VKG: Russian gas could be replaced with Estonian shale oil in heating

VKG shale oil plant.
VKG shale oil plant. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Estonia could replace Russian gas with local shale oil in district heating as it sports a higher calorific value and lower cost, Meelis Eldermann, CTO of Viru Keemia Grupp, proposes.

Estonia consumes roughly 5 terawatt-hours of gas a year 70 percent of which is used to generate heat.

Meelis Eldermann, technical director for Estonian oil shale chemistry group VKG, said that these quantities could be reduced by using Estonian shale oil in district heating. Russian gas has become very expensive both in terms of price and politically, while we might not be able to finish our LNG terminal before the heating season starts.

"The risk is considerable. Giving up Russian gas without a ready replacement might spell difficulties for fall-winter. But we have shale oil production in Estonia that serves as a national and energy security guarantor," Eldermann said.

The CTO said that shale oil sports a higher calorific value than gas and is cheaper, adding that refitting boiler plants would not be difficult.

"The technical side is easy. It would be necessary to replace the burners, install a tank and pipelines with a pump – that's it. I believe it should be done today," Eldermann said.

Johanna Kuld, environmental expert for the Estonian Green Movement, said that shale oil could only be used as a last resort.

"While using shale oil is feasible as a last resort to make sure homes would not go unheated, it might not be the most sensible choice in a situation where it requires major infrastructure investments. Shale oil is a fossil fuel and we should use it as briefly as possible while we develop longer-term solutions," Kuld said.

She added that any delay in the construction of Estonia's LNG terminal could be remedied by using gas from Latvia.

"Latvia has a gas storage facility that is keeping us supplied. Therefore, boiler plants than can only use gas would very likely still have access to the resource in winter. We can plot a course for renewable solutions in district heating in the long run," Kuld said.

VKG data suggests Estonia produces over a million tons of shale oil annually of which just 15 percent is used domestically.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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