Eesti Energia to drop oil shale electricity production by 2030

Heddy Klasen and Hando Sutter.
Heddy Klasen and Hando Sutter. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

State energy firm Eesti Energia announced it will stop producing electricity from oil shale by 2030. However, the firm will not drop oil shale completely and Enefit Power will continue as a chemical plant.

"There are revolutionary changes happening in the energetics sector, nobody can help it any more," said Eesti Energia board chairman Hando Sutter commenting on the new action plan.

70 percent of energy consumed in the EU comes from fossil sources, the number is at 80 percent for the world. At the same time, energy consumption is growing and there are more people, Sutter added.

The chairman of the board said the cornerstone of Estonia's exit from oil shale is an energy system leaning heavily on renewable energy, which is the cheapest and most realistic path towards carbon neutrality. "It takes into account the technologies of today," he said.

The firm will stop producing oil shale by 2025 but will continue to use the gas from oil shale production to produce electricity until 2030.

An Eesti Energia-owned wind turbine at Virtsu, Lääne County. Source: Eesti Energia

Offshore wind farms and solar energy a cornerstone of the strategy

The chairman said the plan means a larger investment in renewable energy must be made. The plan is supported by wind farms in Tootsi and Purtse in Estonia and others in Lithuania and Finland, the company is also investing in solar farms in Poland.

Sutter said the potential offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Riga could begin operating before 2030. "Offshore wind farms have become competitive in terms of technology, Estonia has good conditions to develop offshore wind. If we look at realizing the strategy, there has been a drastic change in what we will produce electricity out of in five years," he explained.

"Let's say it here and now: Eesti Energia will be completely carbon neutral by 2045," Sutter added.

Eesti Energia's head of environmental service Heddy Klasen said the carbon neutrality path leans on the development of solar farms, offshore and inland wind farms and storage systems, to go with suspending oil shale electricity production and a transition to chemical when it comes to liquid fuels.

"Until 2025, we will deal mainly with replacing oil shale with alternative fuels in power stations, such as carbonization gas or renewable energy, which is wood waste - wood, which cannot be used elsewhere, i.e. demolition wood or furniture, which can only be put to use for energy production. It also includes closing some older dust combustion blocks," Klasen said.

She added that Eesti Energia will not use oil shale to produce electricity after 2030. "We will continue using carbonization gas from the development of shale oil to produce electricity, but we will stop after 2030, when we find a new outlet for it. Today, we are working to produce chemicals from carbonization gas, one of the options is methanol, which finds extensive use in the chemical industry and the production of polymers, for example. At the end of the path is a completely CO2-free Eesti Energia electricity production," Klasen said.

Electricity production will continue in offshore wind farms and solar farms. The energy firm plans to double its renewable energy production capacity by 2025. "In ten years, we are prepared to cover Estonia's electricity demand from renewable sources only, the share of renewable energy in all our energy production will be 90 percent," she added.

Shale oil production technology can help produce oil from plastics

"Converting oil shale into shale oil is a chemical process, which takes place in the pyrolysis process, which means heating oil shale at a high temperature. The resulting vapor gas mix is condensed, which results in both oil and gasoline and the remaining carbonization gas is burned for electricity," Klasen explained.

Eesti Energia's goal is to replace oil shale residue concurrently with other consumer residues, either tires or waste plastics.

"If we were to get into the specifics, we have older and newer generation oil plants here in Ida-Viru County. The older generation oil plants will produce unti 2040, we will add tires to the oil shale and will produce raw materials for the chemical industry from the gasoline," Klasen said.

Oil shale will be replaced with waste plastics in newer oil plants. Klasen noted that Estonia has 40 years of experience with oil shale pyrolysis, which can be used to produced oil from plastics.

"We are not producing shale oil, but rather plastic oil, which we can draw monomers from and produce polymers. It is important to note that plastic recycling during this process will take place, during which the quality of the raw plastic does not degrade and we can produce yoghurt cups from yoghurt cups, to put it figuratively. Ordinary plastic recycling degrades the material's properties, either by melting or crushing, and it can be made into a plastic bag, which next becomes waste," Klasen said.

"Our advantage is that we have the technology, which needs re-organization. Others are just establishing the technology," she added.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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