In 1863 Dmitriy I. Mendeleev, an ingenious Russian scientist who discovered, notably, one of the fundamental laws of the universe – the periodic law of chemical elements, put forward the idea to use a pipeline to transfer oil and products of oil refining. Not only he convincingly proved advantages of such means of transport against others, but also formulated the principles of its construction.
The idea was born during his visit to the oil field in Baku where the extracted oil was transported to refineries in leather bottles and barrels on araba carts drawn by horses, camels or mules. It provided work to ten thousand carriers, but the transport really was worth gold. The price of each pood (16 kg) of the extracted crude was 3 kopecks at the fields, whereas its transportation to the Black City of Baku at the distance of about 10 kilometers cost about 20 kopecks.
The idea, innovative for those times, seemed to be in the air. In any case, its implementation started almost simultaneously all over the planet. The first 6 kilometers long pipeline was constructed in 1865 in the USA. Later on, D.I. Mendeleev wrote “It seems as if the Americans have overheard me: they laid pipes, constructed plants not near the wells but near the markets, sales and trade routes.”
In the fall of 1878 the black gold started its way through the pipe of the Russian Empire. Therefore, in the year of 2013 another anniversary could be noted – 135 years since the day that the first Russian pipeline was put into operation. It wasn’t a trunk pipeline, but a field one, though it does not lessen its importance.
The customer was the Oil Production Partnership of the Nobel brothers. The project of a 9 km long pipeline was designed by another great compatriot of ours – Vladimir G. Shukhov. Few people do not know the unique hyperboloid radio tower erected in 1922 by Shukhov at Shabolovka in the city of Moscow. But few are aware that the famous engineer and architect, long before this event, became the father of the world’s first theory and practice of pipelines design, construction and operation.
Even though the capacity of Shukhov’s pipeline, as things go nowadays, was quite small (about 1.3 thousand tons/day), oil producers quickly appreciated the efficiency of the new way to transfer crude oil: oil transfer through pipeline helped reduce the cost fivefold. Having invested 10 thousand pounds into this business, the Nobel brothers managed to recover their investments in just one year, largely because they gladly accepted the oil for transportation from other producers. Surely, not free of charge and for a rate they established themselves: five kopecks per pood.
The age of trunk pipelines in our country started with construction of the Baku – Batumi fuel line upon the project of the engineer N.L. Shchukin. At that time, it was the world’s largest system of 882 km in length, 204 mm in diameter and with capacity of 900 thousand tons per year that was put in operation in the summer of 1906.
Before 1914 Russia managed to construct another three trunk pipelines (Maykop – Krasnodar, Kaluzhskaya – Afipskaya and Makhachkala – Groznyi). Then the war burst out and construction lost its priority. In 1917, the total extent of pipes in the country equaled to 1.1 thousand kilometers, and for more than 10 following years this figure remained unchanged.
Only in 1928 in the USSR the laying of large pipeline systems was resumed: the Groznyi – Tuapse pipeline 250 mm in diameter, 618 km long was put into operation. In 1930, the second line of the Baku – Batumi pipeline, 832 km long and of the same diameter, was commissioned. Two years later was completed the construction of a large oil products pipeline Armavir – Trudovaya. This pipeline became vital for the eastern regions of Ukraine and the Don that starved for gasoline and kerosene supply. In 1935, two pipelines 300 mm in diameter were commissioned: the Groznyi – Makhachkala pipeline (155 km long) and the Guriev – Orsk pipeline (709 km), one of the largest in Europe by that time.
The mid-1930s faced a sharp increase of oil extraction on the Ishimbaiskoye field in Bashkiria. The Ishimbai – Ufa pipeline (166 km long, 300 mm in diameter) was put in operation in 1936, and it ensured a non-stop crude oil supply to the Ufa oil refinery. In the pre-war period two additional trunk pipelines appeared on the pipelines system map of the country: the Malgobek – Groznyi and the Gora – Gorskaya pipelines. By the year of 1941, in the USSR 4.1 km of pipelines were put into service, 70% whereof being used to transfer crude oil.
