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Exclusive: Russia's drive to replace Western power technology hits snag

Reuters  |  MOSCOW 

By Anastasia Lyrchikova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's drive to build a large power-generating turbine to lessen its dependence on has suffered a major set-back after a prototype broke beyond repair, two sources familiar with the project told

In the past few years has imported the large-capacity required to run modern power stations from firms such as Siemens, GE and

After Western sanctions were imposed on over the conflict with four years ago, Russian urged officials to replace imported technology with home-grown substitutes in energy, software, and medicine.

The mishap with the 110 Megawatt turbine, a capacity large enough to power a sizeable town, underlines the technical challenges.

Testing was underway on a prototype 110 MW turbine at the Saturn engineering plant in Rybinsk, central Russia, in December last year according to one of the two sources, who are both in the sector and familiar with the results of the tests.

"The turbine fell apart," said the first source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "They tried to repair it in time for March, but they did not manage it."

March was the target date for completion of tests on the turbine. Putin, in power since 1999, won a second consecutive term in an election on March 18.

The first source, and a second source, both said it was not possible to rebuild the prototype turbine and the project would have to start again with new equipment.

"The turbine broke up," said the second source, who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media. "There's no turbine, that's it."


Without any home-grown equivalents, should in most cases still be able to buy turbines from Western suppliers, but U.S. and sanctions have made it harder to import Western under certain circumstances.

Last year clandestinely delivered turbines made by to a power station in Crimea, which is subject to sanctions, and the retaliated by imposing extra sanctions on officials and companies involved in the operation.

Set-backs to the domestic turbine programme could hamper the modernisation of power generation if growing tensions with Western states result in tighter sanctions since Russia's modernisation plan is focused on using

The technical hitch also carries a potential political cost: Putin has publicly trumpeted progress in replacing imports, so any failures will jar with the picture of success he has painted.

The new turbine is being developed by a consortium of ODK, a unit of that owns the where the testing was being conducted, Russian firm RUSNANO, and state firm InterRAO.

In a statement, ODK said one of the mechanisms of the prototype turbine had malfunctioned. It said that would delay work on the project, but could be fixed. "It is not fatal for the project." It said set-backs were to be expected since this was a pioneering project for

acknowledged there had been an accident but gave no details. It said it remained committed to the turbine project and expects it will be completed. InterRAO declined to comment.

Russia's Trade and Industry Ministry, which oversees the machine-building sector, declined to comment and referred questions to


Large capacity have been in use around the world for years but their construction is tricky to perfect.

Because they operate at extremely high speeds and high temperatures, they need to be engineered to very precise standards and they use sophisticated to make sure that they operate efficiently.

For many years made no major investment in developing the technology because it was able to import the turbines or the know-how to produce them. A scheme started in the 1990s to develop a large-capacity turbine produced prototypes but they did not go into production.

At a meeting in Russia's second city of in May last year, chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, Minister said a 110 MW turbine had been developed and testing should be completed by March 2018.

"This is the first Russian produced powerful machine with 100-percent domestic manufacture and it will, of course, help us to completely substitute purchases of of this capacity," Novak told the meeting. His ministry did not respond to questions on Tuesday about the set-back.

(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 17 2018. 20:53 IST