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International Cooperation

Black Carbon Diesel Initiative in the Russian Arctic

Black carbon, also known as "soot," results from the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as fossil fuels and biomass. Black carbon causes significant environmental harm and impacts human health in the Arctic. When deposited on snow or ice, it reduces the reflection of sunlight, causing further warming and increasing the rate of melting.

Mobile and stationary diesel engines are among the largest sources of black carbon emissions in the Arctic. Across the diesel sector, substantial black carbon reductions are possible. To address this challenge, EPA led the Black Carbon Diesel Initiative under the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI). The ABCI also included initiatives led by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from the U.S. Department of State.

EPA engaged with partners from government agencies, U.S. Arctic and Russian universities and non-governmental organizations, Russian and Arctic stakeholders, and indigenous communities on a four-step project to reduce diesel black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic through 2016. Specifically, EPA and its partners:

  1. Conducted initial scoping and assessment of primary sources of black carbon in the Russian Arctic,
  2. Developed a baseline emission inventory for black carbon from diesel sources,
  3. Implemented targeted, on-the-ground demonstration projects for reducing black carbon from diesel, and
  4. Established policy recommendations and financing options for reducing black carbon from diesel sources.

Each of these phases is explored in the tabs below.

EPA's work in the ABCI was focused in the Russian Arctic, but the project included broader collaboration to reduce diesel black carbon emissions across the Arctic.

About Black Carbon

Black carbon is formed by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. Part of the mixture known as soot, black carbon is the component of particulate matter which most strongly absorbs light, causing warming of the atmosphere. In addition, when black carbon is deposited on snow and/or ice, it reduces the amount of sunlight that would ordinarily be reflected, causing further warming and increasing the rate of melting, which has significant implications for ice and snow melt in the Arctic. Black carbon also has significant human health impacts.

Mobile and stationary diesel engines are among the largest sources of black carbon emissions in the Arctic.

  • Off-road mobile sources include locomotives, ships, construction vehicles, and farming equipment, all using diesel fuel.
  • On-road mobile sources include vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks.

Across the diesel sector, substantial black carbon reductions are possible. For example, in the United States, changes in fuel quality and composition, advances in engine design, and use of emission control technologies can reduce black carbon emissions from heavy duty in-use diesel engines by up to 99 percent. These efforts also lead to improved air quality and corresponding improvements to public health.

Because black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time, when emissions of black carbon are reduced, atmospheric concentrations of black carbon decrease almost immediately. Therefore, reducing black carbon emissions can help prevent near-term warming and associated effects on snow, ice and precipitation. Reducing black carbon also improves human health by decreasing the adverse effects of black carbon on respiratory and cardiovascular health, including premature death.

History of the Arctic Black Carbon Initiative (ABCI)

The Arctic Black Carbon Initiative was launched in order to further international cooperation to quantify emissions and impacts of black carbon from fossil fuel and biomass burning and to reduce black carbon emissions and the associated warming effects in and around the Arctic.

The U.S. Department of State prioritized reducing black carbon in the Russian Arctic, and sought EPA's expertise in reducing diesel emissions to address this challenge. The U.S. Department of Energy responded by developing collaborative programs on combined heat and power to attempt to address some of the key residential sources of black carbon. The U.S. Forest Service worked to reduce black carbon from forest fires and agricultural burning in the Russian Arctic. This work complements ongoing policy and technical work going on in the Arctic Council.

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Scoping and Assessment

Project Phase 1: Initial scoping and assessment

In order to address emissions of black carbon from diesel, EPA and its partners first undertook scoping and assessment of emissions sources, critical infrastructure, key stakeholders, and existing data. This initial step included kick-off workshops on diesel black carbon in the Russian Arctic, creating the Technical Steering Group to provide targeted advice and input on the project, a scoping trip with stakeholder outreach, and ultimately a plan for undertaking emissions reductions work. Highlights of this phase are described below.

Stakeholder Meetings

From January 28-February 1, 2013, EPA and its partners held meetings in Murmansk and Moscow with key Russian stakeholders to gather input into the project’s emissions inventory methodologies and potential pilot project ideas. EPA's partners for this effort included Battelle, Murmansk State Technical University, and WWF-Russia.

These meetings were also an opportunity to obtain feedback on the project’s workplan. After the meetings, the workplan was updated and finalized based on the input received.

Learn more about these meetings, our partners, and moving forward with key stakeholders:

Kick-Off Workshops

On October 6-7, 2011, EPA engaged in two days of initial workshops in Moscow, Russia on Diesel Emissions, Pollution Mitigation, and Clean and Alternative Technologies in the Arctic. These workshops gathered a broad range of governmental, NGO, and academic participants and experts. The workshops produced meaningful information exchange on:

  • Black carbon assessments in the Arctic;
  • The link between diesel emissions and black carbon;
  • Technologies to reduce diesel emissions of black carbon; and
  • Improving the efficiency of energy systems in remote areas of the Arctic.

