Experts Report on Technologies for Pipeline Renovation in Russia

By Elena Zhuk, April 15, 2013

Currently, Russia’s primary pipelines transport approximately 750 billion cubic meteres (bcm) of natural gas and 500 million tons of oil annually, according to data presented by Valentin Mezhevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation Committee on Economic Policy at the Moscow International Energy Forum on April 10. Yet, depreciation of pipeline transport assets already exceeds 60 percent and may rise up to 90 percent by 2020 if no preventive measures are taken, he added.

"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 Sergey 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.

Construction of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline is one of Gazprom’s major new projects. 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.

“XXI century demands reliability and safety of every system," Georgyi Makarov, advisor to president of the VNIIST, the All-union Pipeline Construction Scientific and Research Institute, noted at the Forum. According to Makarov, the Russia’s fuel and energy complex plans to produce new infrastructure with longer life spans than the 20-25 years service life of USSR products. This issue raises particular engineering challenges, e.g. developing high-duty, highly viscous pipes rated for higher pressures. “Increasing wall thickness over 30-33 mm is unreasonable," commented Makarov, explaining the specific amount of metal per structure question. Other questions include adopting factory-applied coating instead of field-applied ones, and welding with the CRC-EVANS complex instead of hand welding. New engineering solutions that were successfully implemented in the construction of ESPO (Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean) oil pipeline could also be applied to solve these important questions.

VNIIST also proposed scheduling pipelines maintenance according to technical conditions. “Brand new conception to rate defects took time,” Makarov said. Previously, it was understood that there should not be any pipeline defects as a matter of principle. Now, there is a proposal to classify defects according to different technical and operational factors. The new approach will dramatically increase the scope of Transneft’s planned pipeline