It’s not that nothing is being done – rather, the pace of modernization is achingly slow. “In order to maintain trunk pipelines for heat supply, we must upgrade annually about 4 percent of their total length – we upgrade only 2 percent. To secure reliable operation, about 6 percent must be replaced every year. Similar situation, I think, exists in the oil&gas sector,” says Mezhevich.
The lion’s share of Russia’s 221,000 km long trunk pipelines network accounts for the natural gas industry.
“40,000 (22 percent) of 181,000 km of gas pipelines available to Gazprom were built within the last 20 years, including 3,000 built during the last year,” reported Sergei Alimov, First Deputy Head of the Gas Transportation, Underground Storage and Utilization Department, Gazprom. He noted that it is impossible to construct new pipelines or renovate old gas transport facilities without coming up with new technical innovations.
One of Gazprom’s major new projects is construction of the Bovanenkovo – Ukhta gas pipeline. The project envisages using 1,420 mm diameter tubes rated for higher pressure than earlier built pipelines that average 11.8 MPa. Since there is no prior domestic experience using these types of new pipelines, Gazprom has developed a new regulatory framework, engineering specifications, constructed a test site, and conducted comprehensive testing of the pilot batch of pipelines. “This is truly a unique experience and our foreign colleagues were impressed by the results achieved at the test site in the Kopeisk settlement of Chelyabinsk Region,” Alimov said.
Among the modern equipment utilized in the project, Alimov noted gas transporting units for booster stations, jointly manufactured by the CJSC “REPH”, St. Petersburg, and GE Oil&Gas. According to the manufacturers, the 32 MW gas-pumping unit “Ladoga” has a higher efficiency rate (36 percent), compared to Russian analogues, in addition to lower emission rates and increased operational life.
The modernization of gas pipeline sector and product enhancement help to push the boundaries of western industry players, too. For example, for the Nord Stream undersea pipeline project TDW Offshore Services AS designed and manufactured its 48’’ SmartPlug ® pipeline pressure isolation tool. Tailor-made for the Baltic project, the new SmartPlug ® is the world’s largest “smart” tool (over 12 tons). It is 30 percent larger than its well-respected 42’’ “older brother”. According to Larry Ryan, Director, Operations for TDW Offshore Services, the diameter was increased to match the pipes used in the Nord Stream project. “The new SmartPlug tool is not only exceptionally large, but is also capable of isolation at extremely high pressures,” says Larry. The SmartPlug tool was designed, built and rigorously tested by TDW (parent company of TDW Offshore Services) for pipeline pressure isolation during scheduled pipeline maintenance and potential valve change-outs at company’s global headquarters in Stavanger. The tool has been type approved by Det Norske Veritas for a maximum operating pressure of 199 Bar.
Currently, TDW and Russia’s VNIIGAZ are studying options of using SmartPlug for underground pipelines.
“As an example of our successful work with Gazprom I would