The workshops also provided EPA and its partners with expert input on potential demonstration projects in the region, enhancing decision-making capacity for the initiative. Immediately following the Moscow workshop, EPA and some of its partners visited the Arctic cities of Salekhard and Murmansk, from October 9-12, 2011, to engage with local officials and experts on these issues and to learn more about their concerns and ideas for addressing black carbon in the regions.

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Emissions Inventory

Project Phase 2: Emissions Inventory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Battelle Memorial Institute and Murmansk State Technical University have completed an emissions inventory (EI) of diesel sources of black carbon in the Murmansk Region of Russia.

Based on preliminary data, the team identified the Murmansk Region, which produces approximately 80 percent of the diesel-related BC emissions in the Russian Arctic, as the best location for emissions inventory efforts. This region has strong local government support, experienced local partners, and relatively high quality regional statistics and data.

EPA and its partners assessed quality of existing data, developed a detailed methodology, conducted an initial workshop on best practices, and a concluding workshop presenting findings. The top two sources of black carbon from diesel sources were found to be off-road vehicles at mines and on-road transport.

Following this step, a National EI of black carbon from diesel sources in Russia, an extrapolation of the Murmansk EI, was developed. It covers several sectors, including on-road transport, off-road transport (i.e. agriculture, railway, mining and construction sectors) and diesel generators.  Drawing on a complete Russian vehicle registry with detailed information about vehicle types and emission standards, this paper analyzes BC emissions from diesel on-road vehicles. Using Russian activity data and fuel-based emission factors, the paper also presents BC emissions from diesel locomotives and ships, off-road engines in industry, construction and agriculture, and generators. The study also factors in the role of superemitters in BC emissions from diesel on-road vehicles and off-road sources.  The study is available at the link below:

Workshops on the Emissions Inventory

In November 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Battelle Memorial Institute and WWF-Russia organized the final workshop on Arctic Black Carbon: Reduction of Black Carbon from Diesel Sources in Murmansk, Russia. The team presented the results of the BC inventory from diesel sources in the Murmansk region. Participants discussed the impacts of black carbon and emissions in the Arctic on health and environment. Participants also discussed reduction of BC emissions by the bus company Murmanskavtotrans and possible BC reductions by the mining industry, the largest source of BC emissions in Murmansk region.  

Download agenda and meeting summary here.

In April 2013, EPA's partners hosted the Best Practices Training on Arctic Black Carbon: Reduction of Black Carbon from Diesel Sources in Murmansk, Russia. Over the course of this event, participants shared information about and discussed emissions inventory best practices around the world, including information about inventories in Russia, the proposed inventory and potential pilot projects, and measurement techniques.​  The workshop contributed to the finalization of the emissions inventory methodology. 

Download agenda and meeting summary here.

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Demonstration Projects and Recommendations

Project Phase 3: Demonstration Projects

Launch of Transport and Clean Air Seminar in Moscow, December 2013. Pictured: Alexey Kokorin, WWF, Russia; Vladimir Maximov, Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, and Neilima Senjalia, US EPA.

EPA and its partners identified and implemented demonstration projects to reduce black carbon emissions in the Russian Arctic, and improve understanding of emission reduction opportunities in the Russian context.

To identify the best projects and technologies, EPA and its partners considered feasibility, replicability, sustainability, leverage, measurement, local support and capacity, and information gathered during the earlier phases of this effort. EPA worked in conjunction with the project’s Technical Steering Group.

EPA’s pilot projects addressed the top two sources of black carbon emissions from diesel engines: on-road vehicles and off-road vehicles at mines.

To address on-road vehicles, EPA worked with Battelle, WWF-Russia and MSTU on a pilot project with a regional bus company in Murmansk, Murmanskavtotrans (MAT). After attending the project’s 2013 Emissions Inventory training, the bus company decided to purchase more energy efficient buses for its bus fleet.  The result was reduced black carbon emissions, and decreasing operations and maintenance costs.

The environmental, social and economic basis of the project is summarized for public transportation companies and other stakeholders in a brochure: Economic Benefits, Social Advantages, and Emission Reductions: Bus fleet upgrade by Murmanskavtotrans. 

You can view and download the report in:

The Murmansk bus company brochure was also one of the documents presented at the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council Exitheld in Iqualit, Canada on April 24, 2014.

To address off-road vehicles, the project team partnered with a mine in the Murmansk Region to understand the best opportunity to reduce emissions from their off-road vehicle fleet.  Mine managers attended the emissions inventory seminar in Murmansk, and met with the team. Engine and equipment producers such as Cummins, MTU and Komatsu provided technical information. The team also used annual reports, environmental protection reports, and other publicly available information. The final result of the pilot will be to provide guidelines for mines in reducing emissions from their off-road vehicle fleet. 

