Energy of life

[b]The time shall soon come when oil, coal and gas resources are depleted. This knowledge is pushing us to return to our own ‘origins’ and promote alternative energy use. The south-eastern area of Belarus — the Gomel region — is taking its own steps to train specialists and to research and apply alternative energy sources[/b][b]Hot spot [/b]Belarusian scientists believe that the 200km long Pripyat flexure — situated in the Gomel region — is the most promising site on the Belarusian map for geothermal potential. The ‘hot spot’ — 2,000-5,000 metres in depth — embraces the cities of Rechitsa, Svetlogorsk, Gomel, Oktyabrsky and Kalinkovichi. The temperature of its water resources fluctuates from 20 to 115 degrees. The underground ‘climate’ of the Gomel region became known in the 1970s — when Belarusian academician Gerasim Bogomolov proposed using its energy for consumer needs. “At that time, geothermal energy wasn’t taken seriously although, in the West, it had been used to produce electricity and heating since the early 20th century.
The time shall soon come when oil, coal and gas resources are depleted. This knowledge is pushing us to return to our own ‘origins’ and promote alternative energy use. The south-eastern area of Belarus — the Gomel region — is taking its own steps to train specialists and to research and apply alternative energy sources

Hot spot
Belarusian scientists believe that the 200km long Pripyat flexure — situated in the Gomel region — is the most promising site on the Belarusian map for geothermal potential. The ‘hot spot’ — 2,000-5,000 metres in depth — embraces the cities of Rechitsa, Svetlogorsk, Gomel, Oktyabrsky and Kalinkovichi. The temperature of its water resources fluctuates from 20 to 115 degrees. The underground ‘climate’ of the Gomel region became known in the 1970s — when Belarusian academician Gerasim Bogomolov proposed using its energy for consumer needs. “At that time, geothermal energy wasn’t taken seriously although, in the West, it had been used to produce electricity and heating since the early 20th century. Forty countries worldwide currently reap the benefits,” explains the Frantsisk Skorina State University’s Geological-Geographical Department, in Gomel. “Now that energy resources are dwindling, the issue is more acute, bringing attention.”
The hot waters of the Gomel region have been thoroughly studied for several years, including by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geological Sciences, which assessed the geothermal potential of the Pripyat flexure. On average, the energy equates to 0.5-1 tonnes of equivalent fuel per metre; in some places, the figure reaches 4-5 tonnes. In other words, a metre of the Pripyat flexure could produce as much heat as the combustion of 4-5 tonnes of crude oil. The underground energy source has another wonderful feature, restoring itself indefinitely — unlike oil and gas, which are exhaustible. Financiers have calculated that geothermal sources cost half as much to process as usual fuels. The Pripyat’s deposits could not be used to create electricity — as in Italy, Japan, the USA and other countries — but could be used to directly heat homes — as in Warsaw, Klaipeda and Paris. In Belarus, geothermal potential is already being mastered, with several facilities operating near Minsk and one works in Polotsk. New projects are under development.

Bio-effect in focus
Just a few years ago, Belarusians learnt about the advantages of bio-gas facilities from scientific publications. Now, three such complexes are successfully operating in the country. The last came into operation at Gomel’s Poultry Factory — the largest in the region. It embraces 32 poultry yards, housing 850,000 places for birds and an incubator cellar.
The project’s price was over Br8bn. Equipment was supplied by an Austrian company, while the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, the Ministry for Agriculture and Food and Belarus’ Energy Efficiency Department covered most costs. The complex runs on raw plant compost and chicken manure. “The process is profitable though not easy,” say staff. “Residues remaining from water purification are fermented and decontaminated — to produce methane. On combustion, these generate heat and electricity. Beneficially, less methane escapes into the atmosphere and we save money on creating electricity.”
The facility is designed to generate 330kW of electricity and 450kW of heat energy per hour. Using this alternative source of energy, 2,600,000kW of electricity and 4,200,000Gcal of heat energy could be generated annually. The company can cover 50 percent of its need for electricity and half its heating needs. Meanwhile, chicken manure can be made into high-quality and ecologically friendly organic fertiliser (which needs no addition disinfection) — to be used on the factory’s agricultural fields.
In the Gomel region, another facility is now being built, with an energy capacity of 1mW — at Sovkhoz — Sozh Combine JSC. An agreement on the project’s realisation has been concluded between the company and German TelDaFax ENERGY GmbH. The site has been chosen, located close to the production buildings of a large pig-breeding complex. Bio-gas is to be used at a gas powered electrical generator — to produce electricity.
Ten such facilities are to be built in the country this year, with a total of 148 planned for the near future — producing 236 megawatts. The Government’s calculations indicate that 160,000 tonnes of equivalent fuel will be saved, with bio-gas able to annually cover about 3 percent of electricity and heat energy currently generated countrywide. Additionally, such facilities should help reduce the emission of ‘greenhouse’ gases, while reducing environmental pollution of the soil and water table where animal-breeding farms are situated.

As if in a museum
These days, even small children are taught to save energy and resources, gaining a new view on alternative energy and a careful attitude towards our natural wealth. Teachers are also trying to inspire their imagination, in the search for alternatives to oil, coal and gas…
The first Belarusian Museum of Energy has appeared in the Gomel region, including activities for schoolchildren. The museum’s three halls house over a hundred exhibits — such as torch, oil and gas lanterns and energy-saving lamps. One hall is devoted to energy-saving projects, with schoolchildren encouraged to take an active part. One model shows an automated system of lighting; the sensor allows electricity costs to be halved. Other projects include a ferry operated by hydro-power and a model of the first Belarusian nuclear power station. “We have an information-training centre for young people,” explains Tatiana Atrokhova, the Deputy Head of the Gomel Regional Executive Committee’s Education Department. “Our task is to excite children, inspiring them to think of ways of saving energy — considering how much electricity costs and how we can preserve it.”
Another hall houses international and national legislative acts in the field of energy-saving. Models of farms, houses and factories using alternative energy sources are also on show (primarily, solar and wind). Guides introduce these to children in detail, so that these young citizens can develop a feeling for alternative energy. As adults, their lives will hardly be possible without it.

By Violetta Dralyuk
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