Vegetarian trains appeared in Russia

Domestic transport becomes low-carbon: Russian Railways started to use biofuels, having installed about 300 boilers for pellets. Bioenergy in the country is developing. However, alcohol is the main "competitor" for the mass production of biofuels.

Bioenergy has replaced coal in 15% of the railway, which is not equipped with electric networks. "Today, cars cruising these railways are transferred to the pellets, - said Oleg Kanunnikov, the head of Biotehtrans Ltd. - The conductors are competing for working in cars with pellets, because biofuel cars are times better than coal ones."

Research has shown that air toxicity index in compartments of coal-heated cars is 5 times higher than the maximum permissible level. When using wood pellets, this level is 15-20 times lower than the maximum permissible one. In addition, pellets are clean fuel, and ash formation is times less than when burning coal.

During this year, the Russian Railways intends to "consume" about 6 thous. tons of biofuel. Pellets are already used in Moscow, North, South Urals and North Caucasus branches of the Russian Railways. In the near future, the railway plans to fully withdraw from heating with coal and use only wood pellets and electricity.

People manage to produce biofuels from everything, from wastes to algae. Over the past 15 years, the production of "green" fuel in the world has increased tenfold, and its current volume exceeded 60 million tons a year. International organizations, independent consultants and associations of biofuel producers predict substantial global growth in production and consumption of biofuels by 2020. It is assumed that about 15% of vehicle fuel in the world will be produced from renewable raw materials by 2020.

However, international experts have different opinions about prospects of biofuels. Economic, environmental and social impacts of first-generation biofuels are the subject of political debate and civil society campaigns.

One of the main complaints is the problem of "alienation" of a huge amount of agricultural land for planting "energy crops." Higher yields are already requiring the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), displacing native species of plants and destroying everything around them.

So far, these threats are only hypothetical for Russia. Production and use of liquid biofuels is still poorly developed in Russia as compared to the rest of the world. Biodiesel production in the country began in 2007 with cultivation of oilseed rape at an industrial scale and production of rapeseed oil. However, the lack of a unified program for biodiesel in the country slows down the process. Bioenergy develops today mainly due to regional initiatives. The most popular type of material is bio-waste from timber. Today, production of biofuels has become salvation for domestic timber industry, which was suffering from deficit of processing technologies.

According to experts, Russia has prospects of exporting biofuels and raw materials to Europe. Notably, some experts believe that alcohol is the main competitor for biofuel production, as food raw materials (grain) is the main source of bioethanol production in the country (about 1.5 billion liters per year), with 80% of ethanol being used to make alcoholic beverages. Possible use of other starchy products - molasses (waste from sugar production), potatoes, sweet sorghum, tubers and green material of Jerusalem artichoke – is promising from the viewpoint of fuel production for transport.

According to experts, Russia needs to develop sustainability standards for production and use of biofuels, to make the process well organised. Such standards should cover production and processing of basic energy crops and include common measures for inspection and certification.