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Adjusted for the North. How Oil Pipeliners Operate in Challenging Conditions

Date of publication: 11 August 2021

Safe operation of the ESPO oil pipeline infrastructure, with more than half of it located in the territory of Yakutia, is based on the following principles: timeliness, thorough monitoring and eliminating even minimum risks.

These principles guide Transneft East as it operates one of the biggest tank farms in the system of Transneft.

Automatic equipment under control

The main bulk of crude oil tanks is located at three biggest stations of the Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean pipeline system (ESPO-1 PS).  These are Tayshet IPS-1 in Irkutsk Region where the ESPO pipeline begins, Talakan PS-10 in Yakutia, and Skovorodino PS-21 in Amur Region. The intermediate stations — there are 17 in the first phase of the ESPO pipeline — have significantly smaller tanks. They are mainly used for emergency water storage and emergency oil discharge which is anticipated in the oil trunk pipeline. 

“We operate nearly one hundred tanks with volumes ranging from 1,000 to 50,000 cubic metres. Each of them is a sophisticated facility of the oil transport infrastructure. Regardless of the volume, tanks are equipped with a set of safety systems, such as the foam firefighting system, water cooling system, automation system, pressure vent and safety valves, and others. Our task is to ensure smooth functioning of these systems, carry out the planned repair of the tanks, perform annual inspection and pigging,” says head of the Company’s operation section Alexander Rybkin.  

In July, the operating staff of the Tayshet initial pumping station have completed the repair of five electric drives. This equipment operates in the work of the stop valves installed at the tank farm’s process pipelines. In fact, the electric drives ensure the timely opening or shutting of the valves every time water or firefighting foam are fed to the tank.  

The equipment was installed at the stage of the station construction and has served its life.   

During the repair, specialists decided to replace worn parts. Homemade parts with a long service life and high level of wear resistance were used as spare parts. 

Another five similar equipment units will have been repaired till September under the overhaul programme at the premises of Tomsk Electric Drives Plant.

A very special challenge

Maintaining the tank farm in good repair at Talakan PS-10 in Yakutia is a very special challenge. Challenging climatic conditions in places where tanks are operated are an additional risk factor. Therefore, Transneft East annually inspects the technical condition of the tanks’ dome roofs, unique to ESPO-1, under a special inspection programme. 

Not so long ago they completed the monitoring of five tanks having the volume of 50,000 cubic metres each.  The Company’s specialists conducted visual and ultrasonic testing of the tanks’ metalwork, levelled the hub caps of the dome roofs and bottom edges, and measured the plumb-line deviations of the tank walls. 

“Information about the current condition of metal structures has been forwarded to Transneft R&D. Based on these data, scientists will calculate the maximum admissible snow load. These data will help drafting the plan of cleaning the roofs,” Mr. Rybkin underscored. 

The regular and timely work currently performed by the Company’s specialists at ESPO oil pipeline’s facilities ensures a high level of their functional reliability, which helps them retain the status of a hi-tech and safe industrial cluster.  

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