil­lion. If con­verted to tonnes of fuel equiv­a­lent, milled peat is 4.5 times cheaper than nat­u­ral gas while peat bri­quettes are more than 2.5 times cheaper.

By the way, wealthy Euro­pean coun­tries use peat quite of­ten. Thus, it ac­counts for 5% to 7% of the fuel con­sump­tion mix of Fin­land; about 7.4% of elec­tric power is gen­er­ated from it. Al­most half of Fin­land’s pop­u­la­tion lives in houses that use elec­tric power and heat gen­er­ated from peat. Ire­land ex­tracts twice as much peat as Be­larus al­though its peat de­posits are twice as small.

So far, Be­larus has ranked third in the global peat ex­trac­tion ac­count­ing for 10%. Peat is also widely used in the Baltic states, Canada, China, Czechia, Fin­land, Ger­many, Ire­land, Rus­sia, Swe­den and Ukraine.

To­day the process of peat ex­trac­tion and pro­cess­ing in Be­larus is 100% au­to­mated with only Be­larus­made equip­ment used. The in­dus­try em­ploys more than 6,000 people. In 2012, the prof­itabil­ity of sold prod­ucts in this sec­tor was 12.6% while the aver­age prof­itabil­ity in the coun­try was 12.4%.

…and To­mor­row

One of the chal­lenges of the peat in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment in Be­larus is the grad­ual de­ple­tion of raw ma­te­ri­als. When peat com­pa­nies were set up in the mid­dle of the 20th century all prospec­tive de­posits were care- fully stud­ied be­fore build­ing man­u­fa­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties, in­dus­trial and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. How­ever, to­day a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of these de­posits are lo­cated in pro­tected ar­eas where land de­vel­op­ment is not al­lowed un­der the na­tional law.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for Na­ture Man­age­ment of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences of Be­larus, over 17% of ter­ri­to­ries ac­count­ing for 25% of peat de­posits in Be­larus are lo­cated in pro­tected ar­eas. Be­larus’ largest de­posits have been turned into pro­tected ar­eas with­out co­or­di­na­tion with the En­ergy Min­istry and Bel­top­gas. No peat ex­tract­ing coun­try would ever do this. Be­laru­sian com­pa­nies op­er­ate on the ter­ri­tory of 11,400 hectares which is less than 0.5% of all the peat de­posits in the coun­try. To com­pare: peat com­pa­nies of Fin­land and Ire­land ex­ploit about 80,000 hectares of peat de­posits.

Ac­cord­ing to Be­larus’ Coun­cil of Min­is­ters Res­o­lu­tion No. 794 of 17 June 2011, some peat de­posits are now listed among prospec­tive ex­trac­tion sites and are no longer in the pro­tected ar­eas list. A to­tal of 3,350 hectares of land was sug­gested to be ex­cluded from the list which is 3% of the to­tal ter­ri­tory pro­tected by the state (108,807 hectares).

How­ever, to­day the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion of Be­larus vig­or­ously op­poses the ex­clu­sion of these ter­ri­to­ries from the list of

pro­tected land and in­sists on the abo­li­tion of the res­o­lu­tion. At the same time, com­pa­nies have al­ready started up­grad­ing their fa­cil­i­ties and in­vest­ing sig­nif­i­cant funds. Vertel­ishki Com­pany has in­vested about Br40 bil­lion to re-equip its bri­quette shop. If the peat de­posit Svy­a­toye is not ex­cluded from the list of pro­tected ar­eas, the com­pany can shut down this year.

On the whole, the abo­li­tion of the res­o­lu­tion will af­fect eight large peat com­pa­nies with al­most 1,500 em­ploy­ees. If they are closed down, pro­duc­tion of peat bri­quettes will go down by about 30% or 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes. This, in turn, will lead to the ne­ces­sity to pur­chase $30 mil­lion worth of nat­u­ral gas to make up for the lost peat, Bel­top­gas be­lieves. Peat short­age will also af­fect nu­mer­ous house­holds that use peat for heat­ing and can­not af­ford switch­ing to gas.

Long Live the Peat!

The prospects of a wider use of peat are out­lined in the fol­low­ing state documents: the En­ergy Se­cu­rity Con­cept of the Repub­lic of Be­larus and the govern­ment pro­gram Peat set to run in 20082010 and un­til 2020. Peat is clearly ben­e­fi­cial for the coun­try’s econ- omy. For in­stance, sub­sti­tu­tion of nat­u­ral gas by peat at ce­ment plants will help save about $22 mil­lion. In ad­di­tion, peat ash can be used as an ad­di­tive to ce­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Bel­top­gas, it is fea­si­ble to use peat in­stead of gas at Be­laru­sian glass fac­to­ries as well.

As for the in­dus­try it­self, to­day it is fo­cused on up­grad­ing pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, re­duc­ing pro­duc­tion ex­penses and rais­ing man­age­ment ef­fi­ciency. For this pur­pose, it has been de­cided to trans­fer low-profit com­pa­nies un­der the man­age­ment of more well-to-do ones, such as the Usyazh and Lid­sky peat bri­quette plants.

The lat­ter is the flag­ship of the peat in­dus­try that serves as an ex­am­ple to all peat man­u­fac­tur­ers. It was timely mod­ern­ized to re­place a nat­u­ral gas boiler with a milled peat one, which al­lowed min­i­miz­ing ex­penses. By the end of 2013, a mini peat bri­quette plant was built there with the out­put ca­pac­ity of 20,400 tonnes per year which is now fully op­er­a­tional. Its main dis­tinc­tive fea­ture is mo­bil­ity: af­ter one de­posit is ex­hausted, the plant can be eas­ily dis­man­tled and moved to a new lo­ca­tion. This year the En­ergy Min­istry plans to launch sim­i­lar plants at me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing com­pa­nies.

Dok­shit­syraigas has set up a unique sub­strate pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity. It makes 50 types of soil with 70% of the to­tal pro­duc­tion ex­ported. The Ze­leno­bor plant pro­duces liq­uid hu­mous fer­til­iz­ers. This is a re­sult of fruit­ful co­op­er­a­tion with the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences of Be­larus which con­ducts re­search on deeper pro­cess­ing and al­ter­na­tive ap­pli­ca­tions of peat.

The cur­rent vol­ume of peat ex­trac­tion (2.5 mil­lion tonnes) is the bench­mark that the in­dus­try is hop­ing to pre­serve in the fu­ture. Plants seek to pro­duce more peat bri­quettes us­ing less raw ma­te­ri­als by ap­ply­ing cut­ting-edge equip­ment. Un­der the Peat pro­gram that is cur­rently in progress and will be run­ning un­til 2020, bri­quette pro­duc­tion will go up to 1.5 mil­lion tonnes ex­clu­sively through in­creas­ing the ef­fi­ciency of cur­rent com­pa­nies.

This very pro­gram en­vis­ages set­ting up a min­ing and chemical plant to pro­duce bri­quettes, ac­tive char­coal and hu­mous fer­til­iz­ers un­der a waste-free tech­nol­ogy. This project will be par­tially funded by peat com­pa­nies and par­tially by in­vestors. If suc­cess­ful, the project will al­low Be­larus to pro­duce its own ac­tive char­coal, a prod­uct with a high added value, which is now im­ported to the coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Belarus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.