Vitaly Markelov: Winter is a severe test and Gazprom has passed it triumphantly
April 4, 2012
The spells of anomalously cold weather that swept through Russia in February tested the robustness of the domestic gas industry once again. Vitaly Markelov, Deputy Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee and the Company’s production block supervisor told in his interview to the Website Editorial Board about Gazprom’s activity during that period and the Company’s plans for the next winter.
- Gazprom always gets ready for winter in advance. What in particular was done at the Unified Gas Supply System (UGSS) facilities by the autumn/winter period 2011–2012?
The Company has created a preparation system for another autumn/winter period. Preparations start with an overview of the last winter results, then objectives are determined for the forthcoming period and, indeed, control is established over the planned activities.
In this way, we prepared the UGSS facilities for the last autumn/winter period. The operating results of Gazprom’s subsidiary companies and organizations over the 2010–2011 heating season were addressed by the Management Committee on April 21, 2011 and by the Board of Directors on May 17. The Management Committee Chairman approved the Guidelines on preparing the Company’s subsidiary facilities for operation during the autumn/winter 2011–2012. The relevant activities were elaborated by each subsidiary company.
Gazprom experts visited process facilities as before to control their performance. The full readiness of the UGSS facilities for operation during the winter period was confirmed at the October meeting of the Management Committee.
Here are some cold figures. As to the upstream facilities, scheduled preventive maintenance operations were performed at 48 booster compressor stations and 176 comprehensive gas treatment units (CGTU), capital overhaul was completed at 579 wells including 444 wells in Western Siberia. A CGTU with the annual capacity of 2 billion cubic meters was commissioned at the Nydinskaya area of the Medvezhye field and three booster compressor stations with the total annual capacity of 94 MW were put onstream at the Urengoyskoye, Vyngaiakhinskoye and Komsomolskoye fields. Besides, 130 new wells including 120 gas and gas condensate wells and 10 oil wells were built.
Now, about the gas transmission system. 1,821 kilometers of gas pipelines were overhauled, 16.2 thousand kilometers of gas pipelines underwent in-line inspection and electrometric survey of 18.6 thousand kilometers of gas pipelines was conducted. 568 gas compressor units were repaired. Moreover, Gazprom increased productivity of underground gas storage (UGS) facilities to record high by the heating season start-up.
You see, we did a great job. We achieved what we set out to do – the UGSS was prepared for winter and, inter alia, for peak loads.
- Was the last winter a grave challenge for the Company? Should we congratulate Gazprom on successfully finishing the winter season?
Every winter is a grave challenge, a test of the ability to work consistently and to arrange the technological process despite weather shifts. Gazprom passed another such test triumphantly. During a great drop in temperature we took every precaution to ensure sustained gas supplies to Russian consumers, while giving special attention to supplying socially significant facilities, population and utility sectors. Taking into account the current weather conditions and the fact that today it is the beginning of April, we may say that the winter is nearly over. The Russian Federation consumers had no problems related to natural gas shortage.
Every winter is a grave challenge, a test of the ability to work consistently and to arrange the technological process despite weather shifts. Gazprom passed another such test triumphantly
- Were there any contingency events last winter?
We prepared ourselves well, so I’ll give a brief answer – there were no contingency situations.
- Despite the very cold weather, it was possible to avoid introduction of Schedule 1 this season. What helped to avoid it? Name the main record figures you achieved.
It was possible to avoid introduction of Schedule 1 owing to failsafe operation of each chain of the great system called the Unified Gas Supply System. In addition, we procured the relevant peak load sendout capacity of underground storage facilities that allowed promptly responding to growing demand as well as in the gas transmission system itself. It was the availability of optimal gas inventory in the GTS that ensured sustainable operation and reliability of gas supply to consumers during the February cold peak. The nature was helpful as well – the last December and the first half of January 2012 were rather warm.
