Cogeneration and fall in BSFC as effective way of carbon footprint reduction

Tatarstan power engineers offer to use world experience to reduce the environmental impact and secure Russian energy balance the status as one of the greenest in the world

Global warming, a fight for a reduction in emissions, investments in new technology and alternative power engineering, a search for a carbon footprint in each of the product made… The world is actively looking for an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact, while it is obviously underestimating the possibilities of the purest hydrocarbon — gas. President Vladimir Putin said this at Russia Calling! investment forum in November 2019 and meant, first of all, CHPPs. We also add that such an effective way of production of electrical and thermal energy as cogeneration remains underestimated in Russia in general. Read in the first part of Realnoe Vremya’s report about trends in modern power engineering, pitfalls of using renewables and undeservedly forgotten capabilities of habitual technology as well as proposals of TAIF GC to increase the effectiveness and eco-friendliness of generation.

Carbon footprint

The grade of discussions on the environment, particularly, on global warming, is growing in Russia as well as around the world. At a conference on climate in Paris in December 2015, member states adopted the Paris Agreement whose goal is to keep the growth pace of average global temperature by 2050 below forecasted 2°C at a pre-industrial level. 193 UN member states as well as Palestine, Niue, Cook Islands and the EU put their signatures to the document by November 2019.

A rise in emissions of carbon dioxide is named the main cause of global warming, which, in turn, is linked with increased mineral fuel production and consumption: coal, oil, gas. According to the UN, Russia is in the world’s top leaders in СО2 emissions. Only China, the USA, EU and India are higher. On economic grounds, the States left the Paris Agreement in June 2017. In September 2019, Russia ratified it, though head of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of the Russian Federation Aleksandr Shokhin says that it met the commitments to reduce emissions into the air to the level of 1990 well before the signing of the Paris Agreement.

“Russia became a participant in this process not because of the Paris Agreement. We participated in the Kyoto Protocol as well and met all the commitments we made within the Kyoto Protocol too,” Vladimir Putin stressed at the plenary session of Russia Calling! investment forum in Moscow in November 2019

Environmental campaigners assume that the tasks of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will be performed when conventional energy generation is replaced by green based on renewables — sun, wind, water, tides, biofuel and waste incineration energy. Europe is discussing the introduction of a so-called carbon tax as one of the most probable environmental initiatives whose amount will directly depend on a product’s carbon footprint — how much carbon dioxide was emitted into the atmosphere when manufacturing a product. The initiators of the tax imposition are sure that it is to encourage businesses to implement eco-friendly and safe technology. It is planned to allocate the tax paid to environmental programmes.

The initiative immediately obtained opponents. Some wondered who and how will control carbon tax, and on the global scale, it is billions of dollars. Others, for instance, Co-Founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, who is, by the way, the head of the Global Commission on Adaptation, notes the utopian nature of some requirements of the Greens in an interview with The Global Warming Policy Foundation (Great Britain):

“I was at that conference in New York — I won’t name it. And they all were saying. All these financial guys got on stage: ‘We are gonna rate companies in terms of their CO2 output, we are gonna say that this company puts out a lot of CO2, and financial markets are magical, and all of a sudden CO2 will stop being emitted’. I was like: ‘Okay, how do you make steel? Do you guys on Wall Street? Do you have something in your desks that make steel? Where is the fertilisers, cement, plastic? Where’s it going to come from? You know, do planes fly through the sky because of some number you put on a spreadsheet?’ So the madness of this so-called finance is the solution. I just don’t get that. There is no substitute for how the industrial economy runs today,” Gates stressed.

Backing alternative power engineering, in an interview with Bloomberg Television last year, Bill Gates offered to stop subsidising the development of solar and wind power plants at state level and let them float freely.

Not all so smooth in alternative power engineering

The advocates of green power who had previously described the low price and smoothness of renewable sources also understand now that not all is that glittering. Traditional Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) that gathered representatives of 95 countries of the world took place in 2018. Scientists and researchers discussed the global energy transition, which is a complete refusal of carbon energy with a transition to alternative sources, largely sun and wind.

Peter Röttgen — the manager of the Federal Renewable Energy Federation — noted that existing systems should be united to function well. Technologies to transmit energy not only at a distance but also in time are needed: powerful accumulators, heating capacities and so on. There is nothing so far. Secretary General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Adnan Amin recognised that the costs on the total refusal of hydrocarbons will be higher than expected. The estimated amount of investments from 2015 to 2050 went up from $93 billion to at least $120 billion.

