CHP system development in Belarus: tackling the next challenge

Over half the power generated in Belarus comes from CHP plants, but many are old and in need of refurbishment or replacement. Belarus also needs to reduce its dependence on natural gas-fired plant. Alexei V. Sednin and Maxim L. Bogdanovich discuss these issues and whether the development of new nuclear plants could harm the CHP sector.

The Republic of Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe which borders Russia to the east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno, Gomel, Mogilev, Vitebsk and Bobruisk.


Gomel 540 MWe CHP plant
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Forests cover a third of the country, while agriculture and manufacturing are staples of the economy. Belarus is one of the countries most affected by nuclear radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in neighbouring Ukraine in 1986.

The power sector in Belarus operates mainly condensing power plants (47% of installed capacity) and combined heat and power (CHP) plants (more than 50% of installed capacity). There are also a small number of mini-CHP plants based on existing steam boiler plants and low-capacity hydroelectric power stations. The total installed capacity of all plants is around 7.8 GW. All power plants in Belarus are networked via high-voltage electric transmission lines into a power grid connected with the power systems of Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and other countries.

Power generation and CHP in Belarus

The national public utility company, Belenergo, was created in 1995 to manage the electrical power system in Belarus. Its main responsibilities are:

  • management of the Belarusian power system
  • generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and heat
  • the maintenance in proper conditions and engineering supervision of thermal power plants, power grid and heatà‚ network
  • efficient dispatch control of the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and heat
  • organizational management to ensure balanced development of the Belarus power system.

Belenergo is made up of a number of state-owned energy companies (Brestenergo, Grodnoenergo, Mogilevenergo, Vitebskenergo, Gomelenergo and ODU). Table 1 gives details of thermal power plants in Belarus. Average annual electrical transmission losses are about 11% and the average annual losses in district heating systems are about 10%. Tables 2 and 3 list the power and heat generation outputs respectively of power and CHP plants in Belarus.

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The units of ‘standard’ fuel per unit of delivered electricity (g/kWh) and heat (kg/kcal) are used when appraising the effectiveness of power systems. The average values of these parameters for all Belenergo power plants for the last seven years are shown in Figures 1 and 2 opposite.


Figure 1. Average value of ‘standard’ fuel per unit of delivered electricity in Belarus, 1999à‚—2005
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Figure 2. Average value of ‘standard’ fuel per unit of delivered heat in Belarus, 1999à‚—2005
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Belarus is the leader among countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for the use of CHP. Most of its CHP plants were built originally near large industrial enterprises that provided on-site heat and electricity consumption. CHP also provides energy for centralized district heating systems, which are still widely used in Belarus.

Most of the country’s power and heat plants were built in the days of the former USSR. They have not been modernized and still operate in traditional cycles using steam turbines. The installed power capacity of cogeneration plants is about 53% of total capacity. The operational efficiency of condensing power plants is probably at around 40%, while the efficiency of cogeneration plants is around 70%à‚—80%. Modernization of the Belarusian electricity sector could potentially increase the efficiency of both gas-fired power generation and cogeneration plants, and thus reduce primary energy consumption by electricity-generating plants by at least 10%.

Recent upgrading of the basic production assets of the Belarusian energy system has proved insufficient. Examples of the upgrades constructed and put into operation during 2004 and 2005 are as follows.

  • Advanced steam and gas technologies were applied to power units No. 3 and No. 4 at the Bereza power plant.
  • A steam cogeneration turbine (output 40 MW) was installed at the Vitebsk CHP plant and steam turbines (6 MW each) were installed at the Polotsk CHP plant and Mogilev CHP-1 plant.
  • A turbine expander (5 MW) was installed at the Minsk CHP-4 plant.
  • The Lida CHP plant was redesigned with the installation of a 12 MW turbine.

