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Save, Preserve, Prevent

Date of publication: 6 July 2020

The Siberian oil pipeline company aims to prevent emergency situations.

This year, declared at Transneft the year of industrial safety and industrial control, has set up not a scheduled drill, but a real and dangerous test of the professional skills of Transneft Siberia’s emergency rescue team: the oil pipeline employees came to help Norilsk and participated in elimination of the diesel fuel spill for over two weeks. Yevgeny Zinichev, Minister of the EMERCOM of Russia, has expressed his gratitude for their well-coordinated, effective work. Of course, it is not the first time the employees demonstrate it.


The emergency rescue team is made up of professionals who have received special training and certification. Photo: Transneft Siberia Press Service

Being ready to start eliminating an accident at any moment, wherever it happens, is a very important task, but even more important is preventing emergencies: to identify weaknesses in advance; to repair, upgrade and modernise elements of the extensive infrastructure of the oil pipeline industry. We will discuss it with Dmitry Mikov, Head of the Industrial Safety and Operational Control Section of Transneft Siberia.

In the last week of June, the rescuers were transferred back to the areas of their permanent location; the equipment they used returned to the bases. And, judging by the distances, speed and scope of work, Transneft's subsidiary conducted a large-scale special operation.

Dmitry Mikov: In total, more than a hundred people were transferred by helicopters from one of the airfields of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area to Norilsk. We gathered specialists from our business units, which are closer to the circumpolar zone of Krasnoyarsk Region. In early June, Victor Bronnikov, Director General of Transneft Siberia, and Yury Malov, Chief Engineer, flew to the disaster area with the first team of rescuers, employees of the Urengoy Oil Trunk Pipeline Directorate. They assessed the situation, chose the optimal site for a tent camp, developed an action plan and coordinated the operations in all the following days.

Every hour was valuable: our specialists worked around the clock, their shifts lasted 12 hours. 9,288 m3 of oil-containing fluid was collected from the water surface into airtight containers, which is almost half of all collected petroleum product. In total, 25,339 m3 of fuel and water mixture were collected and pumped into temporary storage tanks thanks to the joint effort with other rescue teams.

Our specialists used the company’s special-purpose vehicles and equipment, 820 m of booms and 16 oil skimmers of domestic production, including those manufactured at Transneft’s factories and Central Production Service Shop (Grinda-4). It's not just the amount of liquid collected that is impressive. When the level of petroleum product in a container was 1.5 m, the height of the bottom layer consisting of water was no more than 2 centimetres. That is, the amount of diesel fuel in the collected product was not less than 99%. This testifies to the high technological level, reliability and efficiency of the Russia-produced oil skimming equipment at our disposal. No failures occurred.

The success of this, as you put it, special operation, to a decisive extent was determined by thorough training of the "fighters”. We regularly conduct emergency response drills with installation of booms on river and lake surfaces. This is especially important since the abundance of water bodies and boggy areas is a special feature of Western Siberia. Promptness and mobility are the key criteria for evaluating performance of emergency rescue teams.

Dmitry, how many people are involved in them? Who are they?

Dmitry Mikov: There are about three dozen people in the professional team of the Specialised Directorate for Emergency Prevention and Response (SDEPR). And there are almost ten times as many non-regular rescuers. All of them have been trained and certified by the commission of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation for the right to perform gas rescue and other urgent work in elimination of accidents and emergencies. They also passed strict medical assessment, as the requirements set out for the health of rescuers are high.

Of course, the oil pipelines, whose length in the area of responsibility of Transneft Siberia exceeds 10,000 km, are objects of exceptional importance that require special attention. Preventing oil spills, and if an incident does occur, minimising the damage and dealing with the threat quickly is our first priority. However, there are many other facilities in our huge company that pose a hazard under certain circumstances. We teach our personnel action algorithms for any emergency situation. There should be no confusion.

This begs the conclusion: investment in prevention is incomparably less than the cost of eliminating the consequences of any kind of emergency. And by which amounts and quantities does your company measure the volume of preventive works on modernisation?

Dmitry Mikov: I would like to emphasise that the process of pipeline inspection is continuous. We inspect not only long-operated areas, but also quite new ones. Specialists analyse the nature of changes, the degree of wear and tear of the pipe, and depending on the indicators they make a schedule of defects elimination and repairs. In construction and commissioning of a new pipeline section, hydraulic testing and in-line inspection are performed. Every welding seam is "X-rayed". If there is a slightest suspicion regarding reliability, the sections are rejected and cut out.


Dmitry Mikov: The process of pipeline inspection is continuous. Photo: Transneft Siberia Press Service

And what does this process look like in numbers?

Dmitry Mikov: Last year, over seven thousand kilometres of oil pipelines were inspected, 116 kilometres of the route were replaced. Using different types of inspection tools, the cavities of 63 underwater crossings were inspected. On the whole, about two thousand defects were eliminated in the system. In 2020, we plan to inspect at least 10 thousand kilometres of trunk pipelines, to check the condition of 69 underwater crossings. And there are dozens of tanks being reconstructed, new electric motors, pump units...

Could you give specific examples?

Dmytro Mikov: Here you are. On the territory of Yugra, a 43.8 km section with seven crossings over water obstacles of the Krasnoleninskaya – Shaim – Konda oil trunk pipeline was overhauled. It took less than two years to lay what is in fact a new section. It was put into operation after successful hydraulic testing for strength and tightness, as well as after technical and biological land rehabilitation. The Urai Oil Trunk Pipeline Directorate intends to complete the second stage of the revamping – a 24-kilometre section of the oil pipeline – in autumn.

As part of the comprehensive technical upgrading programme, repairs were performed within a clearly defined timeframe at some oil pumping stations and trunk pipeline sections in Tyumen and Tomsk Regions, Khanty-Mansi and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Areas. Sections with defects of the Surgut – Polotsk pipeline were replaced, the underwater crossing via the Nartinskaya River at the Aleksandrovskoye – Anzhero-Sudzhensk line was replaced, new mainline pump units were installed at the Mugen-4, Kedrovoye-1 and Iliichevka stations, electric pump units are being replaced at other PS.

After technical upgrading, the oil pipelines once again comply with the strict requirements of industrial and environmental safety. Ensuring this is our mission.

On a related note

The emergency rescue team of Transneft Siberia possesses equipment which allows working in hard-to-reach areas and under difficult climatic conditions. For example, floating excavators on original amphibious chassis (they are manufactured at Tyumen Machinery and Repair Plant, a business unit of Transneft Siberia) are used for works in boggy areas. There are also swamp buggies, an emergency recovery train with cross-country vehicles, cargo and passenger caterpillar transporters-tractors, a mobile diesel power plant. Emergency rescue teams of the company always win first places in the contest of the Regional Office of the EMERCOM of Russia. Last year, they were recognised the best in the Ural Federal District.

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