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Printing a 3D tank: ideas suggested by youth

Date of publication: 17 July 2018 Printable version

International Youth Science and Technology Conference of oil transporters takes place in Kazan.

How to print a huge oil storage tank using a 3D printer? Can trained dogs detect a leakage at an oil pipeline? What alternative sources of energy could be used at oil pipeline transportation facilities? Answers to these and other questions were offered by young oil pipeline experts.

They presented their ideas at the international Transneft Youth Science and Technology Conference with participation of member companies of the International Association of Oil Transporters. This professional forum was held in Kazan from May 29th to 31st.

Making work simpler

Fledgling specialists from the Company’s 12 subsidiaries scattered over all parts of Russia, from Khabarovsk to Moscow, from Ukhta to Novorossiysk, flocked to the conference held at the premises of Transneft Kama Region. All of them were preselected during the two previous stages at their enterprises and at interregional level, so each of them realised that winning would not be an easy thing.

Their reports were rated in terms of novelty, the level of elaboration on the subject, the degree of relevance and the economic effect of implementation; the speakers were appraised by their presentations. Among the developments were both new gadgets and software products. For instance, Aleksandr Barinov from Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area created a device for cleaning tanks’ outer walls from impurities and rust. He explained that his development would mean immediate money savings for the company which would not have to hire contractors to wash tanks. A big upside is that you do not have to climb high and spend 16 hours of working time to clean the tank’s surface from impurities, because this device does the work without special equipment or hiring single-discipline specialists – industrial climbers – thus bringing tangible economic gain.  

In addition to projects ready for implementation, there were also ideas that need large-scale preparations to be realised. For example, the proposal of Svetlana Gredasova from the Company’s Samara branch. She studied the possibility of using a state-of-the-art 3D printing technology for constructing oil loading tanks and supporting equipment.   

The Uni robot seemed to hint the rookies by its very presence at the fact that the Company is ready to consider such ideas for operations in the future. Throughout the entire conference, the robot entertained and coordinated the participants, as the life of the party, sharing the “AI view” with the guys. What’s more, a mobile app was released specifically for the forum to provide its participants with quick access to all the information about the conference, including photo reports. This came in handy, since the conference anticipated both scientific and cultural parts. The latter included spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and interactive exchange as well as tours of Kazan and the island city of Sviyazhsk as well as other entertainments.

Innovative mindset

Not only did fledgling specialists deliver their reports and have some fun during the three days; they also had enough time to exchange experience and get charged with enthusiasm for their future endeavours.

The international format was particularly useful, since they could hear reports by and rub shoulders with representatives of oil transportation companies from China, Hungary, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Chinese colleagues spoke about the use of neural network data analysis technology for optimisation of oil transportation processes. Representatives of Belarus prepared a report on an oil pipeline leakage detection programme.

In their turn, foreigners could see modern Russian operations. They visited Kovali-1 petroleum products pumping station commissioned at the end of 2017.   

During a tour of Transneft Kama Region’s museum, Russian and foreign rookies were shown how oil pipeline transportation started off in Tatarstan back in the 1940s, how the industry of crude oil transportation via trunk pipelines (new at that time and still promising now) evolved. The tradition of submitting rational proposals that took root in those years still works today so that youth can implement their future ideas.

The practical slant of the conference was balanced by research projects of students who presented them in a separate section. Kazan was flooded with students from Moscow, Vladivostok, Tyumen, Ukhta, Tomsk, Ufa and Samara universities. Tyumen’s Vladislav Shelomentsev who invented a method of countering icing on overhead transmission lines won the first prize. The second prize went to the Ufa students Dmitry Bylinkin and Nikita Berezhansky for developing a mathematical model allowing to forecast equipment failure. The third prize was split between two projects. One of them, prepared by Vladivostok’s Aleksei Balabukha, regarded the development of special software to calculate the optimal number of drag-reducing agents. Other winners of the third prize are Aleksandr Yershov and Aleksei Burkov from Moscow, who shared their studies to intensify the flotation treatment of waste water.  

“The students demonstrated their innovative mindset,” noted Pavel Revel-Muroz, the Chairman of the Contest Committee and Vice-President of Transneft. “They were vibrantly promoting their stance, never shy to answer the jury’s questions. So after graduation these guys are welcome to join our ranks. Who else, if not the youth, will develop oil transportation system in the future?! We see innovative technologies changing our industry, with novel materials emerging, environmental and industrial safety standards getting tougher and tougher. Young and creative people thinking out of the box and, most importantly, taking all things close to their hearts, may certainly answer emerging challenges.” 

Look into the future!

In the section of fledgling specialists, competition was even stiffer than among students. Not in vain did Mr Revel-Muroz mention that the jury were as much on edge as the participants themselves. It took more time to review the results than was originally planned, since it was a tall order to choose the best out of the best. They suggested that all contestants should continue their work, since none of them was overlooked.

“I’d like to highlight some of the works by fledgling specialists,” said professor Boris Mastobayev, a member of the Contest Committee, Head of the Oil and Gas Transportation and Storage Chair at Ufa State Petroleum Technical University. “Among them is construction of tanks using a 3D printer. This is a matter of distant future. It may take another 10 years for this problem to be solved, but it’s important to start thinking about it now. The lubrication system upgrading is another promising idea. Using alternative sources of energy at remote pipeline transportation facilities is a very exciting project as well. I mean using the energy of stray currents along with solar energy. A short time ago I visited a conference in Austria which was totally devoted to alternative sources of energy. It’s gratifying to see that our young experts share the same mindset and keep abreast of the epoch.”

The participants contended for the conference’s challenge cup which, like it did last year, went to an employee of the Company’s Bashkir subsidiary, Transneft Urals. Yegor Mikhailov from Tuimazy Oil Pipeline Directorate admitted that the victory surprised him quite a bit.

“That was a hard-won сup because I’ve been running for it more than half a year, since the first round of the conference,” the winner emphasized. “My development has already been partially implemented at our company, and until the year’s end they will start using this solution at all drainage protection units which are installed at railway crossings of pipelines. Electric trains going by rails generate stray currents, which penetrate the ground and cause corrosion on pipelines. A current as strong as 1 ampere is capable of corroding 9 kg of metal per year, whereas our instruments detect  current intensity of up to 500 amperes! Our Company uses drainage protection systems as a safeguard against stray currents, but their operation cannot be controlled remotely. Because the sites where the systems are located are rather distant, I proposed that devices for automatic recording of parameters and their subsequent transfer, i.e. telemetry gadgets need to be installed. I also suggested that stray currents augmented by solar panels could serve as sources of their power. Now, stray currents charge a battery powering a telemetry unit, while we remotely receive data about the equipment’s operation; this allows considerable savings of both time and money”.  

Yegor hopes his idea will be used as the basis for implementing a similar project within the entire Company. The young expert mentioned he had new ideas brewing in his brain and, if the conference terms allow his participation, in two years from now he would be delighted to reach the finals of the scientific forum once again.

“Thanks to the reports of our young trailblazers, we can look into the future,” underlined Robert Galiev, Director General of Transneft Kama Region, in his address to the conference’s participants. “Your take on routine processes will allow us to make them more efficient and safe. May your ideas find application in our everyday operations!”

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