Adnan Amin considers that when we move towards a more decarbonised decentralised and digital energy supply system and expand the scale of renewable energy sources according to the Paris climate agreement and goals of sustainable development, the countries will have to understand the nature of evolving geopolitical landscape better to provide blossom and peace. Experts believe that, first of all, nature will have to be understood. Among the options proposed as a substitute for conventional energy sources — sun, wind and water, only the latter is more or less predictable. But hydropower plants are conventional, not alternative energy and heat sources. Moreover, they not always meet consumers’ requests.

As for the energy of wind, sun and tides, applied scientists think that they are not only useless but also harmful without reliable ways of accumulation. Such energy sources are interrupted. The sun shines only during a part of the day, moreover, the intensity of light, which means the capability to generate energy, depends on the daytime, season, weather… And a man can’t influence the situation. It means when there is enough sun, there must be conserved as much energy as possible to make sure it is enough in a regime of both direct consumption and when it is dark, cloudy, rainy outside. Apart from pumped-storage hydroelectricity plants (PSH), today accumulators with enough capacity to store as much energy as possible to provide an uninterrupted supply of whole cities and districts simply don’t exist. We’re talking about tens of terawatt hours.

There can be no wind at all, it can be too weak or too strong. And there is no energy generation and there is no place to take it from, everything will be instantaneously de-energised and divested of heat around it. For how long? It depends only on nature’s caprice. And significant areas are needed for alternative power engineering.

In a modern dispatched, that’s to say, manageable and controllable system of heating and energy supply at any moment, a balance between production and consumption is one of the key moments of successful operation. Generation increases and reduces depending on consumption, while peak loads are compensated by special capacities that can quickly provide enough energy and turn off quickly too. Such peak generation is much more expensive but it isn’t needed often and doesn’t almost affect the total amount of tariffs. But this is conventional energy. Supporters of green power don’t specify how and what capacities will cover the downtime of solar and wind generation in case of total refusal of the CTPP, TPP and NPP.

The general tendency in territories with clean energy is a sudden and significant rise in prices for services. The International Energy Agency calculated: the increase of the share of renewable energy in the energy system to 45% will augment the total costs of consumers to purchase energy resources by 50% and more. To compensate for unequal renewable energy generation that depends on nature, so-called peak sources will have to be built, serviced and maintained — it is generating facilities that can quickly turn on and generate enough electrical and thermal energy to the detriment of the economy of the generation process to provide industrial and civil facilities connected to the network. Considering climatic conditions in Russia, this will lead to the development of generating capacities or boilers to generate heat, which will provoke a rise in prices for electrical and thermal energy. And given that all the renewable energy development programme is implemented according to a power supply agreement where the price for electrical energy and capacities is considerably higher than that of conventional energy, it can be summed up that all these costs on maintenance and use of auxiliary energy will fall on consumers’ shoulders.

Moreover, speaking about the eco-friendliness of renewable energy sources, it is omitted that the carbon footprint of production of equipment for green generation is as big as in any other industrial production. Nothing is said about the price and cleanliness of the process of disposal of obsolete equipment.

Combined thermal and electrical energy is a world trend in energy

“Today Russian energy balance is one of the greenest in the world. I mean several circumstances. If we look at the structure of our energy, we will see a significate share of hydropower, nuclear energy and gas-fired generation. Coal, which is now the biggest energy resource, primary energy resource in the world, has a significant impact on the environment today. The biggest amount of coal is burnt to generateheat. In this respect, for instance, I think that the disdain of such the purest hydrocarbon as gas is absolutely strange because it is the purest hydrocarbon,” President of Russia Vladimir Putin noted during a plenary session at Russia Calling! investment forum last November.

Most CHPPs in Russia run precisely on gas, they can produce energy in the most economical and eco-friendly cycle — combined with heat generated for centralised heat supply. CHPPs provided the biggest demand of the country in the Soviet Union — both the industry and population — with cheap heat and simultaneously produced enough electrical energy for the huge country’s needs. Heat power plants have steam turbines that are deliberately designed for simultaneous generation of heat for consumers and electrical energy production. They are as effective as possible only if their load is full to generate heat for consumers. Even now, with the optimal heat load, CHPPs with steam engines built in the 60-70s of the past century remain completely competitive in the energy market. We can put an example of indicators of the Nizhnekamsk CHPP (STC-1), which is part of TGC-16 JSC.

The average annual brake specific fuel consumption for electrical energy generation (the key indicator that shows the effectiveness of a power plant in the electrical energy market) in this CHPP was just 244,3 g/kWh in 2018, while the average Russian indicator is 309,8 g/kWh. This is why it was preferred in the USSR at state level to develop thermal power plants as the most effective and available technology to produce heat and electrical energy.

