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2022 September 14

Floating NPPs and hydrogen ports: made in Russia

The Akademik Lomonosov FNPP. Photo by Elena Dider. Image source: Wikipedia

Eastward pivot of Russian economy dictates the need to facilitate the development of remote territories. Energy is the key to their successful development. With this in mind, it is planned to continue production of unique floating nuclear power units. Floating platforms of composite materials have been designed for accommodation of infrastructure facilities. Creation of hydrogen clusters is also on the agenda, although it is exotic so far.

As it is known, many regions located far from Russia’s European part lack energy facilities. That is understandable since the construction power plants in sparsely populated areas is expensive and unprofitable. However, active development of the Arctic fields and the Far East which has got a new impetus for the development this year, dictates the need to address this issue.

One of the solutions already in practice is the construction of floating nuclear power plants. Such a facility, Akademik Lomonosov, docked at the port of Pevek in the Chukotka Autonomous Region is successfully supplying the region with electricity and heat.

When speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum, Chukotka Governor Roman Kopin said that the Akademik Lomonosov had given an impetus to the development of the region.

As Alexey Likhachev, Director General of State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, said at the Forum, new floating nuclear power plants intended for Baimsky Mining and Processing Complex  in the Arctic will be twice as powerful as the Akademik Lomonosov FNPP.

“We don’t stop and we already have an upgraded version (of Akademik Lomonosov FNPP - Ed.) with a nearly doubled capacity and optimized premises of the floating NPP. I really hope that the Baimsky field which is to develop in 2027-28, will get four units,” said Alexey Likhachev.

It should be noted that the design of RITM-200М reactor unit intended for the new FNPPs is a modification of RITM-200 installed on new nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Besides, Russian scientists have designed floating modules on platforms made of composite materials which can be used for accommodation of power plants.

When speaking at the 4th Hydraulic Engineering and Dredging Congress held by PortNews Media Group in 2021, Oleg Timofeyev, Dean, Faculty of Shipbuilding and Ocean Engineering, St. Petersburg State Marine Technical University, shared the expert estimates according to which maintenance experiences in case of composite substructures will make half of those in case of steel substructures, or even less. Thus, that contributes to investment attractiveness of the Arctic projects on creation of type infrastructure modules made of composite materials.

Equipment and technologies used for such modules are based on a number of innovative solutions involving nuclear energy, liquefied natural gas (LNG), renewable sources of energy, zero emission systems, modular construction principles.

At the Eastern Economic Forum Alexey Likhachev announced the plans on construction of a composite shipbuilding yard in the Far East town Korsakov, on the Sakhalin.

Electrolysis unit. Image source: Wikipedia

Albeit quite exotic, tidal power plants with hydrogen clusters is also an interesting idea. Going back to the soviet times, the plans on construction of tidal power plants could not be implemented due to high capital expenses. With the development of hydrogen economy they become more realistic.

The idea was presented in January 2022 by Anatoly Chubais, special representative of RF President for relations with international organisations to achieve sustainable development goals. He spoke about the plans on construction of Penzhenskaya tidal power plant in Kamchatka. According to the project, it is to pay off with the creation of a cluster for hydrogen exports.

“If we are able to build a plant for electrolysis near the Penzhenskaya tidal power plant as well as a port for exports of hydrogen to Japan (which is to consume 3 million of hydrogen per year from 2030 with no local production facilities) it (the market – Ed.) is estimated at up to $15 billion per year”, said Anatoly Chubais. According to him, Russia will be able to export 6-10 million tonnes of hydrogen per year by 2030.

Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov confirmed the plans to implement the project of Penzhenskaya tidal power plant when speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum. According to him, active work on the project development is underway. Two phases of the project implementation are foreseen.

“The first phase is to enable generation of some 300 MW, transmission of power to the eastern coast of Kamchatka, construction of a hydrogen cluster there ... construction of a wind farm for levelling daily fluctuations of tidal power and, later, exports (of hydrogen – Ed.) by water ... The second phase is to ensure generation of over 21 GW by the tidal power plant and up to 1 GW by the wind power plant. Of course, it is a long-term project. Phase 1 can be implemented in 10 years but is not seen as fantastic any more,” said the Governor.

Although exports to Japan are doubtful in the current circumstances, the APR countries will be economically interested in imports of hydrogen from Russia because Kamchatka and Sakhalin are relatively close to that region which is essential taking into account high cost of hydrogen transportation.

When speaking at St. Petersburg International Gas Forum 2022, Jinsok Sung, Research Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul (S. Korea), said the Korean Government is set to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. However, the country’s capabilities for hydrogen production are quite limited. Therefore, it counts on imports of hydrogen from the Middle East and Australia. Meanwhile, hydrogen transportation means high expenses. Supplies from the Far East, Sakhalin in particular, ensure the shortest transport leg.

“Hydrogen economy is impossible without international partnership. Therefore, establishment of international unions is a key to success ... Hydrogen from Sakhalin could be competitive in view of high transportation costs. I am not sure in competitiveness of hydrogen if it is transported from Australia,” said the speaker.

In fact, hydrogen economy is a remote future because organic fuel is much more competitive.

“To get one energy unit from hydrogen you will always spend more energy than get,” Valeriy Bessel, Professor at Gubkin University, Executive Vice President at NewTech Services, said at SPIGF 2022. According to him, hydrogen industry will develop anyway in view of gradual depletion of organic fuel resources in the world.

Thus, Russia’s eastward pivot brings new stimuli to develop unique competence unrivaled throughout the world. That, in its turn will give an impetus to the development of related industries: shipbuilding, production of composite materials, nuclear energy, etc.

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