Geothermal Power Supply Achievements and Development Prospects in Kazakhstan and Russia

According to the research adviser of Geothermal Power Supply Scientific centre of Moscow Power Engineering Institute and “Geotherm” JSC, Laureate of state prize, Professor, Doctor of Engineering Science O.A. Povarov in the 50 years to come the following characteristics in power supply development are expected: the revolutionary new power sources to be able to change the production balance and electric power consumption will not appear. Efficiency improvement of organic oil firing, and first of all gas, will be reached by full-scale construction CCGT plant with 55-60 % effectiveness; new TPP with traditional Carnot cycle running with the help of organic oil with supercritical parameters of open steam: Ро=300-350 bar and 1° to 700°С having a recessed vacuum in turbine condenser which allows to get the effectiveness of TPP up to 46-48% and even more sometimes. In the closest 5-10 years new construction of new generation APSs which are distinguished by high effectiveness and safety will be started. Reducing the gaseous emissions and chemical impurities and CO2 emission especially will have a significant importance in energy development. Today emission tax for 1 ton of CO2 is not defined clearly and ranges from 3 to 30 dollars but in any case it is noticeable; renewable power sources: sun, wind, biomass will have a rapid growth, though it has approximately 3-4% of total power production balance.

In accordance with that some regions of Russia has already economically explained the acceleration of geothermal power supply development which helps to get cheaper energy and heat and to provide a safe power supply. More and more people say that geothermal power supply which is quite affordable because of heat pumps usage will play a key role.

In Povarov’s opinion the usage of the Earth heat in Russia will get closer to 20% of total balance of heating supply. In some regions of Russia geothermal power and heating supply can increase up to 50-90% of total power consumption (Kamchatka, Kurile Islands, North Caucasus, some regions of Siberia); all energy modification ways in the world are accompanied by the implementation of advanced ACS which allows to use the electric power plant almost without maintenance staff and to control power supply units in remote mode (thousands of kilometers) with the help of space and other means of communication.

How to develop low-temperature level?

Geothermal power supply or rather energy supply as well as heating energy produced with the help of energy contained in the earth’s womb according to the specialists’ opinion is absent in Kazakhstan, if not to take into account the geothermal land deposit Kaplanbek (close to Shymkent city) where the water temperature 80°С allows to use it for heating supply of apartment buildings. The second treatment facility is geothermal source with temperature 80-120°С near Almaty. It is used for greenhouses heating in winter and conditioning in summer.

We asked The Head of Engineering Department of “KazakhEnergoEkspertiza” Bek Madyraimov to tell about the development of new geothermal sources situation in Kazakhstan.

According to the information he gave “KazakhEnergoEkspertiza” started working out the geothermal station construction design with 10MWt capacity in Southern Kazakhstan in 2011. The design is based on the experience of American company “Raser Technologies” which an opened  for-profit geothermal station in Thermo. The distinguishing feature of the station is a low grade geothermal heat source which is usually considered as unsuitable for power production. For traditional geothermal station to run a temperature of subsurface water must be at least 180°С. The engineers of “Raser Technologies” went round this obstacle having created binary or two-stage cycle when electrical energy with the help of special kinds of heat exchangers is produced with water temperature being around 70-80°С.

Speaking of advantages of this project Mr. Madyraimov emphasized that produced water resources go through the system and injected back to the depths; that to assemble the station requires a short period of time – around half year by unit construction (unit “boiler – turbine – generator” with nominal outlet capacity 0,25 megawatt each); that one kilowatt per hour costs less which is only 8 cents (the price at the geothermal station in Thermo).

It is not difficult to imagine how people of power-hungry South Kazakhstan will accept the idea where the domesticated and conserved sources of geothermal water with temperature range from 30 to 80°С. And in this case the experience of Russians is a model experience for us. In geothermal power supply we make the first and humble steps. While our neighbors are far ahead in subsurface sources heating development. Let’s see what they did in alternative power source development.

And then experience born of lapses…

In Russia price change of organic oil (gas, fuel oil, diesel oil) as well as its transportation (especially in remote areas) caused a natural growth of transfer prices for electric and heating energy which activated development of cheaper geothermal energy.

For the past years thank to constant and active actions of “SPS Russia” RJSC, “Geotherm” JSC and “Science” JSC with the support of Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology and Ministry of Energy of Russian Federation breakthrough in geothermal power plants development and construction has been accomplished.

Development and construction of Mutnovsky GeoPP at Kamchatka with raising a loan from EBRD = 99.9 mln dollars and  from Sberbank of Russia = 215 mln rubles let to solve some practical and scientific objectives and to assemble two geothermal power plants at Kamchatka in a short period of time which gave an important social and economic effect to all the project participants.  

Kamchatka received the most advanced geothermal power plant at the cost of 150 mln dollars approximately and up to 55MWt of cheap energy. Previously frozen funds for geofield, roads and ETL were galvanized at Kamchatka.  

Construction companies of Kamchatka and many other specialists were permitted to unlock their potential.

“SPS Russia” RJSC having invested 30 mln dollars in this project in fact became the owner of the power plant at the cost of 150 mln dollars. At the same time “SPS Russia” RJSC executed a big project corresponding to all international standards for the first time which allows invite investments for the construction of the second stage at Mutnovsky GeoPP and other projects.

The tax from the project brought 26 mln dollars to the budget of Russia.     