Evaluation of Black Carbon Emission Reductions from Mining Trucks in Russia: The Case of the Murmansk Region considers options for black carbon emission reductions through engine repowering, vehicle replacement and engine retrofits.  The report found that it is cost-effective for mining companies to replace engines without emission controls with Tier 2 engines. Though Tier 2 engines are more expensive, they are also more reliable, more fuel efficient and cleaner. The analysis shows that mines can recover the additional cost for replacing Tier 0 engines with Tier 2 ones through fuel savings.  A related article (PDF) (4 pp, 166 K, About PDFExit has also been published in the Russian Journal, Mining Industry

Additional pilot projects that aim to reduce black carbon from stationary diesel engines were implemented by NEFCO through the Arctic Council and its Project Support Instrument. These included:

  • Wind power at a reindeer farm: Developing a wind-diesel alternative to traditional diesel-powered generators at a remote Tundra Collective reindeer farm in the Murmansk region.
  • Valday Cluster upgrade for black carbon reduction in the Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation: Providing energy alternatives to off-grid settlements in this region. Improvement in services, emission reductions, energy savings, and lessons learned contribute to an improved energy system across this Cluster.
  • Mapping substituting solutions for diesel power plants in Arctic and NW Russia: A report mapped alternatives to diesel power plants in the Arctic and NW Russia. 

Conference Presentations

 Members of the project team presented on the demonstration projects at two recent international conferences:

“Improving fuel economy and reduction of emissions from road transport in Russia” (June 2014, Moscow)

Organized by UNEP, the conference brought together participants from international organizations, academia and energy companies, to discuss energy efficiency of on-road transport, reduction of transport emissions, and policy options. 

XVII Annual Congress “Atmosphere-2014” (June 2014, Saint Petersburg) 

Organized by Scientific Research Institute for Atmospheric Air Protection (SRI), the Saint-Petersburg Congress is a leading Russian forum for air protection scientists and local policy makers. This was the first time the conference discussed estimating black carbon emissions in Russia. 

Transport and Clean Air, a Circumpolar Workshop

Before project implementation, EPA and its partners convened "Transport and Clean Air," a Circumpolar Workshop held in December 2013. This seminar allowed leading experts to share best practices on reducing emissions of particulates and black carbon from diesel sources in the Arctic.

Agenda and presentations are now available from the workshop and may be downloaded here.

Presentations included:

  • Health Effects of Particulates and Black Carbon
  • Transport emission reduction in a big city: View from Moscow
  • Urban air quality and abatement measures in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Environmental Standards for Vehicles in the U.S. and Their Impact on BC Emissions 
  • Financing Options for Black Carbon Emissions Reduction Projects 
  • U.S. Diesel Retrofit Program: Incentives to Reduce Large Emitters 
  • VERT Standards and Procedures for Retrofit to reduce Diesel Engine Emissions
  • Fuel and Vehicle Technologies for Air Pollution Reduction 
  • Murmansk Experience in Selecting Low Emission Buses 


Project Phase 4: Recommendations

An article that explores options and challenges to reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles in Russia has been published in Environmental Science and Policy. It provides a number of policy recommendations for Russia, based on best practices of black carbon emission reductions. The article, which was published by our project partner Battelle Memorial Institute, may be downloaded in PDF format from the website at no cost. 

Many governments and international organizations have strong concerns about highs level of particulate emissions, including black carbon,  leading to the introduction of emission standards and other measures to reduce their release. A new Primer for Investors created by the Department of Energy, with EPA support, provides a deeper understanding of the factors that affect black carbon emissions at the project level, and implementation challenges that should be considered by investors and developers.

In addition, a report, entitled Circumpolar Best Practices: Policy and Financing Options for Black Carbon Emission Reductions from Diesel Sources, provides policy and financing recommendations to reduce black carbon for Arctic Nations. This report has been approved by the Arctic Council Arctic Contaminants Action Program Exit  and the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials and is an Arctic Council publication and Ministerial Deliverable.

Presenting the Recommendations

The project emissions inventory found that off-road vehicles at mines were the top source of black carbon from diesel sources in the Murmansk Region.  As a result, one recommendation of the Black Carbon Diesel Initiative is the development of off-road vehicle regulations. 

EPA's partner presented its off-road vehicle policy recommendations at the 4th Integer Emissions Summit Russia, Exit which took place in February 2015 in Moscow.  The conference is the automotive industry’s leading independent event addressing vehicle emissions and fuel quality legislation in Russia.  

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EPA's work on the ABCI:
Teresa Kuklinski
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6600

EPA's work with the Arctic Council:
Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6600