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  2. Spot work: what is done in Komi to shorten the list of environmental trouble spots

Spot work: what is done in Komi to shorten the list of environmental trouble spots

If we managed to sort out polluting emissions into the atmosphere, there is still something to be done with waste and dirty water

Igor Sokolov
Photo from nefco.org
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Compiled 14 years ago, the list of environmental trouble spots in five northern regions of Russia totaled 42 points, including 8 in Komi. All these years the enterprises and authorities are working on excluding from the list of sources of pollution and heavily polluted facilities that pose a danger to people and nature from the point of view of health and ecology. What has already been done and is done in Komi now — in review of «7x7».



In 1994, Nordic governments instructed the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) to initiate an environmental program for the Barents Region. Its goal is to help Russian authorities to improve the environmental situation and reduce the negative impact on the environment and public health.

In 1995, NEFCO, in cooperation with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), presented the first results in the report "Proposals for environmentally significant investment projects in the Russian part of the Barents Region". This document was adopted by the environment ministers of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), all proposed projects are included in the program of action for nature protection. At that time the Republic of Komi had not yet participated in the Euro-Barents cooperation and therefore was not considered in the report.

But in 2003, NEFCO revised the list of trouble spots in the Barents regions (Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, Nenets autonomous district, Karelia and Komi republics). The organization counted 42 environmental trouble spots and proposed 52 investment projects aimed at mitigating the negative impact on the environment.

In Komi, 8 environmental trouble spots have been identified, for the exclusion of which NEFCO has proposed 10 priority projects:

1) emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from the Vorkuta coal basin — utilization of mine methane in the coal mines of the Vorkuta basin (Ko1);

2) high level of air pollution in Vorkuta — reduction of dust emissions of the Vorkuta cement plant (Ko2-1); reduction of the emission of acidifying substances of "Vorkutinskaya" CHPP-1 in the settlement of Severny (Ko2-2);

3) "Mondi Syktyvkar TLD" — reduction of CO emission and specific substances (Ko3-1); reduction of wastewater discharge (Ko3-2);

4) discharge of domestic wastewater in small settlements — establishment of a sewage treatment plant in the village of Izhma (Ko4);

5) poor quality of drinking water in many cities and districts of Komi — development of a general plan for drinking water supply of the republic (Ko5);

6) formation of industrial and domestic waste — creation of a waste management system in the republic (Ko6);

7) waste from woodworking and pulp and paper industry — processing of wood waste into fuel briquettes (Ko7);

8) coal industry waste — processing of coal waste into coal briquettes (Ko8).

A working group to eliminate trouble spots was created in Komi, it included federal and regional executive authorities, including the management of Rosprirodnadzor of the Komi, the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Komi, the Pechora Department of Rostekhnadzor, the department of the Rospotrebnadzor in Komi.


Elimination of spots

In November 2015, one trouble spot was eliminated — "Reduction of CO emissions and specific substances (Ko3-1)" was excluded from the list. This decision was preceded by a series of environmental projects of "Mondi", which led to changes in technological chains and application of modern and safe methods of industrial production.

In December 2017, the BEAR Council removed one more item from the list: "Reduction of dust emissions by the Vorkuta cement plant (Ko2-1)". For many years local enterprises polluted the air in Vorkuta. According to monitoring data, in 2003, a quarter of all dust emissions were accrue to the Vorkuta Cement Plant. To reduce emissions and make cement production more cost-effective, in 2013 an electrostatic filter was installed at the plant. This helped to reduce dust emissions by 98%. In January 2017, the company suspended its activities.


Сement production


At that time, another trouble spot was excluded — "Waste of woodworking and pulp and paper industry (Ko7)" due to a number of environmental measures.

According to Alexander Gibezh, First Deputy Minister of Industry, Natural Resources, Energy and Transport of Komi, the forest industry is one of the main sources of income for the republic, as a result, about 2 million tons of sawmilling waste is generated annually in the region, which inevitably leads to environmental pollution. Wood waste is stored in enterprises and dumps, which creates the risk of fires and leaks of pollutants into water bodies. Besides, landfills are a powerful source of methane emissions, which affects climate change. The department believes that the most rational way to solve this problem is to recycle waste into biofuel, this allows us to utilize both existing and newly formed wood waste, reduce the amount of harmful emissions into the atmosphere and reduce the cost of boiler work.



According to the first deputy head of the Ministry of Industry, today 20 enterprises process wood waste into biofuel in Komi, 58 boiler houses have already been converted to fuel pellets and briquettes, and by 2021 the government of the republic plans to increase their number to 96, which will form a stable market for environmentally friendly fuel and completely abandon the use of fuel oil and coal in the communal energy of forest areas.