The World War II period became a hard trial for the economy of our country, which disrupted the development of the oil industry. However, even then the construction of oil refineries required continued supply of crude oil and fuel for the needs of the fighting line and home front. At the beginning of WWII, it was decided to construct the Okha – Sofiysk pipeline, 325 mm in diameter. Out of the 368 km of its total extent, over 9 km was laid on the seafloor of the Tatar Strait. After the defeat of Hitler’s forces at Stalingrad, the Astrakhan – Saratov kerosene pipeline was laid. For its construction, the pipes of the Baku – Batumi pipeline were used that had been evacuated from the Caucasus in 1942. To facilitate the assembly, several mechanized gas pressure plants were bought in USA, so the work along the 685 km route has been completed in a record-breaking period of eight months.
In 1944 the USSR laid a pipeline in Romania, which was 225 km long - from the city of Ploieşti to the port of Reni. Via this trunk pipeline the fuel was supplied to the advancing troops of the Red Army. The total extent of oil and oil products trunk pipelines that were constructed during the years of war equals to 1.3 thousand kilometers.
Just after the end of the war, an active development of oil production between the Volga and the Urals began. It was evident that the railway transport no longer coped with ever increasing volumes of oilstock to be transported, so in 1947 the Tuimazy – Ufa trunk pipeline was completed. And one more trunk pipeline was laid in 1949 from Tuimazy oil fields to Buguruslan.
In the late 1940s, pipelines of small extent were constructed in the north (near Ukhta), in Saratov and Kuibyshev regions and in Turkmenia. During the first five post-war years, 1.4 thousand kilometers of trunk pipelines were constructed, whereas their total extent throughout the country by that time reached 5.4 thousand kilometers.
The period between 1951 and 1955 witnessed as much oil pipelines put into operation, as were constructed during the preceding seven decades. New fields in Bashkiria and Tataria were connected with the whole country by such trunk pipelines as Tuimazy-Ufa, Shkapovo-Ishimbay, Minnibaevo-Romashkino-Bavly, Romashkino-Klyavlino, Almetyevsk-Romashkino-Kuibyshev, Buguruslan-Kuibyshev, Kuibyshev-Saratov, Pokrovskoye-Syzran, Sofiysk-Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Among these Ozek-Suat-Groznyi stood apart as the first Soviet pipeline designed to transfer high-viscosity oil with heating.
By the mid-1950s, the total extent of domestic oil and oil products pipelines equaled approximately to 12k kilometers.
The period from the end of the 1950s to the beginning of the 1960s saw a construction of the largest Trans-Siberian trunk pipelines. The Tuimazy-Irkutsk pipeline was laid consistently in three segments: Tuimazy-Omsk, Omsk-Novosibirsk and Novosibirsk-Irkutsk. The first two were put into operation in 1959. The Tuimazy-Irkutsk trunk pipeline was notable not only for its extent of about 3.7k kilometers, but also for its major part that was laid through marshes.
In 1959 the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) made a decision which had a historical impact on the construction of the Trans-European oil pipeline which was called “Druzhba”. Its construction should have demonstrated the fruits of economic integration of the socialistic states: in the German Democratic Republic the units for the pump plants were produced, Czechoslovakia provided valves and fittings, automatic equipment was produced in Hungary and the pipes came from Poland. Despite the general practice, the construction of Druzhba started on December 10, 1960 from the end points. The main reason was of geopolitical nature: thus the USSR demonstrated its strong determination to provide soviet countries with sufficient amount of crude hydrocarbons.