However, by the end of January a cold weather settled in across most of Russian regions. This caused a rapid increase in gas consumption, first of all, by utility and social enterprises. They pushed up the daily gas consumption by 160 million cubic meters and on separate days more than 470 million cubic meters were offtaken. At the same time, industrial enterprises and power plants also increased the daily gas consumption rates above the prescribed volume and even above the daily fluctuation in gas consumption (80 to 110 per cent) permitted by the Gas Consumption Rules. As a result, the domestic daily consumption level in Gazprom’s GTS reached 1.76 billion cubic meters on January 31. That was an unprecedented case. For instance, last winter the gas consumption peak that fell on February 21, 2011 made up 1.6 billion cubic meters per day.
Under these conditions all standby facilities for gas production, underground storage and transmission were put into operation. Thus, on separate days gas production was at 1,614 million cubic meters versus the planned volume of 1,549.5 million cubic meters, that is a 64.5 million excess. Gas recovery by independent producers within the UGSS area was also brought to the maximum level, however, in peak periods independent producers could daily add only 6 million cubic meters of gas to the whole total.
The record maximum daily withdrawal rate in the Russian UGS system was recorded on February 2. It stood at 638.7 million cubic meters. At the same time, on February 2 gas consumption in Russia made up 1,902.4 million cubic meters that exceeded the planned amount by 15 per cent and this was also the record amount. The peak gas withdrawal rate from UGS facilities made up 33.7 per cent of the domestic gas consumption last winter.
- During the cold February period the gas withdrawal rate from storage facilities approached the maximum level permitted for the heating season start-up. How could Gazprom attain so high productivity in the last winter month when UGS facilities are usually depleted?
Back in January 2011 the Company approved the Activities on Facilities Construction, Re-construction and Commissioning in 2011 as well as the Assignment on Developing the Underground Gas Storage System until 2015. Execution of these Activities as well as short-term and long-term peak load sendout capacity of UGS facilities by the withdrawal season start-up provided secure operation and reliable gas supply to consumers and even to reach the record withdrawal level when necessary.
- Has Gazprom started to prepare itself for the next winter? Have you defined the planned indicators of the UGSS readiness?
Preparation of gas production, transmission and underground storage facilities for the forthcoming winter actually starts after the end of the previous winter period.
The Schedule of Comprehensive Preventive Maintenance and Repair Operations at UGSS Facilities in 2012 is ready by now. It is planned to carry out operations at all the upstream facilities comprising 176 comprehensive gas treatment units (CGTU) and 49 booster compressor stations (80 workshops) in accordance with the Schedule during planned shutdowns. Capital overhaul will be carried out at more than 500 wells including some 400 wells in Western Siberia. The following facilities will be commissioned this year: two CGTU with the annual capacity of 69.44 billion cubic meters, one gas cooling plant with the annual capacity of 25 billion cubic meters, four 358 MW booster compressor stations and several hundreds of wells.
Nowadays we are shaping action plans for gas transmission companies. For instance, we are planning operations that need to be carried out during a “neutral period” between the withdrawal and injection periods. The task is absolutely simple: the gas transmission system has to be fully ready for severe operating conditions before the calendar winter. We need to carefully plan all running repair operations at the linear part and compressor stations, define repair operations at the linear part and compressor stations, set precise timelines for repair operations and, undoubtedly, ensure stringent control over their duration.
Construction and commissioning of new UGS capacities is underway. By the forthcoming withdrawal period Gazprom is planning to increase the short-term peak load sendout from 65.2 to more than 66 billion cubic meters. The maximum daily sendout will be raised by more than 20 million cubic meters (at the beginning of the last autumn/winter period consumers could daily receive up to 647.7 million cubic meters from UGS facilities) by the withdrawal season start-up.
- How great will be the contribution of new production capacities, first of all, field capacities (Bovanenkovo, Samburgskoye) to gas production in Russia during the winter peak (million cubic meters per day)?