There is progress. Steam and gas technologies to make thermal and electrical energy in a combined cycle has spread in Russian power engineering in the last 10 years. There have been launched over 20 GW new capacities with steam and gas units in Russia over this time. Energy units of steam and gas turbines were built in all Kazan thermal power plants from 2014 to 2018: Tatenergo’s Kazan CHPP-1 and CHPP-2 and in TGC-16 JSC’s Kazan CHPP-3.

The use of a gas turbine instead of CHPP’s traditional power boiler generating steam for a steam turbine is in the foundation of the steam and gas cycle. Natural gas burnt in the gas turbine’s furnace makes the generator rotate. Then hot gases get to a special boiler where water is heated until it becomes overheated steam released to the steam turbine. In the end, the heat of the fuel that burnt in the SGT’s furnace allows making electrical energy twice — in the gas and steam turbines. So the effectiveness of fuel consumption is higher than the traditional steam cycle.

The steam and gas unit and gas turbine in all CHPPs of the Tatarstan capital are a big breakthrough to increase the effectiveness of combined electrical energy production. This enabled to significantly increase combined electrical energy production. It even went down after new highly effective capacities were put into operation. Nowadays the effectiveness of fuel consumption in steam and gas units in Kazan without heat generation for consumers to the centralised heat supply system is high enough and totals from 53 to 62% depending on the type of the gas turbine. If these energy units began to release thermal energy to the centralised heat supply system too, their energy conversion efficiency for fuel consumption would easily reach 80-85%. Growth potential is huge. The thermal energy generation load of the modernised Kazan CHPP-1,2,3 is almost a third now. Moreover, numerous local boilers waste fuel and emit smoke into the sky supplying more expensive heat to their consumers whose volumes are comparable or even higher than heat generation in the CHPP.

A return to the old but effective way of heat supply for the population and industrial consumers from the CHPP with a simultaneous rise in electrical energy generation was mentioned in the state policy in energy conservation a long time ago both in our republic and at federal level.

The presence of big industrial consumers that are ready to buy cheap steam from the CHPP providing it with a stable load is an undoubted advantage of our republic, the population is interested in lower tariffs on heat for heating and hot water supply, while the state is interested in higher electrical energy generation for prices that are reasonable for consumers. All this is links of one chain. It is just necessary to make an economically feasible decision and completely refuse boilers where it is possible, in big industrial centres by maximally loading CHPPs. The benefit is multiple and multifaceted: environmental (the higher a load of heat power plants, the lower fuel consumption per unit of generated energy resources, which means there will be fewer emissions into the atmosphere. Plus, boilers stop emitting smoke), economic (electrical energy generation increases, the industry gets more steam for reasonable prices by simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint in products and minimising the risk of its non-compliance with new international environmental standards), social (tariffs on heat and hot water for the population are at least frozen or even decrease). The correctness of such an approach was also proved by the fact that heat supply a trend in world power engineering, which tries to augment the economy and eco-friendliness of processes, a long time ago.

For instance, energy in Germany generated in a combined cycle where heat is sent to heat industrial and residential facilities is put in line with green energy. The country successfully implements a programme aimed to augment energy volumes made in cogeneration. The share of such thermal and electrical energy in Germany is to double from 2018 to 2020 — from 12,5% at the beginning of the programme to 25% by its completion. It is simple arithmetic: the less brake specific fuel consumption for energy generation, the fewer fuel expenses, the environmental impact, but there are more heat and electricity. There is benefit at every turn.

Generating companies in Great Britain that switch to electrical energy generation with simultaneous heat generation can hope for stimulating grants besides state support. Sweden decreased emissions of carbon dioxide by 60% thanks to heat supply too. Denmark has managed to increase GDP by 50% since 1990 without expanding generating capacities. The secret of energy effectiveness is cogeneration and the ban on production and sale of thermal energy from boilers.

In Russia, it is said about the priority of combined electrical and thermal energy generation considering economic feasibility in the Federal Law No. 190 On Heat Supply adopted as early as 2010. But heat generated in the combined cycle in the last two decades has reduced 1,5 times. 522 heat power plants with the total installed capacity of 164,587 MW operating in the country in 2018 generated just 692,7 billion kW/h of electrical energy, supplied about 480 million Gcal of heat generated in the combined cycle to consumers.

The level of load is a fourth of the installed capacity. Moreover, almost 75,000 heating power plants, which are active energy consumers generating more expensive heat and mercilessly emitting smoke into the air, produced almost 837,8 Gcal in 2018 — 63,6% of the total volume.

