Will coal handling and clean environment ever be possible?
Coal is the most promising cargo for the further expansion of Russia's port facilities. There are a lot of coal terminals in Russia and only four dedicated coal ports. And conventional ports are handling coal without using modern 'green' technologies. However, the situation may change soon due to new legislative initiatives that will force stevedores operating the conventional terminals to purchase appropriate equipment and systems or to abandon the market.
There are currently four dedicated coal ports operating in Russia: JSC Vostochny Port, Far East based CJSC DaltTansUgol, JSC Rosterminalugol based in the Baltic Sea basin and in some ways, JSC Commercial port Posiet, also located in Russia's Far East. The remaining nearly two dozen terminals are engaged in coal handling once in a while as the facilities were not initially projected for the commodity exports. Their owners did not inject large sums in the state-of-the-art equipment, including dust suppression and efficient rail car handling system. These terminals use grab bulk material unloading / loading, the most environmentally dirty technology.
After a Nakhodka resident called to Russian President Vladimir Putin during The Direct Line, a Q&A marathon, and complained about the pollution of air by coal cause by open handling of bulk material at the city's ports, there were a number of legislative initiatives submitted aimed at prevention of coal dusting within populated localities and health damage risks.
The original draft law was quite revolutionary and presupposed a ban on open transshipment and storage of coal in the ports of the Russian Federation. However, this proposal has drawn fire from the expert community, since in the case of a complete ban on open coal storage technology, all presently operating terminals, including specialized and environmentally friendly ones, would have to cease their work. In addition, the covered storage of coal creates additional threats and contradicts the world practice, and there are no examples of fully indoor coal terminals that export coal in volumes comparable to that of Russia's largest coal terminals, such as Vostochny Port or Rosterminalugol.
The completely closed technology that exclude any escape of the commodity dust into the environment is associated with the risks of spontaneous combustion of coal in indoor warehouses and explosion at a certain concentration of coal dust. Besides, the experts said, the indoor storage of coal does not completely exclude harmful effects on the environment.
Outdoor coal handling is a common practice worldwide. In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, a coal terminal is located in the vicinity of residential sector, as in many other world's ports, where millions of tonnes of coal are stored outdoor close to buildings. At the same time, the operations are environmentally compliant thanks to specialized equipment and modern coal transfer technologies, which are also used in Russia at the above-mentioned dedicated coal terminals.
Given these arguments against the completely closed, indoor coal storage technology, the bill was finalized. The new version of the document obliges owners and operators of export coal marine terminals located within the boundaries of populated localities, to reduce emissions of harmful substances using the best technologies available. Russian Government will establish requirements for specialized equipment. The entry into force of the law is scheduled for January 2018. Stevedores are required to install the equipment before July 1, 2019.
The examples are all around us
Russian stevedores who would be willing to handle coal, for example, do not need look hard to find examples. After all, there are several terminals operating in Russia that had been equipped with the state-of-the-art clean technologies for coal handling. At the moment, the largest of them are the Vostochny Port and Rosterminalugol. Clean and safe work with coal begins from the terminal design stage and choosing a construction site. These facilities were projected and built from scratch only for export of coal. Therefore, at the design stage, the following aspects were taken into consideration: urban planning rules (location away from inhabited areas); technical solutions aimed at preserving the environment; compliance with environmental standards and requirements; The presence of control and monitoring laboratories to prevent dust and other emissions into the air and marine environment.
For the clean handling of coal it is necessary to utilized specialized high-tech equipment (tandem car dumpers, conveyor system, stackers, reclaimers and shiploaders), which enable the terminal to quickly handle large volumes of coal and prevent negative impact on the environment.
For each segment of the technological process of coal transfer, terminals provide unique solutions for ensuring environmental safety and eliminating dusting.
Rail cars unloading station
The cars unloading station features high-tech and fully automated rotary car dumpers in tandem configuration located in a closed building equipped with powerful air aspiration and Dry Fog dust suppression systems. The entrance to the car dumper station is adjacent to 600-meter-long wind screen system designed for simultaneous reception of 80 railcars laden with coal. The exit for cars from the building is equipped with a high-speed gate. This technology prevents escape of coal dust and reduces the level of production noise.
Coal transfer and storage stations
Conveyor coal transfer system of the terminals are protected by wind screens to prevent airborne escape of dust. Coal transfer stations are equipped with air aspiration and dry fog dust suppression.
Besides, the coal storage stations (coal stacks) are equipped by year-round operating aspiration and dust suppression systems used in sub-and above-zero temperatures. Boom conveyors of stackers and reclaimers operating in coal storage areas are protected by wind shields. The receiving bins of the stackers are protected by hermetic casings.
Ship loading station
The innovative shiploader's telescopic loading chute (spoon) is lowered down with discharge end to access right into the dry cargo ship's holds to minimize airborne dust generation and bulk material spillage while loading. The machines also have a water curtain spaying system.
Additional measures to protect the environment
Additional measures include air-cleaning installations operating 24/7, multi-level water purification systems utilized in operations; innovative multi-level filtration systems and latest generation treatment facilities that allow collection of dust deposits from the surface of coal terminals, preventing the dust escape into the port's basin, with subsequent purifying water to the quality standards of fishery industry; the in-house certified environmental labs controlling and monitoring the air and water resources condition; monitoring of the terminal facilities and its water basin in real time performed by remotely piloted drones.
The coal ports' Environmental Stewardship Plan is carried out in accordance with ISO 14001: 2004 Environmental Management Systems. Requirements with guidance for use, "Handling of goods in the seaport”. Enterprises have passed international certification for compliance with this standard.