Russian scientists to develop cheap, environmentally friendly Arctic generator
© RIA Novosti. Igor Zarembo

Russian scientists to develop cheap, environmentally friendly Arctic generator

Scientists from Tomsk State University have found a way to make cheaper and safer Arctic oil-prospecting devices. They suggest renouncing plasma-forming fuel inside magnetohydrodynamic generators, (MHD generators) which are used as the main energy source in Arctic oil prospecting devices, and replacing this fuel with pyrotechnic fuel.

Due to dwindling ground-based hydrocarbon resources, oil production on the continental shelf is acquiring special significance. Electric prospecting operations are the main method used to locate offshore deposits. Geophysicists use this method to scan the terrestrial crust up to several dozen kilometers below the surface. This method requires high-capacity specialized power sources. MHD generators are the most popular solution, used in various areas, including electronic reconnaissance, the defense and aerospace industries.

"Considering the challenges that need to be dealt with in the Arctic, we need new technological approaches that will be both effective and environmentally friendly," Vladimir Butov, Head of Tomsk State University's Main Design Center, noted.

According to Tomsk State University's press service, MHD generators are currently using the products of combustion of metallized plasma-forming fuel which is similar to rocket propellants. However, scientists all over the world are looking for a way to abandon this type of fuel, which is notorious for its harmful emissions, and are trying to find more environmentally friendly power sources for the generators.

"It was decided to use a more environmentally sound and cheaper fuel, namely, pyrotechnic fuel that mostly consists of magnesium and potassium saltpeter powders. Like most other countries, Russia boasts a ramified chain of commodity and processing companies to produce the powders. Feasibility studies show that the total self-cost of one kg of combined fuel is about 800 rubles or four times less than the lowest self-cost of solid-state plasma-forming ballistite fuel," Butov noted.

He added that specialists will create a digital model of the new MHD generator using this fuel before the year is out, and they will start designing its prototype in early 2021.

"In terms of their total oil-and-gas potential, the sedimentation basins of the Russian Arctic shelf are comparable with the world's largest oil-and-gas regions. Hydrocarbon resources in Russia's Arctic seas are estimated at tens of billions of metric tons in oil equivalent. Raw materials production efficiency will directly depend on the level of new technologies," the press release noted.