There are also a number of industrial CHP in Belarus that are not operated by Belenergo. These plants consist of a gas turbine with heat recovery, internal combustion engine and back-pressure steam turbine. All industrial CHP plants in Belarus not operated by Belenergo can be categorized as follows:

  • CHP plants that began operating when Belarus was part of the former USSR and at the same time as industrial enterprises (e.g. CHP at a sugar refinery). Construction of such CHP plants was necessary to meet high demand for process heat and to reduce energy losses. The plants were typically CHP with small-scale back-pressure steam turbines.
  • CHP plants that began operating in recent years. New CHP plants were installed in Mozyr, Novopolotsk, Grodno and other towns. These plants are typically CHP with gas turbines or internal combustion engines. In several cases, new industrial CHP plants (e.g. in Grodno and Novopolotsk) were built near existing Belenergo cogeneration plants.

New back-pressure steam turbine (6 MWe) installed in CHP-1, Gomel
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The initial driver to implement such CHP was to reduce electricity and heat costs because the rates chargef by Belenergo were high. As a result, much of the cogeneration equipment at Belenergo CHP plants is not now operated properly. A number of energy efficiency projects are now supported by the Government (see below) with the aim of reducing production costs.

Fuel supplies in Belarus

Belarus has insufficient indigenous energy resources and has to import fuel à‚— mostly from the Russian Federation. Figure 3 shows the country’s fuel balance for 2006. All natural gas is imported. Energy security in Belarus has been considerably weakened due to:

  • the lack of indigenous fuel resources
  • the dominating role of one type of fuel (natural gas) in the energy balance
  • fuel imports coming mainly from one country.

Figure 3. Fuel balance, 2006
Source: Belorussian power magazine Energoeffectivnost
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The growth in gross domestic product (GDP) with relatively high energy intensity, as well as a reduction in the extraction and utilization of local energy resources, contributed to the country’s growing dependence on fuel imports. More extensive use of local energy resources would neutralize these factors to some extent.

The era of cheap Russian natural gas is drawing to a close. At the end of 2006, Belarus and Russia set the price of Russian gas for 2007 and a new pricing formula will start on 1 January 2008. The gas price for Belarus will be calculated correspondingly to the Russian gas supply pricing formula for Europe, taking into account discounts to the market price for 2008, 2009 and 2010 of 67%, 80% and 90% respectively.

Tariffs

Tariff regulation is the responsibility of several ministries and thus under direct control of the government. In accordance with several Belarusian laws, the prices for electrical and heat power are determined by national departments (Council of Ministers for householders, Ministry of Economics for industrial utilities and other users).

The current organizational and methodological system for determining power and heat prices corresponds to the management structure of the electric power industry in Belarus where Belenergo fulfils the whole technological cycle from generation to sales. Energy rates for consumers are therefore calculated per unit of delivered power including all costs for generation, transmission and distribution.

In accordance with a decree by the Ministry of Economics, the rate for delivered electrical power differs between user groups.

  • For industrial enterprises with an installed load à¢â€°¥ 750 kVA, a double-rate tariff is used.
  • For all other electricity consumers, a one-part tariff for 1à‚ kWth is used ($0.079à‚—0.106 per kWth).
  • The rate for heat depends on the consumer group and heat carrier parameters. The average rate for heat supplied with hot water is about $25.5 per kcal.

Insufficient consideration of the tariff policy led to the situation when industry enterprises refused to use the energy from central cogeneration power plants due to the high prices and built their own boilerhouses or cogeneration plant. In recent years, there has been a tendency towards a differential reduction of prices for electricity and heat for households and industrial enterprises.

In summary, the Belarusian power sector is thus characterized by the following major problems.

  • The basic assets of the power industry are growing old. The deterioration level of installed power equipment is about 61%, with an average lifetime of 29.7 years.
  • The energy balance is dominated by one type of fuel (natural gas) in the energy balance and fuel imports are mainly from one country (Russia).
  • It is difficult to maintain an efficient mode of operation at power plants because there is no regulation of electric energy demand in Belarus.

Despite some improvements in recent years, energy is still used inefficiently in Belarus. According to the Belarusian State Energy Programme, the level of energy input relative to GDP is still 2à‚—3 times higher than in developed western economies. Thus, there is considerably unused potential for reducing costs through lower energy consumption. This higher than necessary energy consumption is also particularly problematic at a time when the country is attempting to reduce its dependency on energy deliveries from Russia.

