Proposals to accelerate the development of Ida-Viru County include the construction of a carbon dioxide (CO2) capture plant in Auvere which would allow the captured gas to be sold or reused. But climate experts are not convinced.
Teet Kuusmik, board member of Ida-Viru County Industrial Areas Development Foundation, believes building a carbon dioxide capture plant would significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the oil shale sector.
One of the biggest problems of the oil shale sector is the gases which are expelled from the process by flues which contain CO2, which the European Union is seeking to limit. If a plant was built that extracted CO2 from the flue gases, it could be cleaned and used for other activities or for the production of other products.
Kuusmik said carbon dioxide could be used in the production of plastics and chemicals, and consideration is being given to setting up an agro-park next to power stations, which would use large quantities of carbon dioxide in greenhouses. This would provide a new opportunity for the oil shale sector.
"I think it is very important for Estonia and Ida-Viru County to move forward with investments in the oil shale sector, such as a fuel refinery, an additional Enefit oil production plant, where it would be possible to set up a plant for the production of hydrogen and to extract CO2 from all these plants and use it in plant cultivation," Kuusmik said.
However, the Estonian Nature Fund (ELF) has doubts about the feasibility of the carbon dioxide capture plant.
EU climate expert Piret Väinsalu said: "This is a dream technology right now, which is currently very expensive. I would not find it a reasonable use of money. It is not competitive compared to renewable energy. There must be a larger selection of different smaller solutions."
Kuusmik said the price of carbon dioxide from flue gases in factories is currently twice as high as that of the CO2 quota price, but that may change over time.
"The cost of technology itself is going down, and operating costs are going down in the same way. Competition in the market has become very intense and there are many companies working on this issue. And, in fact, there are support mechanisms from the European Union Innovation Fund to catch the CO2, clean it and use it for something else useful," Kuusmik said.
Meelis Eldermann, the technical director of Viru Keemia Grupp (VKG), said that CO2 capture in chemical industries, for example, has been used for decades, but is much harder and more expensive to do so in the energy industry.
At the same time, VKG is interested in new innovations and is ready to consider installing a pilot project at its oil plants. Eesti Energia said the idea is interesting and going in the right direction, but the topic is still quite new and it is too early to comment.
The cost of the carbon capture plant is estimated to be €200 million
Editor: Helen Wright