Carbon footprint threatens to become leverage for competitors

We can just imagine what the carbon trace of commodities made in the country ecologists will detect with today’s mainly boiler-based heat generation in Russia when a decision to impose duties on the carbon footprint will be made on a global scale. It will also be logical to assume that this effective tool to fight for outlets will actively take advantage of foreign manufacturers. Such a weak use of capabilities of Russian cogeneration means only that today we reduce the competitiveness of Russian export-oriented products ourselves. Transport, equipment, plastic and many other things, which at the moment win due to a lower prime cost having faced a carbon barrier can immediately lose all advantages, hence outlets.

Uralchem also sticks to the same opinion. In late January, Board Chairman of the chemical company Dmitry Mazepin in a letter in the name of the Russian government expressed fears that Russian exporters might be seriously affected because of tighter environmental standards in Europe.

Later Vice Director General of Uralchem Rinat Gizatulin explained what it meant in a talk with a journalist of Vedomosti: “The EU can introduce barriers to export products that don’t comply with environmental standards, and if Russian environmental standards and restrictions don’t comply with the world trend, Russian exporters can be affected”.

The government received the letter and took it seriously. It is planned to create a task force “on adaptation to climate change” in the first quarter of 2020. Businesses are insisting on the necessity to include their representatives to it. Experts believe that the country needs a site where businesses and authorities can create a national stance on climate together, a national and at the same time globally recognised system to audit and monitor the carbon footprint. It must be able to have a dialogue with European regulators proving the eco-friendliness of Russian exports and amount of duties paid for emissions and protect Russian companies from dishonest environmental competition.

The ministry of energy of Russia holds a similar opinion. The point of view of the federal ministry was presented at the meeting of the working group of Russian State Council in Energy, held on 7 February 2020. In particular, it was noted at the meeting that it is extremely necessary to synchronize the state policy in the field of energy efficiency and energy saving, and the state climate and environmental policy. Taking into account that the majority of 2019 emissions — about 77% of 2,1 billion tonnes of CO2 — the equivalent without taking into account the absorbing capacity of forests — fall on the fuel and energy complex, the ministry of energy of the Russian Federation proposed to consider the BSFC indicators as one of the basic parameters for assessing the anthropogenic impact of energy facilities on the environment. More efficient fuel consumption — higher output, lower the load on the environment.

Eco-friendliness — the mainstream in the economy

The value of the carbon footprint over the past 10-15 years has become dominant in economic processes around the world. More and more companies are seeking to strengthen their position in the market by annually reporting on both direct greenhouse gas emissions and disclosing data on the carbon footprint of their products throughout the supply chain — from the extraction of raw materials used in its production to the sources of electricity and heat used in processes, up to the disposal of the product at the end of its life cycle, and informing about steps taken to reduce the burden on the environment. And this becomes one of the important factors when making investment decisions, when building long-term partnerships between major players in the global market. The efficiency and environmental friendliness of production gradually become if not synonymous then inseparable components of determining the success of business processes.

The ministry of economic development of Russia also believes that goods and services in countries with a low carbon footprint will actually gain additional competitive advantages. What is more, in the foreseeable future. There is less and less time for decisive steps. Replacing expensive and unecological heat energy from boiler houses with much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly thermal power plants — the very way that TAIF Group offers will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but will also become a serious tool in increasing the competitiveness of Russian products on world markets. The efficiency and correctness of this solution is already proved by the ecolider countries: Germany, the UK, Denmark, Sweden and a number of others, who have chosen cogeneration as one of the key components of their energy system. By actively implementing and developing renewable energy, they pay even more attention to improving the efficiency of their own thermal power plants, equating heat production in the combined cycle with the use of secondary resources.

“The accounting on carbon footprint should include not only direct greenhouse gas emissions occurred during production but also indirect emissions, namely greenhouse gas emissions that occurred during the production of electricity and heat energy consumed by the company," emphasizes Oleg Pluzhnikov, a member of the general Council of Delovaya Rossiya. The more massive the product's carbon footprint, the more difficult it will be to break through on the market. Even in conditions of high demand for the offer, all other things being equal, the buyer will simply have to give preference to what is “cleaner”. Today's industry leaders who do not take this trend into account risk losing the competitive advantages gained as a result of cheaper production processes.

It is impossible to cover this global situation and possible ways of its development in one article. About what steps are being taken in this direction in Tatarstan, what TAIF Group offers and how heating will be useful not only to the economy as a whole but also to consumers — read in the second part of the material.

By Arseny Favstritsky