By the mid-1964s, the basic facilities of the system were put into operation, whereas on October, 15 the official ceremony of the commissioning the trunk pipeline was arranged. The pipeline with the diameter of 1020 mm passed through the territory of Russia from Samara to the Bryansk region. From there, its branch went to Ventspils (Unecha – Polotsk – Mažeikiai – Ventspils) with the diameter of 800 mm, whereas the main pipe came from Bryansk and went westward to Belarus, where the trunk pipeline was divided into two branches. The Northern branch went through Poland to Germany, and the southern branch went through Ukraine to Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
In five years, thanks to the significant economic growth in the COMECON countries, the issue of the increase of the USSR export capacity has been raised. Later on it became clear that the pipeline at disposal could not provide for such an increase, so by 1974 in the same location a new pipeline system “Druzhba-2” was constructed, with the diameter up to 1220 mm. Thus the export capacities of the country more than doubled.
In mid-1960s, the development of large deposits in the Western Siberia began. In 1965 alone one million tons of oil were produced. However, to reach the nearest railway station from the field, one had to cross hundreds of kilometers. It was quite problematic to transport oil by rivers: navigation by the Ob and the Irtysh lasted less than six months. The pipeliners were to solve the most acute transportation problem.
So at the end of 1965 the first Siberian oil pipeline Shaim – Tyumen with the extent of 410 km was almost constructed. In 1967 the Ust-Balyk – Omsk trunk pipeline (950 km) was put into operation), with the transport aviation which was used extensively in the course of its construction. The Nizhnevartovsk – Ust-Balyk oil pipeline constructed the same year, though not that extensive (250 km), was characterized by the abundance of sections that were laid through marshlands and badlands. By the beginning of the following decade three Siberian oil pipelines ensured the transfer of 30M feed stock per year.
By 1970 along 37.4 k kilometers of trunk pipelines about 306M of crude hydrocarbons were transported daily. The system that connected the main extraction and refinement points required effective management. It was crucial to react quickly to the demand fluctuations, manage the streams in case of an accident and preventive maintenance. That is why in 1970 the government decided to create the Head Department of Oil Transportation and Delivery (Glavtransneft), which had to provide the delivery of feed stock from oil fields and supply it to domestic and foreign consumers.
During the ninth five-year plan (1971-1975) in the USSR a record number of trunk pipelines were laid, and they made up to about 19.2k kilometers. The largest of the pipelines that was constructed was the Ust – Balyk – Ufa – Kurgan – Almetyevsk oil pipeline. According to the regulations it should have been constructed in four years, though in fact it occupied just 18 months – such paces were yet unknown to the global practice. Tyumen oil obtained access to the European part of the country as well as access to export through the Novorosiysk port whereto the black gold was transferred through the oil pipeline of Kuibyshev – Tikhoretskaya – Novorossiysk that was constructed in the same years.
In 1973, when Western Siberia became the leader in the USSR in oil production, the construction of the Aleksandrovskoye – Andzero – Sudzhensk oil pipeline, with the diameter of 1220 mm and with the extent of 817 km, was completed. The feed stock went from the “Andzerka” in two directions: the western and the eastern ways. In 1975 the Usa-Ukhta oil pipeline was extended to Yaroslavl and Moscow. In a year another two trunk pipelines were commissioned, which are the Nizhnevartovsk – Kurgan – Kuibyshev and the Holmogory – Surgut pipelines.
Nevertheless, the extraction in Western Siberia continued its rapid development: the 148M level of liquid hydrocarbons in 1976 reached 312M in 1980. At the turn of decades a so-called northern corridor of transportation of the Western Siberian oil appeared, which was 3.2k kilometers along the Surgut – Polotsk oil pipeline. It had 32 refinery plants built, approximately 1.5k transfers provided through the natural and artificial obstacles, the route crossed over about 400 km of marshes.
