The total greenhouse gas emissions in Estonia have decreased by 4.5 percent in comparison with the year before and more than twice in comparison with 1990. In 2018, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Estonia was equivalent to 20 million tonnes of CO2. The majority of greenhouse gases in the industrial sector – 88% – was generated in the energy sector, 7.2% came from agriculture, 3.1% from industry and 1.6% from waste management.
The scientists of the Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Tartu and the team of Ragn-Sells AS are developing an industrial technology for the separation and recovery of the elements found in oil shale ash, following the example of similar circular economy projects implemented in Sweden. Releasing a large waste segment into circulation by way of valorisation has two benefits from the viewpoint of environmental sustainability because the quantity of waste is reduced and the primary production of several materials can thereby be reduced as well.
Energy production in Estonia is largely based on oil shale. Although the share of renewable energy is increasing, it still remains at around 30% per year. The remaining electricity is mainly generated from oil shale. The share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources in the total consumption of electricity has increased every year and reached 19.7% in 2018, which is an increase of 5.7% in the last five years.
Swedish environmental company Ragn-Sells entered into a cooperation agreement with Eesti Energia for finding solutions to the valorisation of oil shale ash and its release back into circulation. The new technology currently being tested helps solve one of the challenges of oil shale energy in Estonia – what could be done with the by-product of energy generation, i.e. bottom ash? Approximately 80% of the energy generated in Estonia is produced from oil shale. This creates large quantities of by-products, such as bottom ash, which is currently mostly deposited.