Bringing the Bovanenkovo field onstream will secure the daily production growth to 100 million cubic meters starting from 2013. The Samburgskoye field owned by SeverEnergia will produce at most 6.3 million cubic meters per day.
Taking into account these commissioned facilities, we expect that daily gas production by Gazprom may reach about 1,644 million cubic meters during the 2012–2013 winter period. I stress it again: this is a forecast. At the same time, it is almost 2 per cent higher than the peak production level achieved last winter.
Daily gas production by Gazprom may reach about 1,644 million cubic meters during the 2012–2013 winter period
- Has the last winter revealed the necessity to build new gas storage capacities in Russia? Will you resolve to speed up some gas transmission and storage projects in the country? What regions need them?
We approach the strategic task on raising the daily UGS sendout in a stagewise manner. Starting from the USSR dissolution Gazprom managed to raise the maximum daily sendout of Russian UGS facilities from 300 million cubic meters to 647.7 million cubic meters, and this is a twofold increase.
The last and the current autumn/winter periods have revealed the importance of UGS development in the context of building up the daily sendout of the Company’s UGS facilities both in Russia and in Europe.
According to the Activities, it is projected to commission three new UGS facilities before 2015 – Kaliningradskoye, Volgogradskoye and Bednodemyanovskoye. Construction will start at another three UGS facilities – Shatrovskoye, Novomoskovskoye and Arbuzovskoye.
By the 2015–2016 withdrawal season we expect to bring the main performance figures to the following levels: short-term peak load sendout – 76.6 billion cubic meters, maximum daily sendout by the withdrawal season start-up – 872.1 million cubic meters and the average sendout in December–February – 674.1 million cubic meters. This is approximately 17.5, 34.6 and 24 per cent higher than the operating results achieved during the last autumn/winter period.
Talking about the more distant future, we have approved the Program for Developing Russian UGS Facilities between 2011 and 2020 to Increase Daily Deliverability to 1 Billion Cubic Meters elaborated by Gazprom VNIIGAZ. It sets out everything in detail and provides for further stepping up of the UGS facilities development after 2015.
Starting from the collapse of the USSR, Gazprom managed to raise the maximum daily sendout of Russian UGS facilities from 300 million cubic meters to 647.7 million cubic meters, and this is a twofold increase
- What regions need UGS facilities at the moment?
During anomalously cold weather snaps the increased gas demand is observed, first of all, in the Central and Northwestern Federal Districts. It doesn’t mean, however, that new UGS facilities should be built particularly in these regions. Owing to the fact that UGS facilities operate within the Unified Gas Supply System that regulates gas supplies to consumers, natural gas is supplied from UGS facilities of the Southern and Volga Districts to Central Russia, for example, and UGS facilities of the Central District secure gas supplies to Northwestern Russia. The UGSS flexibility allows supplying Russian consumers with gas in full by redistribution of gas flows throughout the entire system.
- Will the launch of the Bovanenkovo field help ease the load on gas transmission capacities stretching from Urengoy?
The start of gas production from the Bovanenkovo field is related to bringing onstream the first strings of the following new gas pipelines: Bovanenkovo – Ukhta and Ukhta – Torzhok. These are state-of-the-art gas pipelines with the operating pressure of 120 Ata and 100 Ata accordingly. Later on, the second strings will be built with the identical operating parameters. This new gas transmission system will annually convey more than 100 billion cubic meters of gas.
Pipes welding during construction of submerged crossing via Baidarata Bay, Bovanenkovo – Ukhta gas pipeline
Gazprom is planning to bring into production the reserves of the Nadym-Pur-Taz region that are not so prolific, of course. Additional infrastructure will be built at the existing fields, new booster compressor stations will be commissioned at production sites. Therefore, there will be no sharp decline in gas production in the north Tyumen Region, and gas pipelines running from the Nadym-Pur-Taz region will be unloaded in a rather smooth way.