Yamal shift

The Yamal Peninsula is a special region of Russia. It is a real oil and gas depository of the country. Over 30 years employees of Spetsgazavtotrans (Gazprom owns 51 per cent stake in the company) perform their job duties in completely inhabitable living conditions.

In the 1980s every oil and gas company involved in developing the Far North was switched to the rotational and expeditionary operating mode, envisaging a long way to the facility and back. The transportation scheme is developed individually for each specific destination point.

We decided to follow the route taken by employees of Spetsavtotrans of Gazprom– this is the full name of the company – to the Novoportovskoye oil, gas and condensate field located on the east coast of the Yamal Peninsula.

At 6 am on February 11, 2015. Airport of Izhevsk.

People from different cities and towns — Magnitogorsk, Tchaikovsky, Votkinsk, Sarapul, Igra and Izhevsk – are gathered near the check-in desk for our flight.

Manager Olesya Yegorina is responsible for arranging the departure of rotation workers from the capital of Udmurtia.

The rotation workers carry not only their personal belongings, but also spare parts, tools and even satellite dishes needed for good leisure time.

We use the Izhavia airline for a charter flight to the Mys Kamenny Airport. The company has cooperated with Spetsgazavtotrans for over 30 years now.

In fact, first air travels for Soyuzgazavtotrans, the former name of the company, were arranged back in 1985, when planes delivered not only the company’s employees, but also KrAZ-256 dump trucks for the Yamburgskoye field pre-development.

We make this 1,700 kilometer flight by AN-24. The plane is not large, but reliable and comfortable. The flight time is over five hours, with a landing for fuelling in the Nyagan airport.

Words by Vladimir Vysotsky come to mind:
“The North, will and hope – a land with no ties,
White pure snow like living long without lies.”

The take-off runaway of the Mys Kamenny airport is located at the sand spit of the Ob Bay. The airport was founded in March 1947, yet only in 1959 it was available for acceptance and release of passenger planes.

Luggage is collected in the ‘self-service’ mode.

Now we are destined to drive by personnel carries along the winter motorway to the Novoportovskoye field.

The airport is a little over 100 kilometers away from our destination point, but it took almost the same time to reach it as the flight from Izhevsk to Mys Kamenny.

We finally arrived. This is the shift camp at the support base of the Novoportovskoye oil, gas and condensate field.

We could not miss the opportunity to have a look at the process of the field pre-development. Spetsgazavtotrans is constructing here a rotators camp and the field’s support base, and also performs well pads and roads dumping.

The leaders of the Tchaikovsky company of service vehicles and special equipment, a branch of Spetsgazavtotrans, hold the greatest responsibility for the construction. Anatoly Karpov, the Branch Deputy Director for Production, has been working at the facility from the very first day and he has a very good grasp of production issues: “It is always challenging to start working at a new facility.”

Accurate fulfillment of job responsibilities largely depends on foreman Vasily Korobeinokov. The foreman shall not only understand documents well, but also have a sound practical expertise and managerial skills.

The main part of the rotators camp boardinghouse was put into service by Spetsgazavtotrans back in November 2014. Today the employees of Gazprom Neft (company developing the field) are accommodated in the improved buildings. They can use a canteen, gym, medical office with an isolation unit and other necessary rooms.

At the field support base two PBC-2000 tanks for diesel fuel storage are installed.

The construction site of the warm storage at the field support base.

The system for the thermal stabilization of soils like a refrigerator was mounted under the storage in order to keep the permafrost frozen in the summer period.

The inner part of the future warm storage.

“Experts are the most valuable asset of our company,” says Andrey Gerasimov, a site supervisor. In our talk he admitted that he had adjusted to the rotation work method for a long time, and now this mode of living had become his second nature.

Insulation worker Sergey Ogleznev was hired by Spetsgazavtotrans in 2004, while he had started working for the oil and gas industry in 1986. He was brief describing his work: “I got used to field conditions, and cold is not a trouble for me.”

The Northern work does not imply small points, sometimes a minor negligence may lead to bad consequences. Even at a small height, installers fasten fall protection harnesses in compliance with safety instructions.

While constructing facilities in permafrost conditions it is important, so to say, to get off the ground, install pile trestles, where grillages (top part of pile or pier foundation) and steel works are later assembled. Welders are the most important people at this stage of work.

Salavat Zaidullin, welder.

Andrey Andreev, welder.

Nikolai Fefilov, welder.

They say that the modern youth wouldn’t go to work in the North “for all the tea in China”. This is false. We met a lot of young people here. Vyacheslav Goikov, a 30-year welder is one of them.

Installer Rauf Saifullin, for instance, used to work at various construction sites in the harshest climatic conditions. Nevertheless, he instilled his fondness for the North in his son Ruslan.

Ruslan Saifullin also chose to be an installer and now he is working together with his father.

20 kilometers off the field’s support base, Spetsgazavtotrans is dumping the well pads and the access roads to them. Two affiliates of the company are busy with it: the Construction center of contractor works and the Tchaikovsky enterprise of process vehicles and specialist equipment.

The whole area of the activity consists of numerous lakes and marshes, therefore well pads and roads dumping is only possible in the winter period, whereas the slope reinforcement will be carried out in summer.

The Yamal roads are built by layerwise deposition of soil from respective pits.

One of the main tasks faced by Sergey Petrayev, head of truck fleet No. 3 – maintaining uninterrupted operation of dump trucks.

When dumping soil on well pads, land surveyors carry out pre-construction mapping every 30 centimeters, to ensure that the ground is flat and level. In the photo – land surveyor Anton Vorobyov.

Anton’s workmates, land surveyors Vladimir Matte and Alexander Danilov, also do the mapping and position themselves about 100 meters away from a well pad.

Strong winds and challenging temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius are just some mere trifles for Vladimir and Alexander.

Well, it’s time for us to go back home. We are heading to the Mys Kamenny Airport together with rotation workers keen to see the Mainland. This time, it took us more than six hours to drive 100 kilometers, because snow showers had affected the roads.

The sun almost disappeared behind the horizon when we finally reached the Mys Kamenny settlement. Driver Mikhail Shchenin (in the photo) will pick up a group of newcomers and drive back.

As for us, we will be home in a few hours.

Ruslan Maslovsky, Alexander Burtsev, Nikolai Syuvaev (Spetsgazavtotrans, subsidiary of Gazprom) and Gazprom website Editorial Board.

You can find large-size images in Photos.