Belarusian State Energy Programme

On 25 August 2005, the President of the Republic of Belarus adopted Decree No. 399 ‘The state comprehensive programme of upgrading basic production assets of the Belarusian energy system, energy conservation and broader usage of the Republic’s indigenous fuel and energy resources in 2006à‚—2010’ à‚— hereafter referred to as the Belarusian State Energy Programme. The Programme’s primary objective is the identification and implementation of measures and the required investment to ensure:

  • renovation of power supply assets
  • reliable, efficient and environment friendly supply of energy to the economy and people
  • national energy security.

A range of measures will be implemented to achieve these targets including:

  • centralized management of all stages of production, transportation and utilization of energy carriers state regulation of electricity and heat tariffs, and fuel prices
  • renovation and development of generating sources, electricity and heat networks
  • a two-stage process involving stabilization of the energy system’s assets to slow down aging followed by permanent renovation
  • implementation of state, industrial and regional programmes of energy conservation and an economic mechanism that stimulates the application of energy-efficient technologies and equipment to all branches of the economy and society
  • lower costs for the supply (extraction, preparation), transportation and consumption of all types of fuel, heat and electricity
  • gradual diversification of suppliers of different types of fuel to Belarus
  • involvement of economically viable amounts of local fuels and renewables.

Belarus is actively pursuing a consistent policy aimed at using energy resources efficiently; for example, the energy intensity of its GDP, i.e. the amount of power used for making products, fell 25.5% between 2001 and 2005. The Government intends to cut energy intensity in the GDP by 31% by 2010 and by 50% by 2015. To achieve this aim, the Government plans to impose obligatory indicators for power saving on the private sector and to introduce measures to encourage managers to take responsibility for efficient consumption of energy resources.

In accordance with the state programme, the following improvements within Belenergo are scheduled between 2006 and 2010.

  • Upgrading power equipment at existing large power plants: Lukolm and Bereza power plant, Minsk CHP-2, CHP-3, and CHP-5, Novopolotsk CHP plant, Mogilev CHP-2 plant, Grodno CHP-2 plant and others.
  • Putting into operation mini-CHP plants at district boilerhouses in the cities of Molodechno, Mogilev, Borisov, Gomel and Zhlobin, and at the Vostochnaya boilerhouse in Vitebsk, Severnaya boilerhouse at Grodno, and others.

JMS 620GS-N.LC (GE Jenbacher) installed at Grodno Khimvolokno, a joint stock company manufacturing polyamide yarns and fibres
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A number of major energy efficiency projects will be established in Belarus by enterprises responsible to Belneftekhim (Belarusian State Concern for Oil and Chemistry), the Ministry of Architecture and Construction, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Housing and Communal Services, and others. The Government issued a resolution (No. 253) on 28 February 2007 supporting a number of cogeneration projects (Table 4).

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In order to expand the use of local fuels, the Programme envisages building mini-CHP plants and separate units running on biomass (wood, wood wastes, peat) at boilerhouses in Osipovichi and Vileika, in the cities of Vitebsk, Rogachev, Luninets, at Pinsk, Zhodino and Bobruisk CHP plants and others. Use of hydropower resources is one way of solving the problem of the dependence on imports. Small hydroelectric power stations are planned including Grodno (17 MW), Dnepro (5 MW), Zel’va (0.2 MW), Braslav (0.3 MW) and Pogost (0.27à‚ MW). Turbine expanders will be constructed at the Lukoml and Gomel CHP plants.

The case for CHP

Belarus has significant additional potential for generation of power and heat in CHP plants as good markets for both exist. The further development of cogeneration in Belarus depends primarily on two factors as explained below.

Policy

It seems unlikely that the Belarusian Government will loosen control of the power sector in the near future by introducing comprehensive reform of the energy sector including privatization of energy companies, introduction of independent regulation, tariff reform and, where possible, stimulation of competition through liberalization.

