Milton Kovner, Department of State
on Soviet Energy Capabilities
is our attempt to answer your questions on Soviet energy capabilities. We have enlisted OSI's support to answer the question on alternative energy sources. Unfortunately, we are unable to respond to the question on energy related environmental technology.
Since no request was made for information on nuclear power, we assume that the AEC is responding to your needs on this subject.
If you need additional information to supplement what has been provided in some haste, please call at your convenience.
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V.Tiat are the Soviet1 litics in technologyhe develop-ant oi convcnticnalo3i?
Althoughew' specific cases Soviet technology night be useful to the US coal nininc industry, the USSR lags behind the US in most phases of coal nining technologyunderground mining, stripcal preparation. Much of the Soviet lag can be tracedecision in the, when Investment in the coal industry was curtailed in favor of more rapid expansion of thond natural gas industries. Subsequently, the leadership decidedhe coal industry and"ormal program covering the.
The USSR lags far behind the US in strip mining technology. For example, the USSR is now in the process of designing and developing draglines with bucket capacities ofubic meters, but this is less than half the capacity of the largest dragline produced in the US. The USSR, Ul fact, has purchased some of this technology abroad. Strip nining equipment has been imported fron East Germany, while small aaounts of other types of equipment have been purchased from non-Conaunist countries.
Athat visited the USSR0
concluded that Soviet nininc nachines generally do not appear to be applicablesfC Joining conditions. They noted, however, that one particular type of roof support mechanism might be useful if greater application is nade of long-wall
mining Hydraulic mining of coal is another
area in which the USSR might have something to definite commercial possibilities for
this technology; delegation was scheduled to go to the USSR in4 to initiate discussions on cooperation with the USSR in this field.
Another aspect of Soviet coal mining technology thatusefulto deep coal seams. Thes seams
are often gaseous and subject to outbursts of gas andcoal mining safety that inspected Soviet
coal mines3 concluded that the USSR is ahead of3 in the development and use of shield-type supports.
What do wo need in the way of Soviet data not already published on production, .demand, consumption, and trade of forms of energy"? How valuable "would forward estimates be in these" areas?
Soviet published data on overall production and trade of the major forms of energyoil, natural gas, coal, electric powerare generally adequate for our needs. In recent years, however, Soviet trade statistics on oil no longerreakdown of deliveries of crude oil and petroleum products to importing countries. reakdown of oil trade statistics in the format: available throughould be helpful in assessing the flow of Soviet oil exports.
Information on Soviet coneumption of and demand for oil, natural gas, coal, and electric power is not available from published sources. Such data would be extremely useful, especially consumption of energy by major economic sectors,
to evaluate Soviet industrial growth and estimate future growth in Soviet energy use. In particular, we would like to know about inventories of oil, output of petroleum products, refinery capacity, uranium supplies, capacities of'gaseous diffusion plants, and costs of construction and operation of nuclear power plants.
Very little reliable information is available from Soviet sources on plans and forecasts for energy production and trade Acquisition of Soviet estimates for the future
would be invaluable in assessing the Soviet position in the future world energy picture. Information especially needed to determine future Soviet energy capabilities includes proved reserves of oil and gas in Siberia, planned production and imports of oilfield and coal mining equipment, plans for offshoro exploration for oil and gas, planned expansion of nuclear powerplant capacity, and investment (total and regional) in the various energy sectors.
Whatvict capabilities for developing alternative energy sources, tor example, solar and synthetic tuels?
Magnetohydrodynamic Power Generation
Hagnetohydrodynamic power generation (MHO) isoal-based technology, since it can be fired directly with coal, or from gas generatedoal gasifier attached to the end of an MHD generator. Moreover, recent results of coal-fired MHD experiments indicate that coal-slag may be an excellent protective coating capable of extending the lifetime of MHD electrodes. The US leads the world in studies on coal-fired MHD. The Soviets chose natural gas as the primary fuel for their MHD generators. However, they are now prepared
to switch to coal-fired MHD because of the promise ofand because they realize that their naturalare too valuable to be used as a
fuel for electric power production.