In the short period of time geothermal industry was developed which let to build the high-efficiency power plant construction. The experience of the Mutnovsky GeoPP construction caused the development of a new branch in domestic science and engineering and entrenched the positions of Russian plants and institutes.

EBRD executed an energy supply project in Russia for the first time and made sure that even remote areas of the country (Kamchatka) have a possibility to undertake a project “key ready” according to the schedule and inexpensively which allows switch to a new project realization – the second stage of the Mutnovsky GeoPP construction with 100MWt capacity.

Mutnovsky GeoPP is an example of successful cooperation of scientists, specialists, erecters and bankers from different countries (Russia, Ukraine, Germany, USA, Finland, New Zealand, England and others) – opened a door for power supply plants investments.

After the commissioning of GeoPP Russia joint the rank of advanced countries enable to produce all the equipment for up-to-date GeoPPs construction known for efficiency and high level of automation.

To have or not to have?

The experience of Russians about exploring and geothermal sources reclamation is a model for us. Are we as curious as Russians in this direction – the question of the questions. They already have an experience in operating “Pauzhetsky GeoPP, in developing the first GeoPP in the world with binary cycle at Paratunka River (Kamchatka) and also in operating GeoPP and GeoHP at Kunashir Island (Kurile Islands).

Kazakhstan as part of program Development Strategies 2050 provides gradual increase of alternative power source share in total power production. According to this program by the year 2050 total power consumption accounts for 50%. But nowadays Kazakhstan has an unclear idea – what is the power production share of the geothermal sources.

Among the measures conducing sufficient organization in this field in accordance with approved Work plan of alternative energy sources development realization of some projects in this sphere is planned. Realization of the first stage of measures which are planned up to 2020 to increase alternative energy sources total power capacity to 1040 MWt whereof 793 MWt fall to share of 13 wind power supply plants, 170MWt – 14 small hydro electric power plants and 77 MWt – sun generating plants. And we are pleased that this is preliminary data only and while making further            calculation the possibility of geothermal sources will be taken into account in the corresponding documents.

For the objections concerning the temperature of the geothermal sources being not high enough there is a response: have the proper geological exploration been done in this sphere. And the second, quite serious objection: Have local Kulibins and Edisons been set a task of sources usage with the given temperature parameters? Are we ready from engineering and processing point of view to develop the geothermal sources we have? Seems like not and we still have a lot of things to be done in this sphere.

In Russia at Iturup Island the research of Oceanic geothermal deposit is conducted where biphase geothermal heat transfer deposit has been found which is enough for 30 MWt production. It is enough to supply the Island’s needs for the closest 100 years! On the Southern Island Kunashir geothermal heat deposits are used for power and heating supply. On the boarder with the Kamchatka Region the Chukotka possesses geothermal heat deposits and now the geothermal heating supply plants are erected there. On North Caucasus the geothermal deposits with the temperature in the vessels from 70 to 180°С which are situated at depth from 300 to 5000 m are thoroughly studied. Many years geothermal water is used here for heat and water generating. In 2000 in Dagestan around 6 mln m3 of geothermal water were obtained. On South Caucasus around 500 thousand people are provided with geothermal water supply. Primorye, Baikal, West Siberian regions also have geothermal heating deposits appropriate for large-scale utilization in production and agriculture.  

Advanced technologies which Russians use: GeoPP, GeoPP with binary cycle, heating pumps, sufficient heating and material drying systems allow get maximum effect from geothermal heat transfer.

While we are learning from our neighbors’ experience they made a following step having created local heat- and power supply systems based on geothermal resources which allow solve the power generating problem at civil and military centers at Kamchatka, Chukotka, Kuril Islands, Magadan Region and Siberia for a short period of time. And it is to be noted that they are technically well prepared for it. They already use binary power plants developed in “Science” JSC with the support of   Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology involving SC Geo MPEI, HII AS, ARD Kholodmash, SB RAS.

We just haven’t looked deep in this sphere yet…    

Blinded with available hydrocarbon, having wind- and solar energy development projects Kazakhstan people indisposed to discuss the geothermal energy sources development topic yet. And energy dependency of future generations using all kinds of possible power sources seems like doesn’t concern us as we don’t know for sure how we are going to operate our geothermal sources in 10 – 20 – 30 years. Russia on the contrary already has estimates for the closest 5-10 years using the Earth heat and new technologies that could save up to 20-30% of organic oil for heating up cities, villages and military centers. Isn’t it food for thought to our geologists who is reviving this branch currently? Isn’t it a reason for Kazakh innovators to think– how to increase efficiency of domestic low-temperature sources?      

Tendering their energy of future developing offers for EXPO-17 Kazakhstan people could notice predilection of the closest neighbors to this topic taking into account obvious economic value and to take it just as close developing their own projects. Definitely it is difficult to move forward without changes in legislation. And the country waits for the law to use renewable alternative sources where legal framework for real projects will be mentioned.

The head of Ministry of Industry and New Technologies Aset Isekeshev once said that according to the calculations “around 1200 farms and distant pastures do not have an access to power systems. In the closest future in the course of AIC development the increase of such farms up to 4 thousands is planned. Hence we planned stage-by-stage power supply of these objects by using wind and solar plants”. The experience of Russians proves that among renewable power source geothermal can take place as well. We just didn’t look deep into this sphere.

Gulmira Sarvasova