Pellets production
Photo by Elena Kabakova


Potentially excluded

In Komi, they believe that in the near future the list of environmental trouble spots will be reduced by two more objects. The Ministry of Industry said that the department will propose to the BEAR Council to delete the spots "Emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from the Vorkuta coal basin — utilization of coal mine methane in the coal mines of the Vorkuta basin (Ko1)" ("Vorkutaugol" is responsible for this) and "Reduction of wastewater discharge (Ko3-2) "(for this, "Mondi Syktyvkar" is responsible). According to the ministry, at the moment "Mondi" is implementing a large-scale project to modernize the biological sewage treatment plant, and "Vorkutaugol" — an investment project "Utilization of degassing methane at the “Severnaya” mine”, the purpose of which is the generation of heat and electricity for the needs of the mine.


Trouble spot of "Vorkutaugol"

According to the communications department of JSC "Severstal Management", the utilization of mine methane in Vorkuta began in 1975. By 1986, boiler-producing enterprises were equipped with boilers, thanks to them methane was used as fuel for heating of administrative buildings. In 1992 and 2013 the boiler houses were partially modernized. Today, coal mines "Vorkutinskaya", "Zapolyarnaya" and "Komsomolskaya" dispose the mine gas. Only in the last two years, methane emissions decreased by 34%.


At the "Komsomolskaya" mine, 7 out of 12 boilers are coal-fired, 5 — on gas
Photo of the Press Service of "Vorkutaugol"


In 2013, construction of two gas-piston thermal power plants with a capacity of 6 and 12 MW at the "Severnaya" mine was completed. This allowed simultaneously to produce heat and electricity for the needs of the enterprise. The project costed 943 million rubles.


Gas-piston TPP uses degassing methane as fuel
Photo of the Press Service of "Vorkutaugol"


Thanks to the utilization of methane in the boiler rooms of "Vorkutaugol", the volume of emissions of degassing methane — a gas with a high global warming potential — to the atmosphere has been reduced. Thermal energy produced by mine boiler rooms and GPHPPs allowed to reduce the consumption of heat and electricity from an external source — "Vorkutinskaya" CHPP-2, which in turn reduced the volume of coal combustion.

From 2013 to 2016, the total amount of utilized methane in the gas-piston thermal power plants of the "Severnaya" mine amounted to 112 million m³, the actual amount of generated energy was 153.6 million kW/h.


Modular degassing unit (vacuum pump station)
Photo of the Press Service of "Vorkutaugol"


Now "Vorkutaugol" is developing a project to transfer GPHPP from the "Severnaya" mine to the site of the ventilation shaft No. 6 of the "Vorkutinskaya" mine, where a modular degassing unit was built in December 2017. As an alternative, the company is considering the possibility of using flare units for methane combustion at the vacuum pumping station of the "Vorkutinskaya" mine. This will increase the methane utilization. For nine months of this year, the total volume of degassing methane was 195 million m³, of which 50 million m³ was utilized, that is, 25%. The company expects that reducing emissions of degassing methane will eliminate "Vorkutaugol" from the list of environmental trouble spots.


Mine "Vorkutinskaya"
Photo of the Press Service of "Vorkutaugol"


"Environmental protection is one of the main priorities of "Vorkutaugol" at all stages of production activity.The main objectives of the company in the field of environmental protection are determined by the environmental policy of  "Severstal", which includes prevention of environmental pollution, participation in addressing the problems of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, economical and rational use of energy and natural resources, as well as efficient management of waste generated," said Sergey Likhopud, General Director of  "Vorkutaugol".


The central concentrating factory "Pechorskaya"
Photo of the Press Service of "Vorkutaugol"


According to the results of the contest "Leader of the climate development of Russia in 2017", the company received a diploma of the winner of the II degree in the nomination "Contribution to the climate development (security) of the region" for the project "Utilization of degassing methane at "Vorkutaugol" facilities".



The spot of "Mondi Syktyvkar"

In 2003, the "Mondi Syktyvkar" plant accounted for 75% of all industrial emissions to the atmosphere and the discharge of the largest volume of contaminated sewage in Syktyvkar. At that time, emphasis was placed on sustainable development: parallel capacity building and reduction of the negative impact on the environment. At that time elemental chlorine was used in the pulp bleaching industry, and measurements in the early 2000s showed its high amount in wastewater according to European standards. Therefore, one of the first tasks was the transition to chlorine bleaching and avoiding the use of elemental chlorine. This project was completed in 2006. The results were impressive — the concentration of absorbed organic chlorine (AOX) in discharges decreased tens of times.


