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Estonian Energy Environmental Impacts

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Estonian Energy Company

The company mainly produces electricity and heat from oil shale with an aim to raise interest in energy and contribute to the society growth. According to Mr. Saar, the company takes the responsibility to conserve the environment and maintain it clean and healthy for the future. It does this by using the natural resources, which are oil shale and biomass sparingly and by putting efforts to reduce the negative environmental impacts from air pollution, water pollution, effects on climate, disposal of waste materials, and the exhaustion of land and resources. These effects are from the company’s daily undertakings (Eesti Energia 2013).

Problems of Importance and Their Solutions

Resource Usage

Estonian Energy Company deals with the production of electricity and heat using oil shale as a natural resource.  It is cited an improvement from oil shale usage in the company to biomass, which has been of advantage since it produces less ash and has lower emissions of sulfur dioxide. Biomass produces no carbon dioxide on combustion hence becoming a better product for Estonia to achieve its renewable energy objectives.

Another resource cited as having positive feedback was a general mixed waste. To make use of the general mixed waste, Estonia is planning to build an incineration unit for a power plant, which the company has operated for years with the use of natural gas. Mr. Saar cited the idea as one that has risen from the many tons of general mixed waste received annually in the Estonian landfills. The mixed waste, which is approximately 300,000 tons, can cover the annual oil requirements of a power plant generating around 50 MW of heat.

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He added that an improved use of oil shale would serve as a way to increase the use of resources optimally. Compared to the production of electricity from oil shale, the production of liquid fuels was cited as more economical and would be a way of reducing environmental emissions from the amount experienced currently (Eesti Energia 2013).

Water

Estonian company uses water in its power plants. The water used here is the coolant  to its power plants Narva, Ahtme, and Iru. The Narva power plant uses the water from the River Narva, the Ahtme power plant uses water from Lake Konsu, as well as the Iru power plant consumes water from the River Pirita. He estimated a total amount of coolant water consumed in the previous year as one billion cubic meters and three million cubic meters of production water used in the generation of electricity and heat in these power plants.

Mr. Saar informed of a minimal environmental effects of coolant water due to the fact that it is only seven degrees Celsius warmer than the normal environmental water on its release and that no pollutants are added to the water in the cooling process. The company makes use of this rise in temperature to breed sturgeons that do well in warm water (Eesti Energia 2013).This breeding is practiced in Eesti power plant in Narva.

Mine Water

From his explanation, mining of oil shale requires dry conditions, which the company provides by lowering the ground water levels. They use trenches to pump the water out the mines and quarries back to the environment. The water is passed through sediment pools to get rid of the solids and is then released to the environment. Thoughbeing slightly different in chemical content compared to the natural water, its safety has been confirmed and it is the water used in the farming of rainbow trout.

Air

Mr. Saar declared the urgent need of reducing airborne emissions from their production process. There were plans to reduce the sulphur dioxide emissions by installing sulphur scrubbers on the energy production units of the Narva power plants. They  were meant to reduce the solid particle content of the flue gases in these plants.

There were also solutions to control the nitrogen dioxide emission in the Narva power plants. This step has been implemented in the Iru power plant where natural gas was used as the main fuel.

Waste Management

Ash

For each ton of oil shale, a half ton of ash is produced as waste. This ash is mixed with water and the resulting slurry transported to storage grounds. The solid is then allowed to settle and the water neutralized before releasing it to the environment. A study on how the ash can be used in cement production, building roads and neutralizing acidic farming soils is underway. The success of this is of much benefit to the society and the company as well.

Mine Waste

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Limestone mine waste is the waste got from the oil shale improvements. It is used to restore quarries or as filter material in construction of roads. He cited an example of Johvi bypass, which used 1.2 million tons of mine waste on its construction.

Land Use

The company works with the local government to restore the used up old quarries. The intensions of turning the old Aidu quarry into a rowing sports base were stated, a wind park, and a firing range for use by the National Defence League. The land cleared for mining will also be used for growing biomass in the near future.

Climate Change

It was explained that the oil shale combustion emits a large amount of greenhouse gas, which is carbon dioxide. In the past financial year, there was 9.1 million tons of gas emitted. The company has set a target to reduce the carbon dioxide emission by 30 per cent. However, the company is facing a challenge since there is no simple solution presently that can be used to lessen the amount of carbon dioxide discharged (Maigre 2010).The only ways that can be used are burning of biomass together with oil shale or dropping the furnace temperature by either the use of different technology or the adjustment of the combustion process. He cited that the greenhouse gas emission could be minimized by expanding their energy range with carbon dioxide free production techniques. To achieve this, renewable energy options like the use of wind, biomass and waste may need to be implemented. Another possibility cited was the improvement of environmentally clean and safe nuclear energy.

Obstacles Faced in the Implementation of these Actions

Estonia Company faces a challenge on its dealings with the Ministry of Environment. The Ministry of Environment regards the energy efficiency as the duty of the Ministry of Economics. This is astounding considering that the energy company has the main emission of greenhouse gasses (Kisel 2008). This lack of cooperation stages a big challenge to the energy company when trying to deal with the environmental problems.

There is a lack of professionals with a combination of technical knowledge and an outlook on politics and environment concerning energy policy. The present professionals focus on a narrow job-related concern and have no initiative of looking at difficulties in a broader national energy security perspective. This challenge has contributed to the tax on environment to be so high for the company (Nordic Council of Ministers 2005).

Estonia lacks high- level internal agency coordination in regards to energy issues. Despite the high upsurge of energy importance, there is no government commission or any parliamentary committee to focus on the energy environmental security issues (Maigre 2010). This makes it hard for the Government Security Commission to deliberate on any issue about energy.

Q2

The weight of an environmental problem depends on the raw material manufactured. Concerning the energy-producing sector, greenhouse gas emissions occur daily as the processing goes on. These gases tend to affect the atmosphere greatly since they contain some chemicals that are harmful to human health. Unfortunately, the gasses are very hard to recycle and avoid their escape to the atmosphere (Kraav & Silja Lüpsik 2007). Other companies may tend to emit gases but may not be as harmful depending on the raw material processed.

The environmental problems associated with the energy production are of great importance  as they are an everyday occurrence and the failure to solve them would result into great effects to the sector and the society (Härm 2012). The greenhouse gas problem for example is of a much more concern to the society since it can change the climates of a place to the worse. On the other hand, these gasses may greatly affect the health of the workers in the sector. There are other problems like the pollution by dust, which is of less concern since it does not occur in large amounts and the effect on the atmosphere is not serious. Noise pollution is another minor problem in the energy sector. This noise comes from the production unit and from the moving tracts. It is however not a very serious problem to the sector since it does not affect the health of the society or the well running of the energy company. The company considering the other great problems that occur in large amounts and numbers does thus not hold these minor problems with much weight.

The solutions to the environmental problems faced by the energy company are feasible in that the recycled materials are of great benefit economically to the company. The use of coolant water for farming purposes, the use of the mine waste to construct roads among others are a good way of developing the community where the industry is situated. Other solutions like the direct cooling of the water and releasing it to the atmosphere may be even more expensive and time consuming hence less feasible. The storage of the mine waste may also require too much space and bring in no profit to the company in comparison to using the same to build roads.

The obstacles facing the energy sector seem to be present in all the other sectors. Lack of government commitment to the well running of the industries is a major problem in all the industries. The high taxation on environment and poor development of internal security in the industries is a problem in all the sectors (Nordic Council of Ministers 2005). The shortage of professionals who are well exposed to the political requirements of the industrial sectors and at the same time have the knowledge of the sector demands is present in many. 

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