Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

The power of Arctic coal

A port, own fleet and 5 bn tons of coal in the arctic wilderness

27 january 2023

In January 2023, Russian authorities announced new investments in a project to develop the Syradasaysky coal deposit in Taimyr. The state will allocate additional RUB 3 bn for the construction of a cargo pier and a canal of the Yenisei port marine terminal. And this is just a drop in the bucket—the total investment in the project by 2025 should reach RUB 45 bn. The enormous amount of investments implies a strong interest of both Russia and private enterprises in a project located in extreme weather conditions.

Arctic treasures

The total coal reserves of the Syradasaysky deposit are estimated at 5.68 bn tons of coal. This is a huge amount of minerals—by comparison, the International Energy Agency estimates that global coal consumption in 2022 will be just over 8 bn tons.

Analysts estimate that the Syradasaysky deposit's proven reserves alone will last at least 20 years, with annual production of 20 mn tons after the field reaches full capacity, TASS reported. The Syradasaysky deposit has various types of coking coal, which are used not only in thermal power but also in metallurgy, and therefore cost 2 to 3 times more than 'ordinary' raw materials. It gives a higher temperature, which provides increased energy efficiency compared to other types of coal.

But there are challenges. The Syradasaysky deposit is more than 100 km from the Dikson settlement in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. This is the Arctic, or more precisely, the 'arctic wilderness.' In the warmest month, August, the temperature rises to +4.8°C, while the absolute minimum, recorded in February 1979, was –48.1°C. In the realm of permafrost and piercing Arctic winds, only very hardy species, of which there are few, can live. For people and machinery, these conditions are extremely harsh, requiring additional training and, as a consequence, expense. Severnaya Zvezda, which is developing the deposit, has had to build infrastructure from scratch in conditions close to 'alien'—hence the record level of investment. The project includes the construction of Yenisei port, an airport, a combined heat and power plant, an enrichment plant and a shift camp.

North Sea Route base point

The development of the Syradasaysky coal deposit is important not only because of the export potential of Taimyr coal (by 2025 alone, tax payments will reach RUB 70 bn) but also because of its importance for the development of the North Sea Route. The mining company plans to ship 7 mn tons a year along the NSR, with a separate vessel fleet already under construction for this purpose. In 2021, AEON Corporation, which includes Severnaya Zvezda, signed an agreement with Rosatom to build Arc5-class ice-class vessels and Arc6-class tugs for these needs. The company's website states that the port is being built with the expectation of receiving bulk carriers similar to the Admiral Schmidt and Vitus Bering. They are 250 m long, 43 m wide, with a maximum draught of 14.5 m and a deadweight of just over 100,000 tons.

Moreover, Yenisei port is being built to accommodate the capabilities of the latest Project 22220 icebreakers, which thanks to their 'adjustable' draft (minimum draft is 9.03 m; full draft is 10.5 m, along the keel line) can enter the estuaries of large rivers. Yenisei port itself is located in Yenisei Bay, 70 km south of Dikson. A temporary berth is still in operation, but work on the permanent terminal is already well under way. For example, during the summer navigation season of 2022, 337 products were delivered to the Yenisei port, including 5,000 tons of various steel structures, reports PortNews.

The Yenisei port will eventually have a 1.5 km long dam with an access to a depth of 12 m. It will connect the cargo berth to the shore. Ships with a maximum draught of 15 m and a maximum width of 40 m will be able to approach. A road has already been built from the port, but there is an ongoing debate about the construction of railway tracks. Some experts are talking about building a giant conveyor belt, but given the current instability in the global economy, it may be necessary to go back to proven solutions and also to tackle the challenge of dredging. However, these challenges have not prevented the first shipment of coal via the North Sea Route in 2022.

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