By the year of 1987 the country had constructed 94k kilometers of oil trunk pipelines and oil products pipelines. In 1988, despite the fact that the USSR evidently was in a difficult economic condition, the following pipelines were put into operation: the Krasnoleninsk –Konda, Urengoi – Kholmogory, Chimkent –Chardzhou; in 1990 the Tengiz – Guriev –Astrakhan – Groznyi oil pipeline was commissioned. However, it looked more like an exception than the rule. Between 1985 and1990 in general everything constructed during the previous five years was completed, and among these, primarily the pump plants. The construction of new trunk pipelines had been suspended by the end of the decade.
At that time the Head Committee of Transneft, JSC included 17 departments of trunk pipelines, 572 oil pump stations, 265 Emergency Response and Restoration Stations, three specialized departments of accidents prevention and elimination, and two breakdown trains. The Head Committee included a specialized business organization for diagnostics and recovery of underwater lines (“Podvodtruboprovod”), Department of Production Ties, and the “Giprotruboprovod” project institute.
The Head Committee of Transneft, JSC ensured pumping and delivery of all the oil produced in the USSR (mean delivery range - 2.3k kilometers) annually, reconstructed over 1k kilometers of trunk pipelines. The total staff employed in the system was 61k people.
After disappearing of the USSR from the political world map, 15 new states divided the common property including the oil pipelines.
The unified system remained only in Russia. This was 48k kilometers of trunk pipelines, 404 pump plants, crude storage with capacity of 13.2M cubic meters. While some post-soviet countries began to play a favorable role of transiters of the Russian feed stock, in Russia full oil industry reorganization began.
The line ministry ceased its activity, along with which the “Glavtransneft” was also dissolved. To preserve the unity of management, 16 pipeline companies founded Transneft, JSC with the executive directorate of the former apparatus of the Head Committee. Only the industrial unity of oil trunk pipelines in Western and Northern-Western Siberia, which previously were part of the “Glavtrasneft” structure, functioned for a year as an independent “Sibnefteprovod” company.
August 14, 1993 was the birthday of Transneft, JSC, when the decree of the Council of Ministers – the Government of the Russian Federation on the incorporation of the company was adopted. This event in its essence caught up to the fact regarding the new economic relations in the country of having finally amended the role of the domestic trunk pipeline transport. The system already stopped functioning as a mediator between producers and refineries; it became a completely independent branch and at the same time appeared to be the largest global company which specialized in oil transportation.
In the period of 1990s the level of oil production in Russia declined sharply that is why any discussions about new trunk pipelines were shunned. The main task of the industry was to preserve and maintain the operating condition of those facilities that had already been constructed to be ready for a new stage of growth and development. The volumes of the crude hydrocarbons produced within the country increased again beginning from1999. Then Transneft, JSC also received a mighty impetus for further development.
In the spring of 2000, a 312 kilometer long pipeline was commissioned, which passed though the territory of the Chechen Republic. This made the transit of Azerbaijan oil through the Russian Federation along the route of Baku-Tikhoretsk-Novorossiysk more reliable. Simultaneously, to this trunk pipeline a pipeline was laid from its tank farm in Makhachkala – in Dagestan it became possible to receive Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan tankers and further send the feed stock to the Novorossiysk sea terminal. In the summer of 2001 Transneft, JSC completed the construction of the 259 kilometer long oil pipeline of Sukhodolnaya-Radionovskaya. This route allowed the oil transportation to Novorossiysk avoiding its transit through the territory of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the transit states made their attempts to dictate their own terms of transportation. This was evident in the Baltic regions, where after the breakup of the USSR oil terminals became foreign for Russia as with the Latvian Venspils and the Lithuanian Butinge. To resist the dictation of the transit states, in 2001 the Baltic Pipeline System (BPS) was created. It opened a direct route to export the products through the Primorskneft port of Timano-Pechersk region, Western Siberia and Ural-Povolzhye. The project capacity of the first stage of the BPS made up to 12M t annually. In the summer of 2003 the efficiency of the Baltic system increased by 1.5 times and reached 18M t of oil annually, whereas by the end of the year it reached 30M t. Another year the capacity of the BPS came to the level of 50M t with 74M t of oil that could be annually shipped by the end of 2006.
