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Over lichen without treads

Date of publication: 31 March 2017 Printable version

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced 2017 The Year of Ecology with the express purpose of calling attention to key environmental concerns and raising the level of environmental safety in the country.

Transneft considers environment protection and conservation its top priority.

“Since the design and construction stage as well as throughout the entire service life of crude oil and petroleum products pipeline transport facilities, our experts assess their environmental impact, figure out the risks and plan emergency prevention measures,” explained Andrey Zaitsev, Director of the Occupational, Industrial, Fire, and Environmental Safety Department at Transneft.


All construction projects are backed by mandatory state expert evaluation or the expert evaluation of environmental safety. Prior to the commencement of construction works, specialists of Transneft conduct an environmental survey for the future pipeline route area. Based on its results, environmental safety measures are developed, which are part of the design documentation.

When choosing the routes for its pipelines, the Company takes into account above all the location of nature reserves and conservation areas or Red Book plant species. Although this means an increase in the length of a pipeline and hence its cost, Transneft makes decisions to bypass such areas for the sake of unique Russian nature conservation.

Thus, while designing the Novovelichkovskaya – Krasnodar oil trunk pipeline, the workers of Transneft discovered a grove of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur, subsp. pedunculiflora), an endangered subspecies discovered in few places of Russia’s European south and entered into the Red Book of Krasnodar Region. Thanks to the design solution developed by the Company, this grove remained intact. There are many examples like these.

A special emphasis is placed on soil preservation. “In the course of building new pipelines or revamping existing ones, the Company remediates or reclaims the affected lands, in order to preserve the fertile layer, throughout the period of construction works,” informed Mr Zaitsev. When the Company was laying the Zapolyarye – Purpe pipeline, the Arctic reindeer lichen was the focus of special attention. It grows very slowly, only 3–5 mm a year, and it would take several decades to restore the land parcel where a fragile ecosystem was deranged. It is for this reason that the construction on the Zapolyarye – Purpe pipeline were carried out during the wintertime, when the lichen is covered with snow. The Company even used vehicles with special tires, since caterpillar treads could damage the lichen.

Not only plants but water bodies too were in focus of the oil pipeline experts. “When oil pipelines were laid over water barriers, the method of directional drilling was used; as a result, the pipeline runs under the river bed and does not cause any negative consequences, typical of the traditional duct method of laying pipelines,” explains Mr Zaitsev.


In addition, Transneft works to minimize the harmful environmental impact by its already functional facilities. The length of the Company’s pipelines across Russia exceeds 69,000 km. Apart from the pipelines, there are also oil pump stations, oil tanks, terminals, ports, etc. The Company’s key priority is to ensure their smooth and dependable operation to prevent emergencies.

“The pipelines of Transneft are equipped with the pressure control system recording any deviations from the process parameters. Most vulnerable sections like crossings over water bodies are equipped with leakage detection systems which allow the monitoring of pumped volumes at a given process section. The data received from these systems are then shown online on the displays of dispatchers, which allows expeditious detection of leakages and taking timely measures,” explained Mr Zaitsev, “including the remote shutdown of pump units and valves at an emergency section.”

Also “traveling” over the Transneft pipelines are special in-line defectoscopes developed and created in-house at Transneft Diascan, one of the Company’s subsidiaries. At the present moment, the pipes are scanned by 77 inspection tools. The in-line defectoscope moves inside the pipe with an oil flow, detecting defects in the pipe walls and welding joints, including corrosion damage, cracks, dents, etc. After collected data are processed, defect removal schedules are drawn with consideration for the degree of hazard.

With each passing year, increasingly stricter requirements are laid on defectoscopes for them to allow the detection of various defects with high precision.

All business units of Transneft maintain a high level of readiness for action in case of an emergency spill of crude oil or petroleum products. In accordance with the relevant law, any emergencies on the landmass must be eliminated within 6 hours and on the water, within 4 hours. Transneft has established 40 emergency response units (including 15 professional units and 25 non-regular emergency rescue teams). “Almost any station has a team capable of responding to any emergency,” says Andrey Zaitsev. “At our pump stations, we have collected essential materials and equipment, such as temporary tanks, which can be deployed at any point for collecting crude oil or petroleum products, as well as bulldozers, trawls, and other special vehicles ready to act at any time like the Company’s personnel, with more than 17,000 emergency response drills for Company’s specialists held every year.”

*Transneft specialists constantly monitor the environment

56 environmental analysis laboratories take air, water, and soil samples on a regular basis

275,000 tests a year allow the prevention of unexpected negative impact.



Science as guardian of nature

“The Company highly prioritizes environmental research and development,” noted Head of the Environmental Safety and Rational Nature Management Section of Transneft Elena Radchenko. “Quite a few research projects were completed and patents formalized. For instance, together with the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences we developed a biosorbent which is effective in the Arctic, on vast wetlands. The problem of all existing sorbents is that they perish under negative temperatures, are carried away or washed down by flood water. Our invention is unique: this is a microflora of the Yakut soil, planted on the natural material of zeolite having a spongy surface. At negative temperatures, the porous surface retains spilled oil, including during floods. And when temperatures rise, these bacteria are stirred to higher activity and start eating up petroleum products. This technology was successfully tested in experimental northern areas.”

Recently, another biosorbent has been developed by the Company to allow for effective removal of oil spills on the water. Earlier, sorbents after taking in oil would sink to the bottom, i.e. crude oil moved from the surface down to the deep and it was next to impossible to collect it there. Oil pipeline experts then came up with an idea to place bacteria on a natural base like peat. They applied a sorbent on peat and even if peat sinks to bottom the sorbent decomposes the absorbed crude at the bottom of any water body thus precluding contamination. Convincing results were obtained.

Real care for nature, not just lip service to environmental concerns – such has been the policy of Transneft during many years. The Company is particularly careful in selecting technologies and equipment with regard for the latest achievements in global science and technology. All environment protection measures are seamlessly fit into the Company’s daily and prospective activities. And this tremendous effort by dozens of experts brings forth spectacular results: it can be stated with confidence that all facilities of Transneft are distinguished by a high level of environmental safety.

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