Transneft Far East, operating the second phase of trunk pipeline Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean (ESPO-2), is recognized as the leader of environmental activities among the entities of the Transneft system in 2016. The company was awarded this honourable title, following the results of a corporate contest. Now the Far East subsidiary is involved in the activities of the Environment Protection Year – such is the name given by Transneft to the year 2017 which is part of the Year of Ecology, announced in Russia.
Sensors on guard
The second phase of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean pipeline runs through the territory of four regions in Russia’s Far East: Amur, Khabarovsk, Primorsky, and Jewish Autonomous regions. Already during construction of ESPO-2 Transneft has set as one of its top priorities avoiding any damage to the unique nature of Russia’s Far East, conserving the forest ecosystem, and, what is also important, the ecosystem of rivers. ESPO-2 crosses 41 water barriers and more than 502 small streams and creeks. Overall, 19 underwater crossings of the oil trunk pipeline have been built all along the pipeline. Most lengthy and challenging are crossings over the rivers Zeya, Bureya, Amur, Khor, and Ussuri. Thus, the line length over Amur reaches 30 km.
“Technical and technological solutions used in pipeline construction, thanks to innovation, ensure a high level of equipment reliability and safety,” says Director General of Transneft Far East Roman Kovalev.
And this is so indeed. The unified control system (UCS) monitors, among other things, the key oil transportation parameters: pressure, flow, and temperature.
To reduce the risk of oil leakage along the underwater crossings and thus prevent the possible contamination of water bodies, the UCS records any deviations from the standard parameters along the entire process section. If need be, a command is given to shut down mainline block valves located on the opposite shores of a water barrier and the flow over the pipeline is automatically suspended.
Another smart system of leakage detection and activity control enables to detect a hypothetic oil spill thanks to a fibre-optic cable laid along the entire length of the pipeline in the immediate proximity, which is used as a sensor. This sensor responds even to insignificant ground vibration and temperature fluctuations and then compares the parameters at a real facility to benchmarks. In case of any differences in the data, the system sounds an alarm and very accurately locates the problem (the error does not exceed 5 meters). Dispatcher stations of Transneft Far East, regional oil pipeline directorates, and operator rooms of oil pump stations (PSs) then receive a sound-and-light signal.
“This system allows the monitoring of any activity near the pipeline, whether it be some vehicle or a human being,” adds Mr. Kovalev. In this way any deviations from the standard parameters are recorded, including seismic activity.
Saving on emissions
The use of tanks with a floating roof minimizing crude oil evaporation is one of the most efficient environment protection measures in the pipeline system ESPO-2.
“Furthermore, a vapour recycling system was introduced at fuelling stations of process facilities,” explains Head of the Environmental Safety and Rational Nature Management Section of Transneft Far East Leonid Tuboltsev. “When fuel is discharged from a tank truck into buried tanks, the workers of process fuelling stations connect pipelines to this truck for reverse pumping of vapours generated in buried tanks. This technique reduces the emission of polluting agents into the atmosphere by 60%.
And to minimize the impact on water bodies, the oil pump stations of ESPO-2 are equipped with wastewater treatment plants which cleanse the water from impurities so thoroughly that this water can then be dumped to fishery basins. Therefore, the regional river-drainage ecosystem of Russia’s Far East, rich in various resources, is not damaged.
Everything is under control
Since its very foundation, Transneft Far East has developed a consistent approach to environment conservation matters. An environmental safety and rational nature management section was formed as well as respective services at the branches – regional oil pipeline directorates Belogorsk and Dalnerechensk. These structures monitor compliance with the relevant environmental regulations across the board.
Their efficiency is corroborated by the fact that during the construction and operation of ESPO-2 not a single case of exceeding the maximum permissible concentration of harmful substances has ever been detected.
“Environmental monitoring is carried out by three accredited laboratories,” says Mr. Tuboltsev. “They are staffed with skilled personnel and outfitted with up-to-date equipment. The key mission of the labs is chemical and physical-chemical testing, as they constantly and scrupulously check natural streams and wastewater, soil, bottom sediments, and the air.
Some 3,170 samples were taken at the facilities of Transneft Far East in 2016, including 2,609 samples taken by the company’s labs and 561 samples received from third-party contractors.
Such strict control allows realistic environmental impact assessment both while operating the facilities of ESPO-2 and in emergencies.
The company does its best to preclude emergencies while being fully braced up for an effective response, should any emergency occur. Thus, a fleet including specialized motor boats that operate in the Amur basin functions in a regular regime. Also operating are special units equipped with winter and summer booms, oil skimmers, containers for temporary storage of hydrocarbons, waste disposal plants, and special vehicles.
A major emphasis is placed on raising the skills of employees and emergency response drills with hundreds of these annually conducted at Transneft Far East, to train oil spill prevention and response.
Tigers appreciate care
This effort brings about the anticipated results: not a single accident has occurred since the commissioning of the facilities of Transneft Far East. In 2015 and 2016, the company was honoured with the title of EcoLeader in Khabarovsk region. The company’s project of ensuring environmental safety and energy saving programme was recognized as best among similar developments of large companies operating in the region. Compensatory environment protection measures also play their role. Thus the company injects fish fry into the rivers of the Amur basin (the plan calls for letting 1.7 million fry of chum salmon, Amur sturgeon, and wild carp into local waters), monitors yew trees, the nesting sites of storks, and the transplanting of endangered flora species.
In 2016, Transneft Far East conducted recertifying audit for compliance of its operations with the requirements of international environmental standard ISO 14001:2004. The audit established that “the tested relevant processes and activities are well-planned, managed, assessed, and constantly improved in accordance with the company’s standards.” International certificates were obtained.
Nature provides even more important certificates. In January 2016, the seaside section of the second phase of oil trunk pipeline Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean became a favourite ground for Siberian tigers. The security personnel of Spassky district in Primorsky region spotted endangered predators in the zone of oil pump station No. 40, on a weekly basis during the dark hours.
“This is not the first appearance of tigers in the area of ESPO-2 facilities,” reminds Mr. Tuboltsev. “Their numerous traces were found near PS No. 36 in Khabarovsk region as well as near PS No. 41 in Anuchinsky district of Primorsky region not far from the village with a telling name of Tigrovoye (“Tiger’s place”).
Striped cats are known to require vast hunting grounds. While building and operating the pipeline, Transneft Far East took utmost care to conserve the habitat of animal and plant species. All previous and subsequent years are treated as Years of Ecology by the company’s management, even if they are differently named.