In the mid noughties an intensive growth of production in the northern part of Timano-Pechersk oil and gas bearing province occurred. It was necessary to increase the capacity of the Usa-Ukhta oil trunk pipeline to reach 23M t of oil annually. Within the record deadlines two PS (Taezhnaya and Pechora) were constructed, also an oil heating station at Chikshino PS was constructed as well. Massive reconstruction was carried out at the main Usa PS.
At that time, shortly before the construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline system (ESPO PS), capacity of Trans-Siberian trunk oil pipelines was increased as well.
The year of 2006 came into history of midstream operations by starting the construction of the first stage of ESPO PS. This is the largest construction project in contemporary Russia, which allows entering to a growing market of the Asia-Pacific region. The first pipes were welded in the spring of that year near the Taishet town. “This is not just a pipe: these are bridges, railways and highways, systems of communication, distribution. And everything is done at the state-of-the-art technological level,” after three years pointed Vladimir Putin, who headed the Russian government at that time, and who personally put into operation objects of the first stage. “ESPO builders worked under very difficult conditions: impassible taiga, without any infrastructure, without electricity. And now it is all set up”.
In parallel with the construction and later the extension of ESPO, the construction of ESPO-2 PS began in January 2010 and was completed in December 2012; 2,045 km of this pipeline crossed the territory of the Amur, Jewish Autonomous, Khabarovsk, and Primorsky regions.
At present, the company is expanding the ESPO PS to increase the ESPO-1 throughput capacity to 80 million tonnes, and ESPO 2 – to 50 million tonnes by 2020, as well as revamping the oil pipelines transporting crude from Western Siberia towards the city of Taishet – by 2025.
Simultaneously, Transneft continued developing and diversifying its oil transportation facilities in the western direction. In June 2009, construction of the second phase of the Baltic pipeline system-2 (BPS-2) got underway and already in March 2012, nine months ahead of schedule, a new oil-loading complex was launched in Ust-Luga and the first oil tanker filled with oil delivered over the BPS-2 departed the port. Primorsk and Ust-Luga on the Baltic Sea as well as an oil-loading port on the Sea of Japan coast in Nakhodka almost negated all risks involved in the transit of Russian crude via the neighbouring countries.
At the end of 2011, the 429-km Purpe – Samotlor oil pipeline was put into operation, with capacity reaching 25 million tonnes per year. The trunk pipeline not only accepted all crude extracted from the large Vankor field, but also became a link between the western and eastern parts of the national system of midstream operations.
It is a part of the unprecedented 485-km integrated Zapolyarye – Purpe oil pipeline project (the capacity coming to 45 million tonnes of oil per year) which was completed in 2017.
In 2012, the Company commenced construction on the Kuyumba – Taishet oil trunk pipeline, with the route mainly running through the Krasnoyarsk region. This infrastructure will allow the commercial operation of the Yurubcheno-Tokhoma and Kuyumba oil-gas fields.
The first phase of the project with throughput capacity reaching 8.6 million tonnes (the length of the linear part is 700 km) was completed in 2017.
The second phase with the capacity of up to 15 million tonnes of crude per year is slated for completion in 2023.
As part of the Sever project, the Company increases the export of diesel pumped in the direction of Primorsk port.
The project anticipates two phases:
Phase 1 – increasing the export of diesel in the direction of Primorsk port from 8.5 million to 15 million tonnes per year was completed in 2016.
Phase 2 – increasing the export of diesel in the direction of Primorsk port from 15 million to 25 million tonnes per year by the end of 2018.
The work is underway within the framework of the Yug Project, aimed at diesel supplies by pipeline transport via the Voskresenka – Samara – Volgograd – Tikhoretsk – Novorossiysk route to the domestic market of the Russian Federation, and for export to Europe via port of Novorossiysk.
The contemporary history of oil pipeline transportation in Russia is being written today.