Minnikhanov on 'green' energy: 'In our climate, one can hardly live on solar panels'

Presentation of Global Energy Award in Kazan showed that Russia has technological solutions for clean energy generation

At the annual ceremony of announcing the winners of the Global Energy 2021 Award in the Kazan City Hall, the discussion on the consequences of carbon regulation in the country, which began at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2021) and continued at the Tatarstan Petrochemical Forum, continued. At the suggestion of the president of Global Energy Association and TV journalist Sergey Brilev, the participants of the conversation focused on the technological aspect of “decarbonisation”. Are renewable energy sources going to replace hydrocarbons? Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov spoke in favour of a balance between “green” and traditional generation, and Dmitry Bessarabov, a member of the international prize committee from South Africa, sees a prospect in “yellow” hydrogen produced by nuclear energy. “Green' hydrogen is very expensive," the head of Tatneftekhiminvest Holding, Rafinat Yarullin, explained to Realnoe Vremya the change of colour choice.

Best power engineers of the world named in Kazan

The winners of the Global Energy — 2021 award were announced in the Tatarstan capital. This is an annual competition with a prize fund of over 38 million rubles, where awards are awarded to outstanding scientists and researchers who have made the greatest contribution to improving the environmental safety of energy sources on Earth.

Sergey Brilev, the president of the Global Energy Association and TV journalist, came to Kazan to conduct the ceremony, along with Marta Bonifert, the vice-president of the Institute of Directors of Hungary, and Dmitry Bessarabov from South Africa, experts of the International Committee. The guests were met by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov. Brilev himself acted not just as a moderator of the meeting, but also as a director-producer of a TV movie about the leaders of “green” energy. According to Brilev, the television version of the ceremony will be broadcast on the resources of the UN Information Centre in Moscow and on the global media platforms of the UN, a 10-minute story about Tatarstan will be part of this film.

“From the point of view of energy balance, Tatarstan seems to be a model of the whole of Russia: despite the historical oil reserves, for example, hydropower is powerfully represented in the republic. At the same time, in recent years, firstly, an increasing share of extracted oil goes to petrochemistry, and within the framework of reasonable consumption, alternative energy has also been developed: wind and solar. Kazan is an ideal place both for the announcement of the laureates and for a series of discussions on the further development of Russian and global energy," said Sergey Brilev, the president of Global Energy Association.

Winners are two Russians and one American with Chinese roots

The Global Energy Prize is awarded in three categories — traditional energy, non-traditional (or alternative) one, and “new ways of energy generation”. Unlike in previous years, when foreign scientists became winners, this time two Russian scientists, as well as an American with Chinese roots, have been awarded the award.

In the first category, the winner is academician, director of the Institute of Coal Chemistry and Chemical Materials Science of the Federal Research Centre for Coal and Coal Chemistry of the SB RAS Zinfer Ismagilov (Russia), in the second — head of the laboratory of controlled photosynthesis of the Institute of Plant Physiology named after K.A. Timiryazev Allakhverdiev Suleyman Ifkhan oglu (Russia). American Yi Cui, the director of the Precourt Institute for Energy of Stanford University, has been recognised as the winner in the final nomination.

Academician Ismagilov was awarded the prize for his contribution to the field of carbon chemistry, the chemistry of carbon materials and heterogeneous catalysis and the fight against climate change. Now he heads the Institute of Coal Chemistry and Chemical Materials Science in the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. At the same time, he manages major international projects, including under the auspices of the European Union, Netherlands Foundation for Science Promotion, Japanese Foundation for the Development of Energy and Industry. However, the name of the laureate was announced during the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, president of the People's Republic of China, and the prime ministers of India and Thailand as an example of a developer of technologies for preserving the green environment. Speaking on a video broadcast, he said that his developments have been widely used in Tatarstan in the purification of associated petroleum gas in the south-east of the republic.

Is there an alternative to oil and gas?

Allakhverdiev Suleyman Ifkhan oglu was awarded the prize for his outstanding contribution to the development of alternative energy, scientific achievements in the field of designing artificial photosynthesis systems. He justified the energy and kinetic schemes of electron transfer during photosynthesis, proving that during photosynthesis, water is oxidised and oxygen is released.

After the scientist expressed his opinion on the development of alternative energy sources, the moderator of the meeting, Sergey Brilev, asked about the opinion of Rustam Minnikhanov about the course for “green” generation.

“Are renewable energy sources going to replace hydrocarbons?" he asked.

“We do not reject hydrocarbon energy," the president of the republic replied. “The issue of renewable energy is also important. And today a lot is being done in this direction. Both directions are interesting for us, and we will work on them.

On the other hand, there is a question of how to completely switch to alternative energy sources, he noted: “In our climate zone, you we hardly live on solar panels.” And he gave the example of the EU: “Europe found itself in a difficult situation, focusing only on renewable sources. Therefore, everything must be balanced.”

The course for “green” generation is “also the right decision”, “since every year the amount of hydrocarbons in the subsurface run out”. “And it will be the most valuable product for the chemical and petrochemical industry," said Minnikhanov.

Continuing the topic, Sergey Brilev asked whether Tatarstan was interested in the technology of pumping carbon dioxide into oil reservoirs.

“We have not only discussed this topic, but also experimented in this direction. Unfortunately, the energy costs are high, so we need to look for some other forms. The work is underway, we are carefully conducting this topic," the president replied.

“Yellow” vs. “green”

American scientist Yi Cui was noted for his contribution to the development, synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials for energy and the environment. However, the director of Precourt Institute of Energy, Yi Cui, also managed to introduce his technologies by founding the StorageX Initiative project. According to him, by developing hydrogen energy, countries will have the opportunity to move towards achieving carbon neutrality without compromising the use of the riches of the planet's interior.

Hydrogen energy can become part of “green” course. Which hydrogen do you like more — “green” or “blue”, Brilev asked Dmitry Bessarabov, a member of the international prize committee from South Africa.

“Hydrogen is a carrier of energy, and there should be a lot of it. In the future, it can become a tool for integrating all sectors of the economy in order to reduce the carbon footprint," he argued. “To be honest, I like the 'yellow' hydrogen, which is associated with nuclear energy.”

In the hall, the head of Tatneftekhiminvest Holding, Rafinat Yarullin, applauded him. Perhaps, only he understood the value of “yellow” hydrogen in a moment. At the end of the discussion, he explained to Realnoe Vremya that of all the types of hydrogen: “blue”, “green”, “brown”, “gray” and “yellow” — the latter is the cheapest.

“Today I have brought Maganov (the general director of Tatneft) the hydrogen that Tatenergo generates. This is 'green' hydrogen. Well, it's very expensive! The most expensive!” Rafinat Samatovich warmly convinced Bessarabov of the correctness of his conclusion.

According to him, hydrogen energy is getting closer, but it may also have an alternative. It can be mass production of electric cars, but “there is not enough lithium” for the production of lithium-ion batteries. “There is little lithium in the country," he noted, adding that great scientists who will find new approaches are also needed here.

The award ceremony will take place within the framework of the Russian Energy Week, which will be held in Moscow from October 13 to 15, Sergey Brilev said in conclusion.

Luiza Ignatyeva

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