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The Global Energy Prize annually honors outstanding achievements in energy research and technology from around the world that are helping address the world’s various and pressing energy challenges.

A chat of the president of the Global Energy Association with the man, who stood at the origins of the restructuring of the coal

Sergey Brilev: Good afternoon, Anatoly!

Anatoly Yanovsky: Good afternoon!

Sergey Brilev: I think that both of us, you and I, have enough acquaintances, who somewhere in Europe will consider the set of this interview an anathema, because these days everything should be generated by windmillsand the sun. Does coal have a future? Maybe we are some kind of retrogrades here in Russia?

Anatoly Yanovsky: I think that for many sensible people, it is obvious, that the development of scientific and technological progress is underway and technological patterns are changing. This is a completely natural process. At the same time, the so-called unconventional energy sources have appeared right in front of us over the past 20 years. As well as the wind power got development…

Sergey Brilev: God bless.

Anatoly Yanovsky: As well as wind and solar power. And that is all good. And that’s right. Just as at the time when the first large-scale hydro power appeared, and then nuclear power. Each of them finds its own place in the global energy balance, as well as coal generation, and coal power plants. It has to be said, that over the years, neither the volume of coal consumption in the world nor the volume of world trade of coal fell. I’m talking about the last 5,10, 15, 20 years. They always have been growing. And continue to grow…

Sergey Brilev: But you have mentioned in your recent article that 59% of the energy balance in China is coal.

Anatoly Yanovsky: Yes. At the same time the share of coal in the balance is completely different from one country to another. First of all, it depends on climate patterns and available resource base. That is how it is in China. In our country it is significantly lower, because our geography is somewhat different. Each country finds optimal solutions for itself. But what is important that, according to all forecasts, no matter how the structure of the world energy balance will change, coal is always present in this balance, either in a larger volume or in a smaller volume. The international coal trade continues to persist and develop in these circumstances. Russia is quite able to take its place here... It has already taken a rightful place. But also, in the future we have every reason to… Today you saw, we showed you this mine, equipped with the most advanced high-performance equipment, which in terms of labour productivity and the entire work of this enterprise is in no way inferior, and in many cases, superior to any foreign equivalents. So, we do have an opportunity to compete.

Sergey Brilev: Well, what can those who are listening to us now say? That you are the author of the concept of restructuring the coal industry in Russia, a person with interests, and you are ignoring the fact that coal is dirty.

Anatoly Yanovsky: Well, I think, the question of “dirt” requires a substantial clarification. And let's try to evaluate what is clean? For example, we are talking about solar power, right? Solar power is based on silicon solar cells. And the production of silicon itself is an extremely dirty production. That is exactly why silicon production is carried out in countries, so to speak, not with the most favourable environmental situation. Therefore, if we are talking about the nuclear power. Is it clean? Yes, kind of clean. But there is question of the disposal of waste from the activities of a nuclear power plant and so on. We are talking about energy storage, we are talking about the development of electric vehicles, everything raises the topic of lithium, lithium production, and then lithium utilization. This is also far from being a trivial task. That is why, coal with current modern technologies for its use, that exist in the world primarily in the energy sector, the so-called clean coal generation technologies, that are being used in Japan, Korea, China, and Europe, is no worse than other energy sources, including hydrocarbons.

Sergey Brilev: Well, not to mention coal chemistry, probably. Although there is more talk than practice, there is a future.

Anatoly Yanovsky: Well, actually the topic of coal chemistry does exist. But, in my opinion, there is a certain misbelief. It is in the fact that in order to get something from a coal chemistry, a product, first you need to turn coal into gas, into the so called synthesis gas. And further processes are already known enough. There are different ways to obtain this synthesis gas. But at the same time, we understand that an additional technological redistribution in the production of chemical products appears. The production of this chemical product simply from gas, from gas chemistry, where an additional redistribution appears, under any conditions and any development of technology will cost extra money. It is obvious, that the production of chemistry obtained from coal will always be more expensive than the production of chemistry derived from gas.

Sergey Brilev: But coal remains as fuel.

Anatoly Yanovsky: It is also remaining as a valuable source for coal chemistry. I was talking just now about mass production, mass use. And coal has unique properties and great potential of the so called low-tonnage coal chemistry for the production of special products that can be obtained only from coal, but on a small scale. It seems to me, this would’ve been very interesting and useful for everyone. The environmentally friendly use of such a resource as coal, which is, first of all, publicly available. It can be found in all regions of the world, it can be mined everywhere. It is easy to transport. It doesn’t need any special delivery vehicles. It can be easily transported by sea and rivers, the railway, by motor vehicles. In this sense, coal has a future. Therefore, it is necessary, to look at it from the point of view of environmentally friendly production of the corresponding products from it, as you rightly said before.

Sergey Brilev: Thank you.

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