Industrial doctorate students to solve challenges facing Eesti Energia

Shale oil industry residue.
Shale oil industry residue. Source: Eesti Energia

Eesti Energia will fund two TalTech PhD places to help the company solve challenges related to the chemical industry, circular economy, and competitiveness.

The long-term strategy of Eesti Energia envisions moving away from the production of energy and liquid fuels based on oil shale, and towards a chemical industry based on the circular economy principle.

Raine Pajo, a member of the management board of the energy company, said that the industrial doctoral program allows the company to approach complex problems by involving the academic competence.

"Our transition into the chemical industry and the introduction of the circular economy leads to the creation of a completely new industry in Estonia, which will lay the foundation for our long-term competitiveness," Pajo said.

"Both of our new doctoral students were already working at Eesti Energia and showed an interest in linking their doctoral studies with solving an industry related challenge. I encourage other companies to use a similar approach, as Estonia has many talented and dedicated young people," he said.

Industrial doctorate agreements were signed with Dmitri Tsõvarev and Ragnar Kauril. Tsõvarev will focus on using the principles of the circular economy to convert raw materials of oil shale into 100 percent alternative raw materials in Enefit pyrolysis plants and to upcycle the product.

In other words, his development work explores how to abandon oil shale as a raw material for petrochemicals in the future. His supervisor is Allan Niidu, professor of applied chemistry at the Virumaa College of Tallinn University of Technology and member of the supervisory board of Eesti Energia.

Kauril will explore the reuse of oil shale ash and gangue in the post-mining environment to develop new innovative energy solutions and to upcycle any existing and future by-products into new products. Kauril is supervised by Rutt Hints, head of the division of mineral resources and applied geology at the department of geology of TalTech. 

Vice-Rector for Research at Tallinn University of Technology Tiit Lukk said that both theses have the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of the new chemical industry in Ida-Viru County.

"The main goal of Kauril's thesis is to develop innovative energy storage solutions using oil shale ash and, if possible, gangue. He is also studying the technical and economic possibilities of replacing the support pillars of abandoned oil shale mines with artificial ones. These support pillars are valuable, as they contain hundreds and thousands of tons of oil shale that could be extracted if artificial pillars were used," Lukk explained the project.

"Tsõvarev will study the use of the Enefit pyrolysis process for the reprocessing of alternative raw materials: plastic, old tyres, biogenic organic residue, household waste and etc. The product resulting from this process would be the starting material for the chemical industry in Estonia and elsewhere in Europe," he said.

"In the event of positive results, we could steer the Estonian oil shale industry into the path of circular economy until the end of the service life of current plants," the vice-rector said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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