The Soviets lack the technical sophistication of the US in such areas as computer modeling of the MHD flow process, generator design, superconducting magnets, and extraction of large power outputs. Although the Soviets have done more materials workmaterials development is critical to the success of MHDthere have been no significant results. The US has done far lessnd hasifferent
approach. Only nowignificant materials effort for MHO being undertaken in this country. However, based upon the Soviet's experience, thi3 late start does not appear to have put the USisadvantage to the Soviets.
The only area, where the USSR really leads the US is in the "nuts-and-bolts" department. The Sovietsarge, long-duration test facility, Through the US-USSR MHD exchange program, the US "will build an MHD duct to be tested inhe Soviets will receive in return access to US technical expertise andS superconducting magnet for testingmaller MHD generator, The program seems to be, at theairly equal "quid pro quo."
Synthetic Fuels The Soviet Union, has large reserves of oil and natural gas. It makes little sense for the Soviets toynthetic fuels industry when they have such large quantities of these clean, easily transportable, andin some cases'readily extractable fuels. It is doubtful, then, if the Soviet Union has any expertise in synthetic fuels comparable to that found in the US.
Geothcrmal Energy The Soviets have been investigating the possibility of using geothermal energy sources for power generationumber of years but they have been slow in building power plants. The
only known operating plants at the present time are some fairly low capacity plants in Kamchatka. The Soviets therefore are generally behind the US and several other Western countries in using gcothermal energy sources for generating electrical power. Furthermore, the Soviet impetus for developing such power sources currently seems to be less than that of the US.
The exploitation of gcothermal water for non-electric power purposes has received more enphasiu in the USSR. Several towns and industries have been supplied with hot water for heating and cooling purposes. In this part of the problem, thets probably are aboutar with the West.
The Soviets have had in operation sincemall geothermal power station utilizing freoneat exchanging medium. Because of this experience, they possibly could have some useful technological data to share with the US. They also have active plans to use underground nuclear devices to fracture rocks, thereby allowing water to be pumped in from the surface to absorb the heat. These Soviet plans may be in a
fairly advanced stage, and useful information in this area
probably is available if they are willing to share it.
Solar Photovoltaic Converters In the use of photovoltaic or solar cells the Soviets have an overall capability comparable to that of the US. Mieit, solar cell program has been mainly oriented toward space applications. Silicon cells, comparable to those used in the West, are used by the Soviets and considered by them to be the best for near eerth applications. They have fabricated gallium arsenide cells and consider then superior for use in extreme regions of space because of good high temperature properties and better operation at low levels of light illumination.
Two Soviet developed photovoltaic systems offer promise for improvements over presently used solar cells. Theseertically illuminated silicon cell, thend heterojunction gallium arsenide-gallium aluminum arsenide solar cells. The Soviets probably have used the "Photovolt" in space applications, specifically in systems where high voltage is required. They claim that for terrestrial applications, with solar concentrates and waterhey canower output that is much greater than that of ordinary silicon solar cells. Tnese claims have not as yet been proven.
The galliun arsenide-gallium aluminum arsenide heterojunction cell may be mere efficient that any of the silicon cells. Information about Soviet prototype devices using this material is not available. But its development has picked up outside the USSR and appears promising.
what are Soviet capabilities in exploration
technology, especially oil and gas? In general, the level of petroleum exploration technology in the USSR is aboutoears behind that in the US. In the geophysical aspect of exploration, the Soviets are good in theory but relatively backward in practical application. They are just getting underway on the use of digital computer field recording units and development of playback centers to process seismic data. Such operations have been employed in Western oil and gas exploration for noreears. Tho lack of such equipment in the USSR has hiniered Soviet efforts to explore deep formationseters) and to map deep complex faulted strata and permafrost areas.
Even when petroleum prospects are located, Soviet efforts in drilling, testing, and logging of wells are hampered by technical deficiencies. Their extensive use of turbodrilling, instead of rotary drilling, has caused problems because the turbodrill is inefficient for drilling to depthseters. Drilling operations in general are inefficient because of poor quality drill bits, poorly developed drilling fluids, and inadeuate blowout preventor equipment. Drilling in the Siberian permafrost regionsarticularly difficult job.
Soviet equipment is inferior to Western equipment for evaluation of potential oil and gas reservoirs where high temperatures and pressures are encountered, usually at considerable depths. Soviet drillersears dri-lling an exploratory wellepth0 feet. OS drillers normally drillell inonths.Original document.