Hill to convert polluting coal plant in Kazakhstan to gas

Smog over Almaty in Kazakhstan gets trapped over the city by an atmospheric mechanism known as thermal inversion (Igors Jefimovs/CC BY 3.0)
New York-listed construction consultancy Hill International has won a contract to help convert a combined heat and power plant in Almaty, Kazakhstan, so it burns gas instead of coal.

The 42-year-old, 510MW plant is the biggest energy source in the city of 2 million, serving 64% of the population.

It contributes to Almaty’s serious pollution problems.

The UN says air pollution is the greatest health risk for people in Kazakhstan’s biggest city. It cites the World Health Organisation’s finding that particulate concentrations there exceed safe limits 17-fold in winter.

The problem is exacerbated by an atmospheric mechanism known as thermal inversion, which keeps polluted air trapped in a bubble over the city.

By converting the plant, authorities hope to cut CO2 emissions by some 3 million tons, around 56%, and to end emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Working as project manager for JSC Almaty Power Plants, Hill and local partners aim to finish converting the plant in 2026.

The project is a part of the Green Cities Program of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

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