October 6, 2012
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№ 7 (July - August 2012)

TMK Premium – Tough Connections for Tough Conditions

   As much of the world’s oil and gas development grows ever more complex due to increasingly challenging production environments, operators continue to seek tubular products that can meet the most stringent performance requirements.

By Paul Fullerton, Vice President, TMK Premium, Houston, USA

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   In both its Russian and American divisions, TMK is world renowned for its development of premium products and services for companies in the global oil and gas industry.

   ULTRA™ Premium Connections – A Tradition of Excellence
In the U.S., TMK’s line of ULTRA Premium Connections are produced at four facilities – Brookfield, Ohio; Catoosa, Oklahoma; Houston, Texas and Odessa, Texas. Although ULTRA Premium Connections have only been manufactured since 2004, they come from a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship that dates back to the mid-1960s. The story began with a fishing tools and accessories manufacturer in Odessa, Texas – Curley’s Machine Shop – which serviced customers in the nearby oil and gas-rich Permian Basin. In 2004, Curley’s acquired the intellectual property rights to the thread form patents that are the basis for ULTRA Premium Connections, which are currently manufactured by TMK IPSCO.

   Over the past five years, ULTRA Premium Connections have enjoyed remarkable success in oil and gas projects across the U.S. where sophisticated horizontal and/or directional drilling techniques are required to unlock deep hydrocarbon reserves.

   “Most first-generation premium connections took the buttress thread, tightened the tolerances and added metal to metal seals to ensure gas tightness. For many years, this design worked well – that is, until the advent of horizontal and directional drilling,” said Paul Fullerton, Vice President of TMK Premium. “This new form of drilling, particularly in the U.S. shale plays, added a whole new dimension for the requirement of premium connections. Strength in compression, torsional strength, fatigue life and resistance to shock loading became important.” 

   Several ULTRA Premium Connections have undergone rigorous testing for strength in these categories in order to receive qualification under the ISO 13679 CAL IV standard, most recently the ULTRA-QX Premium Connection, which was qualified in July 2011. The ULTRA-QX™ Premium Connection is designed to maintain gas tight pressure integrity while enduring the stresses of high torque and severe bending. It is ideal in extreme depths, laterals, frac pressures and intense temperatures.

   One of the biggest success stories for ULTRA Premium Connections has been the shale gas plays in the U.S. where energy companies have been especially active in recent years. The Marcellus Shale, which stretches from upstate New York through Pennsylvania and into Ohio and West Virginia, is estimated to contain enough natural gas to meet U.S. demand for the next 100 years.
“ULTRA Premium Connections are designed specifically for the new deep shale drilling methods used in the Marcellus Shale,” said Fullerton, “but the other shales, particularly the Barnett, Woodford, Haynesville and Fayetteville, will also play a big role for us as we continue to develop our business.”

   TMK Premium Connections Conquer the Extreme Drilling Conditions in Russia
While ULTRA Premium Connections have enjoyed considerable success in the U.S. in recent years, they have also begun to penetrate the Russian market, where several of TMK’s largest oil and gas customers are located. In early 2012, the Orsk Machine Building Plant, which is part of TMK’s Oilfield Services division, began producing casing with ULTRA-FJ™ Premium Connections and has shipped orders to both LUKOIL and Gazprom. With the highest tensile efficiency of any true flush-joint casing connection and equal – or greater – compression efficiency, the ULTRA-FJ Premium Connection is the strongest flush-joint connection on the market today, outperforming many semi-flush connections offered by TMK’s competitors. The ULTRA-FJ Premium Connection is now considered a staple in both mature oilfields and new plays alike.

   “These shipments of our premium product, new for the Russian market, to such large companies as Gazprom and LUKOIL demonstrate our ability to offer innovative products of the highest class to our partners,” said Sergei Bilan, TMK Vice President for Premium Products and Services.

   In January 2012, a delegation from Gazprom traveled to the U.S. to visit TMK IPSCO’s new R&D Center and several of the company’s manufacturing facilities, including the Houston plant where ULTRA Premium Connections are produced. The company’s representatives were interested in seeing the manufacturing process first-hand and learning more about how the products could meet the demands of Gazprom’s most complex projects.

   One of Gazprom’s most challenging projects is taking place in Nadym, an area in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District of Russia’s Far North that contains vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Russia’s far northern and Arctic regions are often claimed to be the next frontier in hydrocarbon development.

   “The area around Nadym is not only extreme, the gas located there is in extreme formations,” said Piotr Galitzine, Chairman of TMK IPSCO. “Gazprom Dobycha Nadym, Gazprom’s local production subsidiary, has been tasked with bringing annual gas production up to 47 billion cubic meters within the next few years. In order to accomplish this, they will need our high-performing ULTRA Premium Connections.”

   “Gazprom previously acquired integral-connection pipe only by importing it,” said Sergei Rekin, General Director of TMK-Premium Service. “Now they will be able to purchase this product along with deliveries from TMK’s Russian family of premium connections. Close cooperation has been established between the Russian and American divisions, and we are now developing production of ULTRA Premium Connections in Russia at the Orsk Machine Building Plant. This is also helping to develop the partnership with Gazprom. This visit will undoubtedly serve to further develop cooperation between our companies.”

   Along with ULTRA Premium Connections, TMK’s Russian family of premium connections has also enjoyed considerable success. Many of these connections have undergone the same rigorous CAL IV qualification testing that ULTRA Premium Connections have passed. Most recently, tubing with TMK PF premium connections were qualified under the ISO 13679 CAL IV standard at the Oil States Industries international testing center in Aberdeen, Scotland. Casing with TMK PF premium connections has already been run successfully at a number of major projects in Russia, including Gazprom Neft’s South Priobskoye field in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District of western Siberia and Novatek’s Yurkharovskoye field on the Tazov Peninsula in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, also in western Siberia. The latter was a particularly difficult project, as the well consists of both a vertical section, which is located in the onshore zone, and a horizontal section that is located offshore. TMK was the first Russian pipe company to run a string in this type of well.

Expanded Premium Production in Both Hemispheres
   As a result of increased demand for TMK’s premium products, manufacturing operations are expanding both in Russia and the U.S. In addition to the line of ULTRA Premium Connections, in October 2011, a new line to thread TMK Premium Connections was commissioned at the Orsk Machine-Building Plant. In the U.S., production capacity for ULTRA Premium Connections was doubled at TMK IPSCO’s facility in Brookfield, Ohio when a second thread line was commissioned in March 2011. In May 2012, TMK IPSCO began development of a new 69,000 square foot facility in Odessa, Texas to expand, upgrade and consolidate the company’s operations. One major benefit will be improved production and reduced response times for customers. Finally, earlier in 2012, TMK IPSCO began development of a new 33,000 square-foot pipe threading and service facility in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Once completed in late 2012, this facility will thread a full range of ULTRA Premium Connections, as well as offer a full line of accessories, services and repairs, thereby helping to satisfy increasing demand for proven premium connections as the Canadian market continues to shift towards unconventional gas and oil resources, such as those found in the nearby Horn River, Montney and Duvernay shales.

   Apart from expanding production, TMK is also busy developing new products to meet the diverse needs of customers in the markets it serves across the globe. As oil continues to remain a key part of the world’s energy balance, the company is expanding its portfolio of products designed for corrosive and extreme environments.  The scope and speed of these development initiatives has been greatly enhanced following the opening of the company’s new R&D Center in Houston, Texas, which is working in close cooperation with RosNITI – TMK’s research and development division based in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

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