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Rails change color

The holding company will start testing rails made of recycled raw materials.
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At the end of May, the first batch of "green" rails was delivered to the Western Siberian and Gorki Railways. Five thousand tons of these innovative products were supplied by EVRAZ for Russian Railways. The use of renewable energy sources and increasing the share of recycled and scrap materials in the production process are expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four times.

Striving for carbon neutrality

As was told by Andrei Lisitsyn, Head of the Department of Ecology and Technospheric Safety of Russian Railways, the holding company is implementing a number of measures to reach the complete carbon neutrality of railways by 2050. Each shipped batch of green rails will bring Russian Railways closer to this goal. 

Last year, Russian Railways signed a memorandum with EVRAZ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the production and use of rails made of steel with a reduced carbon footprint. In spring 2022 the companies approved a Road Map for the supply of green rails.

"The advantage of these rails is the use of alternative energy from hydropower plants or solar power plants, as well as increasing the share of scrap and recycled raw materials for steel production," explained Andrey Lisitsyn.

Anastasia Yepikova, Head of Sales Operational Support Unit at EVRAZ's Directorate for Cooperation With State-Owned Companies, clarifies that a pilot batch of rails has been shipped to the holding company; in future, a competitive procedure will be organized for the supply of these products in accordance with the holding company's established procedure.

"The maximum possible annual production volume of green rails will be clarified after the evaluation of a number of parameters: the impact on total production volumes, possible facilities for scrap processing, restrictions on the amount of renewable energy", says Anastasia Yepikova.

Products will be tested in action

"Upon completion of welding and laying of the new rails, employees of Russian Railways will conduct commission supervision for two years to confirm the quality of the delivered products", says Andrey Lisitsyn.

"We are going to involve specialists of track inspection stations of the holding company’s Infrastructure Planning and Design Bureau in monitoring the new rails as well," he specifies. "Their task is not only testing the products under real-life conditions, but also comparing them with rails produced using conventional energy sources and materials". 

Meanwhile, Konstantin Zagranichek, Head of Laboratory for Materials And Technologies For Heat Treatment Of Permanent Way Parts And Rolling Stock at VNIIZhT confirms that the green rails are made in accordance with GOST R 51685 and that there is a certificate of compliance with technical regulations for this category.

"The pilot batch of such rails manufactured by EVRAZ United West Siberian Iron and Steel Works (EVRAZ ZSMK) was pre-tested for most indicators in the conditions of the company's factory laboratory," says Konstantin Zagranichek.  "The safety indicators were assessed in the VNIIZhT laboratory. We had no issues regarding this product. However, the most important thing is to obtain the required technical characteristics of the product with the environmental measures taken by the manufacturer".

There will be enough energy

According to the Head of the Ecology and Environmental Safety Department of Russian Railways, the steel used to produce the pilot batch of green rails emits 75% less CO2 compared to the blast-furnace converter method of steel melting.

The blast-furnace converter process includes smelting of pig iron from a specially prepared mixture of iron ore products and coking coal in blast furnaces. Pig iron, in turn, is used to smelt steel in converters. EVRAZ ZSMK uses electric arc furnaces to produce all rails, and scrap is the main raw material.

"Since the first, blast furnace-converter method, involves coking coal, it makes the main contribution to carbon intensity (CO2 emission volume - ed.). And just the use of electrometallurgy for scrap can cut it in half", a source at EVRAZ explains to "An additional effect for green rails is the use of renewable energy. For example, contracts have been signed for power supply for production of green rails, including by solar power plants".

Alexey Zhiharev, Director of the Renewable Energy Development Association, says that the number of power plants producing alternative energy in Russia is growing, which allows to supply green energy to more and more Russian companies. 

"Now Russia has about 2 GW of operating solar power plants, which produce more than 2 billion kWh of electric power per year," says Alexei Zhiharev. "The largest of the existing solar power plants is the Staromaryevskaya power plant in the Stavropol Krai, which has an installed capacity of 100 MW. In 2021, the first stages of the Elistinskaya (Arshanskaya) solar power plant in Kalmykia were commissioned. When all its stages are completed, it will reach a capacity of 116 MW and become Russia’s largest solar power plant instead of Staromaryevskaya".

Anastasia Baranets

10 june 2022

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