Only after travelling across half of the country may one realise the scale and significance of the truly groundbreaking event: commissioning of the ESPO oil pipeline. Hydrocarbons are now streaming from fields of plenty in Eastern Siberia to Russia’s Far East and beyond, to the fast-growing markets of Asia and the Pacific. This marks a new chapter in the history of the national oil pipeline industry.
Looking Beyond the Horizon
A cold wind knocking you down. Rushing choppy waters of the Sea of Japan. This is what we saw at the port of Kozmino, the easternmost point of the Russian land for the ESPO (Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean) oil grade, which is a blend of oils extracted in Eastern Siberia. The hydrocarbons are then exported to China, Japan, South Korea and other East-Asian destinations using large tankers. But that’s not all, the Siberian oil is well-known and appreciated even in the far-off United States.
The port of Kozmino is one of the most up-to-date, hi-tech ventures in the industry, that crowned the grand-scale project of the ESPO pipeline construction. In 2019, the port is celebrating its anniversary. Ten years ago, the first batch of oil to be exported was loaded onto the Moscow University tanker.
They installed the port complex right in the rock, whose apex had to be literally truncated. Many thousand tonnes of solid rock were removed by trucks to clear 52 hectares of land to accommodate the high-capacity oil depot. “We set out to construct the port of Kozmino in May 2008. The works were carried out on a tight schedule and were completed in just one year and a half. But we delivered on the Russian government’s assignment nonetheless. As early as on 28 December 2009, the initial 100 thousand tonnes of oil transported over the ESPO system were sent abroad,” says Denis Cheplyansky, Director General of Transneft Kozmino Port.
Prior to the ESPO commissioning, oil had been transported to the port of Kozmino only by rail. Received at loading racks, the oil was then pumped over the 23-km-long pipeline towards the oil depot’s tank farm. When there was enough oil to fill a tanker, the crude was loaded onto it. The first phase of the port counted seven tanks. They took care of one berth, where the sea transport was loaded –that was about 15 million tonnes of crude a year.
In 2010, three more tanks were put into operation at the oil depot. The oil shipment was brought up to world-class standards. Two years later, construction of the last ESPO section was completed, so crude started flowing to the port directly. As a result, transshipment doubled, reaching more than 30 million tonnes.
Starting in April 2016, oil has been delivered to the port of Kozmino exclusively over the oil trunk pipeline.
Along the Planned Route
The port received its current look two years ago, with the Company having commissioned two more oil storage tanks as part of its effort to increase the delivery capacity of the ESPO oil trunk pipeline. Now, the port of Kozmino consists of four large operating facilities.
According to Vadim Golovchenko, Deputy Director General for Commodity and Transportation at Transneft Kozmino Port, the port’s capacity has rocketed during the last 6 months. Now, crude is loaded at two berths, that allow for simultaneous handling of two tankers with deadweight ranging from 80 to 150 thou tonnes.
On average, more than 30 tankers loaded with crude leave Kozmino every month. The total of 239.7 million tonnes of crude have been shipped during the port’s 10 years of operation (2,388 tanker loads).
“The port’s geographical location is very fortunate, with less than 2 days needed for crude to reach the key markets. This is important, given that the demand for hydrocarbons delivered via ESPO shows robust growth.
Consumers are attracted by the oil’s low sulfur content, which ensures the quality of petroleum products made thereof,” Mr. Golovchenko points out.
The port of Kozmino has its own accredited laboratory, which makes sure that the exported crude is of stable and high quality. The control system operates on many levels, starting from oil being delivered over the oil pipeline system to it being loaded onto tankers.
The oil is loaded with unconditional precision ensured by oil and petroleum products’ lease automatic custody transfer units (LACT). With two such units installed at the port, there is no doubt that exactly the contracted amount of hydrocarbons will be shipped.
In Full View
Moving over the port’s territory, you cannot but feel amazed at the unbelievable order: trimmed green lawns, level asphalt with roadway markings, including a zebra crossing. The lack of people is surprising. The Kozmino management will only smile if you ask where the personnel is. As soon as you get to the process control center you start to understand why. Almost all operations are automated to ensure maximum safety of oil transportation.
