News from the Far East does not very often come with federal resonance, but this time an event is brewing there that deserves the closest attention. The G-overnor of the Sakhalin Region announced the in-terest of the Danish inves-tment company Copenha-gen Offshore Partners in the Kuril ridge, namely Shumshu Island. From the words of Valery Limarenko, it follows that the financiers would like to lease the mentioned island – more precisely, part of it – for the development of a green energy project there.
There are still few exact data. It is only known that Copenhagen Offshore is interested in Shumshu and is ready to invest from two to 2.5 billion dollars in the construction of a wind farm, and later in a plant for the production of blue hydrogen.
Once again, we will ma-ke a reservation that we ha-ve before us only primary, moreover, very scarce and contradictory information. Which, however, makes it possible to make certain predictions.
The reference model is the project that Copenhagen Offshore Partners is implementing off the coast of the United States. In particular, more than six dozen wind turbines with a total capacity of 800 megawatts are being built off the coast of Massachusetts, which will be used to produce hydrogen as the most promising fuel for the 21st century. The Danes, after a thorough study of the wind rose in the Shumshu region, came to the conclusion that the region has tremendous prospects in the sense that offshore wind turbines will practically not stand idle, and therefore rely on twice as much generation in the amount of 1.5 gigawatts. The managers of sums with nine zeros undoubtedly rely on accurate calculations, therefore this figure can be taken as final and guaranteed. But then the oddities begin.
The final product is blue hydrogen, which will go to neighboring Japan without a trace. On paper, everything looks smooth and logical, but only if you do not look at the map and do not know the basics of physics and chemistry.
Blue hydrogen is today considered one of the most environmentally friendly resources and therefore promising within the framework of a green energy transition. The question is that it is extremely problematic to extract it in the Shumshu region, the northernmost island of the Kuril ridge. Blue hydrogen is produced by the decomposition of natural gas by steam reforming. According to the technology, water vapor, heated to a thousand degrees Celsius, is mixed with methane and a catalyst is added. We are not talking about any electrolysis here – and this is the first key oddity, because the governor clearly spoke about the use of green electricity from wind turbines to perform a specific procedure.
Even if we assume that the head of the region did not make a reservation and Copenhagen Offshore Partners are really targeting blue hydrogen, a second inconsistency arises. This type of hydrogen is called blue precisely because it is extracted from methane, but it is not at the southern end of Kamchatka.
He is on Sakhalin, led by Limarenko. Gas has been produced there for a long time and successfully. The first LNG plant in the history of Russia was built here and produced the first liters of fuel back in 2009.
Today, the island is implementing two large-scale projects – Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 – with a total production capacity of almost 30 billion cubic meters. The feedstock is mined at three platforms near the settlements of Piltun and Nysh, and from them to Shumshu along the shortest route through the Sea of Okhotsk – nearly a thousand kilometers. The distance is not prohibitive, but this is an additional transport leverage, which means the cost of freight and transportation, which immediately raises the question of the profitability of production.
Moreover, one should not forget that gas from the two Piltun-Astokhskaya platforms and from the Molikpaq platform completely goes to the south of the island, where it is converted into LNG at the terminal near the town of Korsakov and loaded onto gas carriers. If you go from the Aniva Bay, then the way to Shumshu increases by another two hundred kilometers, that is, the cost of the final hydrogen also increases along the way. At the same time, one should not forget about contracts, both long-term and spot, under which Sakhalin LNG goes out into the world.
The question of where the Danes and their partners are going to get commercial raw materials from remains open.
However, it would be foolish to think that foreign investors are negotiating the allocation of such impr-essive amounts just for the sake of a word of mouth. If we assume that in the north of the Kuril ridge, Western companies are going to produce not blue, but green hydrogen, then many tangled lines will converge. First, it is mined by the same electrolysis method, which was discussed above, that is, the construction of offshore wind farms receives a logical rationale. Secondly, green hydrogen is considered more expensive, but also more environmentally friendly. Simple water is used as raw material, which is presented in unlimited volume around Shumshu. But then it is not clear why the Danes are fogging up, pointing out hydrogen of a different color as their target.
Moving from speculation to physical reality, I would like to note the following. The very initiative of Copenhagen Offshore Partners is very promising and does not pose any threat to either the territorial integrity of our country or the ecology of the region. Concession leases have been known for hundreds of years and do not give the tenant any legal rights to own land. Moreover, this is very good for the development of the region, because it is no secret that there is a slow but constant outflow of the population from the Far East. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is the lack of work, high salaries and developed modern infrastructure – both social and industrial.
The construction of large industrial facilities today has become the anchor that slows down the outflow and, even with the dominance of the rotational work method, becomes the reason for the infusion of fresh blood. As an illustrative example, we can cite the same Sakhalin-1 project, within the framework of which, among other things, an offloading oil terminal has already been built in the village of De-Kastri, and the design of an LNG plant is in full swing. It is clear that the settlement, where only three thousand people live, is physically unable to provide all this with the required number of workers, and therefore they will be lured here with work, money and the prospect of growth.
Local residents do not need to worry about the environment. Wind turbines and a hydrogen production plant are not a coal terminal, which generates dust throughout the entire district. In addition, Western companies have been fighting a fierce battle with all kinds of environmental organizations that are gaining strength for many years and will clearly not jeopardize their own profits, allowing production negligence.
Summing up, let’s say that even though the Shumshu project raises more questions for now, the initiative itself cannot but rejoice. Where the hands of the state and Russian companies have not yet reached, money from foreign investors can come. In this particular case, it is fuel for Japan, profit for investors, taxes to the Russian treasury, thousands of new jobs and new roads, houses, schools, hospitals and kindergartens where many have already despaired of waiting for improvements.
Everyone, without exception, will win.