We continue our Geothermal Country Overview series with a feature on Russia.
The Russian energy sector since many years has been based on fossil fuels and the exploitation of hydro and nuclear power. The contribution of geothermal energy to the total energy mix is rather minute, however, potential of this renewable resource is significantly high. Considering the vast area of Russia and fuel transportation logistics, the use of geothermal energy for power generation could be significantly important in the northern and eastern regions of the country. However, the main area of geothermal energy utilization in Russia has been and continues to be direct use.
Fig. 1. Geothermal energy potential in Russia (1 – space heating by heat pump, 2 – direct uses, 3 – power generation)
The exploitation of geothermal resources has been carried out in Russia, and the former Soviet Union, since the last 60 years. Geothermal energy is the second most commonly used type of renewable energy in the country and represents only less than 1% of the total energy production in the country. Based on the past research on geothermal potential in Russia, it was found that numerous regions have reserves of hot geothermal fluid with the temperatures ranging from 50ºC to 200ºC at depths between 200 to 3000 m. These areas are mainly located in the European part of Russia (i.e. Northern Caucasus with Alpine and platform areas; where deepest geothermal wells in Russia were drilled, exceeding depths of 5.5 km) and Siberia with Baikal rift area, western Siberia with Krasnoyarsk, Okhotsko-Chukotsky volcanic belt, Primorsky Krai and Kuril-Kamchatka region. In the Kamchatka Peninsula and Kuril Islands the thermal water reaches temperatures in excess of 300oC. Since today, around 385 wells have been drilled in the volcanically-active regions of Kamchatka and Kuril Islands, to final depths between 170 to 1800 m, from which 44 wells are producing two-phase fluids.
Fig. 2. Volcanic activity in Kamchatka peninsula and the northern part of Kuril Islands
The first geothermal power plant, also the first Binary cycle power station in the world, was built in Pauzhetka (south of Kamchatka), in 1966, with a total capacity of 5 MWe. Currently, the total installed geothermal capacity of the country amounts to 81.9 MWe, from which 50 MWe is coming from the Verkhne-Mutnovsky geothermal plant. Two additional plants were built on the Kamchatka Peninsula in 1999 and then in 2002. Two smaller size plants were constructed on the islands of Kunashir and Iturup in 2007. Construction and implementation of the new 100 MWe geothermal power plant in Mutnovsky and a 50 MWe plant in Kaliningrad is ongoing. The use of geothermal heat for direct purposes is rather widespread in Russia and has been developing greatly in the Kuril-Kamchatka region, Dagestan as well as in Krasnodar Krai. Many district heating and greenhouse heating schemes already exist in the country, together with the use of geothermal heat for industrial processes, cattle, and fish farming, drying of agricultural products, geothermal baths, and swimming pools. There is high interest for installation of ground source heat pumps in Russia, but their use is presently at a rather early stage of development.
Author: Michal Kruszewski