That is why co-operation between new (or modernized) small-scale power plants and the central generation systems is of vital importance. Although the construction of a large number of small-scale CHP plants using biomass or other fuel is foreseen by the Belarusian State Energy Programme and supported by the Government, some interrelation problems with Belenergo remain.

The central generation system in Belarus prevails over installed power capacity and the power transport and distribution system, and will first of all defend its own interests. That is the reality for Belarus and is why the development of small-scale cogeneration plants not operated by Belenergo demands new and unconventional approaches while creating new projects.

It is necessary to avoid potential discrimination against new-build CHP plants on the power market. This requires the implementation of a conceptual framework in the electricity sector consisting of undiscriminating access to the power grid, least cost dispatch and permission for small-scale CHP operators to sell power directly to industrial consumers through the power grid at pre-specified and equal transmission tariffs.

The rate for generated electricity produced by those who are not part of Belenergo or a company employer is fixed by the Ministry of Economics. In accordance with Decree No. 91 of 31à‚ May 2006, excess electricity generated by small-scale cogeneration plants not operated by Belenergo is purchased by state-owned power supply companies. The purchase price is equal to the product of the electricity rate for industrial enterprises with installed electric power up to 750 kVA ($0.043à‚—0.087 per kWth) and a correction factor (Table 5).

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If electricity is generated in decentralized CHP using natural or refinery gas, or CHP built with the help of state support, the correction factors are 0.85 for the first 10 years of operation and 0.7 for over 10 years of operation.

However, first of all it is necessary to determine the most effective application of the generated electricity in case the central generation system refuses to use it.

Possibility of nuclear power

In order to weaken its dependence on Russian gas, Belarus is looking to build its own nuclear power station. The Belarusian authorities have stated that a nuclear power plant of a capacity of approximately 2000 MWe will be built in Belarus by 2018 with construction beginning in 2008. Belarus is seeking potential contractors for the construction of the nuclear power station and a tender for construction will be invited in the near future.

The introduction of nuclear power to the Belarusian power system will have a major impact on the problem of maintaining its efficient operation because both nuclear power and CHP plants operate at base load. In addition, it is assumed that the electricity generated by the nuclear power station will be consumed inside Belarus. A considerable increase in the base load capacity provided by the nuclear power station will slow down the number of CHP projects, especially in small-scale district heating systems. But in case no more nuclear power stations are built, the further development of cogeneration projects will be a priority for Belarus.

Conclusion

The Belarusian power sector is facing considerable changes. There are some fundamental problems concerning the renewal of the basic equipment in existing CHP plants and the diversification of fuel and energy resources.

Despite a large number of existing CHP plants, Belarus has a significant additional potential for cogeneration. To expand the use of local fuels and benefit the environment, a large number of CHP plants using biomass is expected to be constructed in the near future.

But the possible introduction of a nuclear power station to the Belarusian power system could slow down the development of CHP projects. It is necessary to find the best ways of applying industrial CHP in both cases, i.e. with or without nuclear power. It is also necessary to avoid potential discrimination against new-build CHP plants in the power market.

Alexei V. Sednin is senior lecturer at Byelorussian national technical university in Minsk, Republic of Belarus.

Maxim L. Bogdanovich is with the post-graduate organization at Byelorussian national technical university in Minsk, Republic of Belarus.
email: sednin_alexei@yahoo.com

Notes

1. https://energo.by/okon/p21.htm [in Russian]

2. ‘Talks on Gas Supply to Belarus Finalized’, Gazprom, 1 January 2007, https://gazprom.com/eng/news/2007/01/22174.shtml

3. ‘State Comprehensive Program of Energy System Upgrading’, The Official Internet Portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus, https://president.gov.by/en/press20032.html [accessed 28 October 2007]

4. ‘Fuel and Energy Complex’, National Investment Agency, https://invest.belarus.by/en/advantages/sectors/fuel/ [accessed 28 October 2007]

5. Improving Energy Efficiency of the Belarusian Economy: an Economic Agenda. German Economic Team in Belarus, November 2005, https://research.by/pdf/pp2005e11.pdf

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