“Now, 87 automation systems are at work here,” explains Deputy Chief Engineer for Automated Process Control Systems and IT Roman Petrashenko. “These ensure control over the oil trunk pipeline and include an entire range of sensors and systems. The delivered crude’s mass must be equal to downstream figures, with slight deviations allowable. The totality of measured parameters allows to promptly respond to any deviations, from spills to illegal tappings.
Among the latest innovations is the technology of measuring activity in the oil pipelines’ buffer zone. The sensors respond even to people just passing by, sending signals to the operator and the security division. And if someone takes a spade or some other tool and starts actively doing something near the pipe, the system will report there’s danger. An emergency response force will set out for the site to find out the reasons for this activity.
A laser docking aid system was installed at the port in 2014. It raises the safety of this challenging operation to a fundamentally new level. Marine pilots can now monitor the tanker’s position relative to the port’s moorage wall, its velocity and wind speed in real time, right on board. So it takes less time to make decisions. In 2016, the port of Kozmino was recognised as the best Russian seaport in terms of industrial safety. The port’s administration holds 180 training sessions and two large-scale drills every year, with representatives of key oversight bodies in charge of industrial safety present in the status of observers. These drills consistently confirm a high level of personnel training and the fact that the port possesses the equipment essential for responding to potential emergencies on its territory and the oil depot. Fortunately, not a single emergency has occurred so far — everything functions like clockwork in this system.
Transneft East, operating the first phase of the ESPO oil pipeline (the Company’s executive office is located in Bratsk, Irkutsk Region), is almost through with increasing the pipeline’s delivery capacity to the planned parameters: 80 million tonnes of crude a year. This year, the Company is commissioning three new oil pumping stations, Nos. 2, 5 and 7, which will conclude the construction process.
Now, there are 21 oil pumping stations in the system of facilities of the strategic Eastern Siberia — Pacific Ocean oil pipeline at the section from Tayshet to Skovorodino in addition to 12 more OPSs at the section from Skovorodino to the port of Kozmino. Starting last year, hydrocarbons from the Kuyumba – Tayshet oil pipeline have been fed to ESPO. The crude is produced in the north of Krasnoyarsk Territory. It travels 700 km along the pipe, entering the eastern oil pipeline at the initial pumping station of ESPO in Tayshet, where it mixes with crude extracted from the fields of Eastern Siberia and Yakutia to subsequently flow towards the port of Kozmino, located on the coast of the Pacific. The total distance the crude travels over the oil pipeline reaches 4,700 km.
The social and economic importance of the ESPO pipeline system in regional economy is huge. Its emergence enabled the rapid development of hydrocarbon fields in northern areas and initiated the formation of a new oil-and-gas province in Russia. Now, crude from Verkhnechonskoye, Talakanskoye and Srednebotuobinskoye fields in Yakutia, as well oil from as Yaraktinskoye, Danilovskoye, Ayanskoye, Markovskoye and Dulisiminskoye oilfields in Irkutsk Region, enters the pipe.
The new route of Siberian oil ensures Russia’s economic independence. Transneft subsidiaries operating in the territories of Western and Eastern Siberia, as well as in the Russian Far East, are the biggest taxpayers in their respective regions.
Environment conservation issues are among the key priorities for Transneft, which constantly proves this in its everyday operations. One of the unique solutions can be seen in the port of Kozmino. There is a multitude of buoys in the sea not far away from the berths. They mark the sites where hydrobionts (marine organisms) are grown by the Company’s experts. Far East delicacies like Japanese scallops, bay mussels and Japan sea tangle are excellent natural indicators of water purity. Their breeding site lies in close proximity to the Kozmino oil terminal. The vigorous growth and reproduction of these hydrobionts is a sure sign of a healthy marine environment. Specialists even started releasing juveniles into the sea to boost population. The environment created in the test waters favours the breeding of other valuable game animals. Since 2010, more than 65 thousand individuals of grey and black sea urchins, as well as 6 thousand king crabs have already been resettled to the bottom of the bay. The Company has approved a corporate biodiversity enhancement programme up to 2021 and plans to release up to 10 thousand scallop individuals into the sea at its own expense annually.