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Ecology first

Russian Railways is set to adopt best environmental practices
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Minimizing the environmental impact is one of the company’s primary goals. 2023 will see the holding company test new electric locomotives, eliminate a number of objects of accumulated environmental damage and draw up environmental passports at each railway construction facility.

Compared to road, air and sea transportation, rail transit is the least hazardous for the environment.

According to Andrey Lisitsyn, head of the Department of Ecology and Technosphere Safety at Russian Railways, the latter accounted for only 1% of air pollution in 2022.

A comfortable environment

Russian Railways operates in such a way as not only to increase environmental safety levels but also to mitigate the impact that infrastructure construction or modernization projects have on natural ecosystems, says First Deputy Head of the Department of Ecology and Technosphere Safety Vasily Semyonovikh.

According to him, the company’s construction projects use best environmental practices. Specialists are developing monitoring, industrial environmental control and video surveillance systems. 

For this reason, Russian Railways was the first Russian company to sign a framework document with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation in 2020. Said document puts the railway system under environmental monitoring, additionally to being regulated by federal and local environmental laws. Environmental passports are drawn up for each construction facility.

Unique natural sites, primarily Lake Baikal, enjoy special protection.
One of 2023’s major projects worth mentioning is the construction of a dust suppression facility at Dzerzhinskaya-Novaya station which is intended to improve the environmental and living conditions in locations adjacent to the coal terminal.

There are plans to install noise barriers along the stretch between the Moscow-Tovarnaya - Petrovsko-Razumovskoye stations and the Liski station in order to reduce noise levels caused by rail transport in residential areas along the line.

The Michurinsk-Uralsky station is expected to have a centralized water supply line to provide drinking water for the company’s employees, the local population and passengers.
“All this is just a fraction of the work we have planned, and there are quite a few such projects that the holding company is currently implementing,” sums up Vasily Semyonovikh.

“Green” power and heat

Great results in reducing the carbon footprint can be achieved largely through using electric traction to carry passengers (85%) and freight (86%). It forms the basis for “green” projects run by Russian Railways, which also include infrastructure electrification, the introduction of locomotives on alternative fuels, including gas turbines, the use of renewable energy sources and recuperation.

The short-term plans include conducting certification tests on two prototypes of electric locomotives – EMKA2 hybrid traction shunting locomotives, capable of operating both on overhead wires and batteries. These models could potentially be used as the main type of rolling stock in agglomerations, notes the First Deputy Head of the Department of Ecology and Technosphere Safety. 

Together with its partners from Rosatom and Transmashholding, the company is developing a project to introduce hydrogen fuel cell passenger trains on Sakhalin. It is a complex undertaking as it includes production and transportation of hydrogen, operation and maintenance of the rolling stock.

Work is underway to modernize fuel oil and coal-fired boiler plants most of which are owned by the Central Directorate for Heat and Water Supply. In 2021, about twenty such enterprises were revamped. According to Vasily Semyonovikh, all oil-fired boilers are expected to switch to alternative fuels by 2035.

Less carbon

In 2021-2022, Russian Railways updated its Environmental Strategy up to 2030 and beyond to 2035, a document which features a section dedicated to the company’s low-carbon development plans and approved targets.

“We are working to implement a number of climate projects with a view to verifying them further and launching production of carbon units. As part of developing the climate agenda at the XXV St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian Railways and Bauman Moscow State Technical University signed an agreement to establish the Bauman GoGreen Consortium for further cooperation”, stresses the First Deputy Head of the Department of Ecology and Technosphere Safety.

Russian Railways is already seeking to develop approaches to interaction with suppliers and customers in this area, he says.

According to a comparison report by the World Steel Association, a batch of rails purchased in 2022 within the framework of the Memorandum of Priorities in Cooperation between Russian Railways and EVRAZ was the first one made of steel, which production accounts for 80% less CO2 emissions compared to the classic blast furnace method.

Ksenia Nekh, EVRAZ Director for Cooperation with State-Owned Companies, attributes the advantage of “green” rails to the fact that they maintain high performance indicators and ensure good reliability and traffic safety; the carbon intensity of steel production for this type of rails is five times as low as in blast furnace smelting.

 “The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is ensured by the electrometallurgical method of steelmaking for rail production at EVRAZ plants, the use of low-carbon electricity and applying optimal technology, which increases the scrap ratio in the charge,” she told 1520 International.

Viktoria Yeletina

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