Russian boiler stations continue to abandon petroleum fuels

15 august 2017

Projects to modernize boiler stations continue apace across Russia. According to regional governments, 33 new boiler station modernization projects were launched in 2016-2017, all of them seeking to replace petroleum-based fuels such as fuel oil and diesel fuel with natural gas, coal as well as affordable and renewable energy sources such as wooden chips, pellets or peat. As of mid-2017, 160 boiler stations have been modernized in 32 regions across the country with 33 of them having been modernized in 2017. The largest number of modernizations are happening in the Murmansk and Ulyanovsk regions, the Republics of Sakha (Yakutia) and Karelia.

Of the 33 boiler stations modernized in 2017, 16 switched to natural gas, 9 to coal and 5 are going to use local renewable fuels (primarily peat), while the rest will continue to use petroleum fuels, however in significantly smaller amounts.

Boiler stations burning oil and petroleum fuels at one point became very common in remote areas cut off from centralized energy supply where heat and electric power have to be produced locally using expensive fuel brought in from elsewhere. In recent years, Russia's been using some 3-4 million tonnes of fuel oil per year to generate heat, while the share of diesel fuel has fallen significantly. Replacing petroleum products with alternative fuels reduces the cost of production for heat and power as well as the amount of state subsidies needed for energy generation.

Since 2016, the Analytical Center has been collecting data annually on boiler station modernization projects in Russian provinces. This is done to carry out the instruction of the deputy prime minister of Russia A. Dvorkovich to look into the prospects of regional boiler stations in Russia that currently use petroleum based fuels switching to local and renewable fuels (the Action Plan to Improve the State Regulation for Promoting Reduced Consumption of Oil and Petroleum Products for Heat Generation).  The goal of the plan is to reduce the cost of supplying heat to consumers by means of replacing oil and petroleum products used as fuel by utility boiler stations with alternative priority fuels wherever it makes economic sense. Before a boiler station can use a different fuel, it has to be renovated or a new boiler station or combined heat and power station has to be built, whichever option can achieve the best technological parameters assuming the use of the best available technologies.

A registry of projects implemented so far (as of July 2017).

Picture from open sources