"Mondi Syktyvkar"
Photo from mondijobs.ru


The large-scale project "Step" included other measures — technical re-equipment, reconstruction of soda recovery boilers, which allowed to reduce emissions to the atmosphere and eliminate the first trouble spot from the list. It was possible to significantly increase the volume of repeated water consumption at the plant.

“The pulp and paper industry is very cumbersome. In Europe, on average, approximately 30-50 cubic meters of fresh water per ton of finished products are consumed. In Syktyvkar, 100 cubic meters and above were spent before "Step". After "Step", water was used as much as possible inside the plant, and not just discarded. There was a closed cycle and it was possible to reach an indicator of 65 cubic meters of fresh water per ton of production. This was the best figure in Russia. Virtually none of the pulp and paper mill at that time outstepped a hundred "cubes"," said the chief ecologist of "Mondi Syktyvkar" Dmitry Ocheretenko.

The next major program was the modernization of treatment facilities. The sewage treatment plants were built and launched at the same time as the combine — in the late 1960s. The second stage of construction was in the 1980s — then primary and secondary settling tanks were added. This system has worked practically unchanged for more than 30 years, but at the beginning of 2010 it became clear that it did not meet the needs of the plant, which increased production. In 2012, a concept was developed for the modernization of treatment facilities, which included three stages.


Aeration tank №3
Photo by Dmitry Ocheretenko


Work began with the modernization of three of the eight aeration tanks (reservoirs through which waste water flows mixed with activated sludge, biological treatment of water takes place there) and six secondary sedimentation tanks. They built a mechanical sewage purification plant for municipal sewage from Syktyvkar, Ezhva and village of Zelenets. In this building, thanks to the grilles, large debris is removed, and due to sanding, sand and smaller stones are removed. There were buffer capacities for 10 thousand cubic meters. They were necessary in order to equalize the flow of urban effluents entering the purification: in the morning and in the evening the pressure may be 1-2 thousand cubic meters, while at night it drops to 200-300 cubic meters. Another object was a new mixing chamber for industrial and domestic wastewater. The first two stages were completed in 2016, and costed more than 1 billion rubles.


Sewage purification plant 
Photo by Dmitry Ocheretenko


At the third stage, the modernization program was expanded in comparison with the original version.

“Treatment plants are one big organism. The effect of replacing one settler will be little, since it is in a common chain. The effect will appear only when you do everything, fulfil all the stages. Reducing the indicators of negative impact on the environment can be seriously seen when the entire body is activated and launched," said the chief ecologist.

The enterprise decided to modernize all primary settling tanks. Reconstructed tanks in Scandinavian technology (the so-called "wet wheel" — this is when the farm is spinning in the water, as a result, wear and tear of equipment decreases due to the difference in the temperature of the water in the tank and air in the cold season). The first modernized clarifier will be launched in the first days of 2018, the second — on the way. By the end of next year, four more are to be modernized.


Setting tank №7
Photo by Dmitry Ocheretenko


The reconstruction of aeration tanks continues, a new aeration and sludge supply system is being introduced. The first of the three was launched in mid-October 2017, the last two will be upgraded during 2018. By the end of next year, all the remaining secondary settling tanks will be updated.

New objects are planned and built. There appeared a reagent farm, the task of which is the supply of chemicals necessary for active sludge (active sludge — organisms that purify sewage, they consume organic matter, but for this they need nitrogen and phosphorus). A new reagent farm will feed the substances automatically.


Aeration tank №3
Photo by Dmitry Ocheretenko


The second required object is the sludge dewatering site and the sludge compactors. During the cleaning process, the activated sludge multiplies, grows, so the sediment must be removed from the settling tanks and sent to the dewaterer site. But the concentration of sludge immediately at the outlet is not enough to be dewatered. Sludge consolidation tanks are needed to thicken the mass, which is then fed to dewatering. Instead of one dewaterer table, four will be put into operation.

According to Dmitry Ocheretenko, the main object of the third stage will be the building of disk filtration. Now the water after the secondary settling tanks is discharged into the river, but in the future disc filters will appear in this chain, which will increase the level of water purification from suspended solids.

All this work will be completed by December 2018. Expenditures for the last stage amounted to 3.3 billion rubles.

“In the past and this year, when we met with representatives of NEFCO and the Barents Region, we showed what we were doing under the modernization program. But we do not want to exclude our ecological trouble spot. We do not want to claim until we implement the project completely," says the chief ecologist of "Mondi Syktyvkar". According to Dmitry Ocheretenko, this will happen in 2019.


Material prepared for the project «Our Eyes on Barents» — a joint media partnership of the Barents Region

Igor Sokolov, «7x7»



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