As part of agreements with the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, SUEK will invest RUB 3.14bn (about $55m) in environmental initiatives in Siberia and the Far East and close to another RUB 1.5bn (about $26m) in the Murmansk region in 2017, which was declared the Year of Ecology in Russia. In particular, the Vanino Bulk Terminal, which is the most important transshipment point for Russian coal exports to the Asia-Pacific markets, will receive investments of RUB 374.7m (about $6m). The resulting technological leap will see best global practices introduced at the port and reduce the environment impact of coal transshipment operations.
Where does the wind blow?
In mid-August 2017, while on a visit to Kaliningrad, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting on the environmental challenges facing ports with open-air coal transshipment operations.
He agreed that it was impossible to eliminate such operations. "We understand the economics; we’d had these for decades. Although today I would like to say that for the development of coal terminal capacity, environmental concerns should come first when selecting sites for new capacity. These should underpin the decision process, taking into account the interests of local residents," - stressed V. Putin, who called for the introduction of advanced cargo handling technology that meets environmental requirements.
Dust emissions during coal transshipment are frequent issues for small terminals in the Far East that do not use specialised dust-reduction systems. At the same time, the largest coal terminals have introduced advanced technology to minimise their environmental impact. Among such enterprises are Rosterminalugol in Ust-Luga, Murmansk Commercial Seaport in the North-West, and the Vostochny port and the Vanino Bulk Terminal in the Far East.
A ban on open-air coal transshipment and storage would not solve the negative environmental effects. Global experience has confirmed that large coal ports do not have to switch to covered coal transshipment and storage. Safety is one concern, as there have been cases of fires in covered warehouses. At the same time, coal irrigation systems limit dusting and freezing. Specially designed wind screens also offer a solution to the problem, while sensors provide for continuous atmospheric monitoring and air quality readings.
In fact, many of the world's leading coal ports are located in cities without health and environmental problems. Increasing the monitoring of port activity and introducing the latest technologies is sufficient. According to the classification of the Chief Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation, approved by Resolution No. 51 of 09.10.2013, coal dust is classified as a safe substance and has an estimated safe exposure level of 0.1 mg / m3.
A closer look at the measures introduced at coal ports in the US, China, Poland, the Netherlands, and Australia to reduce the burden on the environment reveals that coal remains the world’s most important energy source and that stevedoring companies are focusing on further improving dust handling and control. To this end, warehouse size is limited and the height of the piles, as well of the grapple and its opening, are reduced, while telescopic conveyors are equipped with covers to minimize coal particles.
A noticeable effect can be provided by sheltering equipment and places of intense dust formation, using fog guns to moisten coal, utilising dust suppressant additives, and by installing dust and wind screens. Additionally, wastewater treatment plants are used and landscaping is carried out. The entire territory, access roads, and the equipment are regularly cleaned, while an automated environmental monitoring system operates, ready to launch control devices should particle levels rise.
Practically all best available technologies are operating at the Vanino Bulk Terminal and the Murmansk Commercial Seaport. The introduction of these new technologies has generated positive environmental effects. Today, the environmental issues are under control, and harmful emissions have been reduced by several fold.
A dust suppression system was introduced at the Vanino Bulk Terminal in 2012-2016.
A water cannon is now used to moisten the surface of the coal storage and the perimeter of warehouse No. 2 is equipped with a remote-controlled WLP 1200 dust suppression system. As a result, microscopic-sized water droplets bind coal dust particles and suspended coal dust has been reduced by 38%. An M18 Classic snowmaker is loaded on a trailer and covers the coal pile with a layer of artificial snow in winter.
A Scania mobile vacuum unit cleans the dust from the coal storage with a hinged sweeping nozzle.
Last year, a Swedish-made Centurion 200 / 9-1812 mobile vacuum loader was acquired.
To date, it is the world’s most powerful vacuum loader for collecting and recycling dust. At the request of the Vanino Bulk Terminal, it was equipped with additional options to irrigate coal stocks in the summer. A coal irrigation system was introduced for the conveyor, galleries and transfer stations. In the underground gallery, a foam system works to minimise both coal losses and dust formation. A fog system operates in the tipper truck building above the receiving bunkers. To reduce the amount of dust during transportation or processing, a Dustex dust suppressing fog system utilising seawater is installed at one of the transfer stations.
A dust suppression system was introduced at the stacker-reclaimer unit. The system is designed to not only operate in warmer periods, but also in low temperatures. A coal dust briquetting machine was purchased and installed. The possibility of briquetting coal particles with the use of binding agents is currently being studied, which should make it possible to obtain a briquette of similar composition and characteristics as the original variety of coal.
Since 2013, air quality monitoring at the industrial site and residential area has been carried out with the help of a HANK-4 gas analyser. In 2016, it was complemented with special readers providing deeper monitoring of atmospheric emissions.
In 2017, equipment was purchased to install a stationary air monitoring station in the village of Toki and the first step was taken to introduce an automated system to monitor air quality. The plan for next year is to automate the monitoring of air emissions from unorganized sources (coal storage) at the border of the production site.
As it is, the main sources of emissions from stationary points in the Khabarovsk region are enterprises engaged in the production and distribution of electricity, gas and water. These account for 62% of all emissions, compared to the Vanino Bulk Terminal, which produced only 0.16%, or 0.2 thousand tonnes, of total emissions from stationary sources in the Khabarovsk region in 2015. The results of this report highlight how exaggerated and unfounded is the widespread assumption that coal terminals have a negative impact on the local environment.
In any case, the Vanino Bulk Terminal air monitoring and protection expenses amounted to close to RUB 292m (about $5m) in 2010-2016. During this time, annual investments increased 8 times, highlighting the commitment of SUEK enterprises and shareholders to environmental responsibility.
Cleanliness requires investment
As much attention is paid to environmental issues at the Murmansk Commercial Seaport. SUEK recently became its shareholder and proceeded to immediately increase environmental investments by more than 10 times. In total, more than 1 billion roubles have already been invested.
From 2018-2019, the implementation of these environmental measures should reduce the level of dust particles in the air by 90%. In particular, five fog guns equipped for winter conditions have been deployed in cargo area No. 2. A similar system with four stationary guns is planned for cargo area No. 1. The use of fog guns reduces dust formation by 49%.
Higher capacity grapples are also used to reduce dust formation. The installation of seven new cranes at the port helped cut dust emissions by 17% over the previous 4 years by reducing the number of transhipment operations. Six additional cranes will be delivered over the next three years.
Furthermore, the roads in the port are cleaned by two mobile vacuum units, with another planned to be put in operation. The construction of storm water treatment facility in the freight area No. 2 is soon to be completed and will reduce suspended solids in water by 98%.
As well, this year will see the coal storage area enclosed by a 6-meter high protective wall especially designed to the specifications of Murmansk Commercial Seaport. As a result, with the piles enclosed on all sides, wind erosion, and therefore dust, is expected to decrease by 200 times.
In early September 2017, the piles will be covered with cellulose fibre dissolved in water and hydrogel additives for hydro seeding, as well as processed with a mixture of ethylene glycol and lignosulfonate using two different technologies. The best technology will then be utilised to control dust from the piles during unfavourable weather conditions.
By the end of this year, the port will receive two new mobile vacuum cleaners to further reduce dust levels in storage areas and roads in the port and city. This is only part of the initiatives planned at the Murmansk Commercial Seaport. Needless to say, SUEK’s environmental programme is not limited to the Year of Ecology and will continue as it is always necessary to protect nature.