Thursday, June 06, 2013

Russia: Russia invests heavily in ecological innovations

Yuri Skidanov
Read the original in Russian

Russia invests heavily in ecological innovations

During the 1990s, a group of U.S. scientists simulated the model of the Earth after a nuclear war. The result of their research was quite depressing. The scientists also analyzed how people affect nature. They came to conclusion that the influence of man on nature and the consequences of a nuclear war are more or less the same. The only difference is in time - the planet will be destroyed either way.

The President's Council for Economic Modernization and Innovative Development has recently held a meeting, at which it was decided that ecology should be given priority attention in both public policy and state funding.

The grounds are more than tangible. Up to 15 percent of Russia reside in cities and industrial agglomerations. Billions of tons of garbage and wastes have been accumulated, more and more garbage arrives daily, whereas separate collection and recycling - the basics of modern waste processing technologies - still remain a non-Russian phenomenon. Landfills, including unauthorized ones, poison hundreds of thousands of hectares of land.

Who is to blame? Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the following: "Of course, one can always blame a predecessor, however, we need to look at ourselves to see how our production works." The first priority, according to the government is to try to relieve the country from highly polluted areas. This is the goal of the federal program "Elimination of accumulated environmental damage." About 70 percent of the budget of the program accounts for innovative technologies. In general, the development of new methods in the framework of the Federal Program is to be funded with about 49 billion rubles.

It is possible to effectively clean, recycle and dispose highly toxic waste with the use of modern technologies. Like all innovations, they are always expensive.

One of the main applied purposes of the project is to clean the Arctic region of Russia, where huge amounts of environmentally unsound waste has been saved for decades. Another task is to improve large industrial hubs, such as, for example, in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Clearing the environmental debris of the past is the initial part of the global program for environmental rehabilitation. It is important to move on to state-of-the-art environmentally safe industrial technologies, as was emphasized by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Donskoy. When a natural resource complex provides more than half of revenues of the federal budget, it is necessary to either avoid or limit the possible negative impact of industrial technologies.

In other words, having got rid of old environmental problems, it is necessary to prevent the emergence of new ones. Eight billion rubles will be allocated for the period of up to 2013 for the creation of eco-efficient technologies. Last year, investment in environmental protection and rational use of natural resources amounted to about 116 billion rubles.

Gazprom's developments in the field of environmental care are extremely interesting. A long-standing problem of many deposits is high sulfur content in extracted natural gas. New technologies have been developed for modification of asphalt on the basis of sulfur. This will increase the time of road repairs to 5-7 years. This is a triple effect: a reduction of environmental burden, increase in the profitability of gas production and improvement of the quality of roads.

This goes for land. As for the sea, during the development of the Arctic shelf, according to Gazprom's chairman Alexey Miller, a unique technology will be used. Special laser systems will be accurately removing oil contaminations and possible condensate spills in ice-cold conditions.

The new technology, developed by the gas industry in conjunction with the research center of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Power (Rosatom), could become a basic one for the establishment of the international system to protect marine environment. Noteworthy, high-power lasers are used already when it is necessary to eliminate fires in wells causing minimal damage to the environment. Gazprom has been using the technology since 2011.

Another large-scale development is very interesting too. A "water-to-air" machine makes drinking water from air. Air humidity should be above 15 percent, and air temperature - not lower than 15 degrees above zero Centigrade. The cost of one ton of such water is about one ruble. Among other things, new technologies reduce the rate of cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases.

Even in such seemingly promising business, traditional bureaucratic squiggles are unavoidable. Innovative technologies and equipment for water purification comes across strong resistance from competitors.

In Russia, investments in clean technologies have been growing steadily since 2008 - this is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. According to the highly respected Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), by 2020, this market will reach the level of 4.5 trillion U.S. dollars. Russia's natural conditions, its scientific and innovative potential create very good conditions to take control of a significant part of the market of "green" technologies.