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Naftogaz to retrofit its power plants for burning straw, chips, waste instead of fossil fuels

Despite bans of this practice, Ukrainian farmers often just burn down stubble and straw in fields, which sometimes causes wild fires. Photo: Holos Ukrainy, 2019.
Naftogaz to retrofit its power plants for burning straw, chips, waste instead of fossil fuels
In April 2022, the Ukrainian company Naftogaz Teplo is going to retrofit its thermoelectrical power plants for co-firing straw and other types of biomass instead of fossil fuels only, according to the company’s CEO. Naftogaz Teplo is a subsidiary of Ukraine’s largest national oil and gas company Naftogaz.

Ukraine’s domestic production of natural gas and coal doesn’t cover the entire demand, so that country is in large part dependent on imports of these materials. Meanwhile, straw is mostly considered waste from wheat and barley production in Ukraine. Farmers often just plow the straw and stubble down or burn them in the fields after harvesting.

Now, utilizing biomass as a fuel nationwide may contribute to the energy independence of the country.

In his interview with Interfax Ukraine, Naftogaz Teplo’s head Vitaly Mykhailio stated that his company plans to convert the company-owned gas-fired power plants for burning biological materials. He says, the company is going to produce heat with the maximum share of renewable energy sources.

Vitaliy Mykhailio. Photo: Naftogaz of Ukraine.

“We are now in the process of formulating a partnership model: there are, for example, small local businesses which will know that companies need a certain amount of bio raw materials each year to generate heat and electricity. Be it wood chips or straw. It can still be a waste pre-treated in a special way,” the head of Naftogaz Teplo said.

According to Mr. Mykhailio, the business model that the company is set to implement could become mutually beneficial for both the company and local entrepreneurs. The latter can invest and build their sustainable business on the supply of straw and other bio raw materials to Naftogaz Teplo, the subsidiary of the largest gas production and gas supply company in Ukraine, Naftogaz.

In 2019, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers handed over a few gas power plants in Lviv Oblast to Naftogaz’s control. Later, the government transferred to Naftogaz the state-owned shares of several more coal and gas-fired thermal power plants across Ukraine. Naftogaz expects to become the owner of the latter ones. Moreover, the Cabinet is set to exclude other state-owned thermal power plants from the privatization list in order to hand them to Naftogaz.

Vitaly Mikhailio states that the thermal-electric power plants managed by his company would start switching to renewable energy sources at the end of April this year.

“We won’t invent anything new here. We are now learning from Europe’s best practices. Especially Denmark’s, which is a leader in using renewable energy sources: about 70% of its heat comes from renewables and biomass,” said Mykhailio. highlights that three kilograms of straw are equivalent in its calorific value to a cubic meter of natural gas.

It is estimated that a ton of harvested grain makes about a ton of straw. Depending on weather conditions and harvest, Ukraine’s annual production of straw ranges between 45 and 70 million tons. For the most part, it is either plowed into the ground or, despite prohibitions and sanctions, burned directly in the field, destroying humus.

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