Yuzhno-Russkoye field – power of nature for benefit of people

September 25, 2012

So, we hit the road again. This time we will try to show you the everyday life of “gasmen-in-production”. The beauty of northern nature and living conditions of native population will also be in focus of our camera. An exciting journey is waiting for you; so, as they say on TV, stay tuned!

We wanted to know how gas is produced in harsh tundra conditions, so we accepted an invitation from two companies, Severneftegazprom and Nord Stream AG – members of Gazprom Group, initiators of the press tour to the Yuzhno-Russkoye field for Russian and foreign reporters. During our trip we are going to visit production facilities and a reindeer herders camp. While we are on the jet from Moscow to Novy Urengoy, we would like to tell you more about the field.

The Yuzhno-Russkoye oil, gas and condensate field is located in the northeastern part of Western Siberia, in the Krasnoselkup District of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area. The field is one of the largest in Russia by reserves currently exceeding 1 trillion cubic meters of gas and 40 million tons of oil and gas condensate.

The first prospecting operations were conducted in the region in the late 1960s. On November 17, 1969 the Urengoy prospecting expedition received an inflow of gas from the Cenomanian deposits (depth varies from 900 to 1,700 meters) during tests in exploratory well No.6 – that was how the field was discovered. Field development was launched in the 21st century – in January 2006 the field pre-development started and in October 2007 the field’s startup complex became operational. In 2009 the Yuzhno-Russkoye field reached its annual design capacity of 25 billion cubic meters of gas one year ahead of schedule.

June 2010 marked a new stage in the history of the Yuzhno-Russkoye field – for the first time in Russia development of the Turonian gas deposit (depth averages 800 meters) began, and yet in May 2011 the first gas was produced from a pilot well, and on December 5, 2011 the Turonian gas was fed into the Unified Gas Supply System (UGSS) of Russia.

The field is located in a remote area. The fastest way to get there – by taking a helicopter in the New Urengoy airport and flying some 200 kilometers to the East, over the endless tundra, almost uninhabited area (some time ago it was the only route; nowadays, a nice road, a kind of the “Krasnoselkup Highway”, is laid to the field).

We are leaving behind the Novy Urengoy airport.

It’s fascinating to see the endless tundra. In winter it looks like a snowfield spreading to the horizon and it’s hard to imagine that thousands of lakes are hidden under the snow.

The sand beaches look inviting. Unfortunately, the weather is not good enough for swimming. Although, it’s a hot day (which doesn’t happen often in this region), the water temperature is far from feeling comfortable. You can go swimming here like a pond skater, in the surface of the warmed up water and in the mid-summer only.

Sometimes, you can see production facilities on the way. This is the Urengoy compressor station.

Quirkiness of nature.

On the way from Novy Urengoy to the field we pass by the Urengoy settlement. Back in the 1960s it was the major center of geological exploration and home of geologists-discoverers of the giant Urengoy field. And further back in time – in the late 1940s – the settlement was one of base stations for building the so-called Trans-Polar Highway – the project for laying railroads in Northern Russia along the Northern Polar Circle. This project is also known as the “501st building site” or the “dead road” that was built using the labor of thousands of the Gulag prisoners and that was never finished.

We are approaching the field – the line pipes converge in one point. This is the field’s gas gathering network that conveys gas from wells to the comprehensive gas treatment unit (CGTU) that purifies and dehydrates natural gas and then delivers it to the Unified Gas Supply System (UGSS) of Russia.

And this is the CGTU itself.

We see a shift worker’ camp at a safe distance from the production facilities. Workers specializing in gas production live there. There is not a house within hundred kilometers around. Very stringent conduct rules including the dry law apply within the camp.

Mi-8T helicopter is the main and the fastest transport in this land.

The North is severe :) We are welcomed by this cute wolf, made of worn-out spares and scrap metal by the craftspeople of the mechanical and repair service.

After the settling we are given instructions on safety techniques. The hosts warn us that there are a lot of mosquitoes here and advice to dress properly. When we saw the amount of mosquito repellent in the room number, we understood that the trip was going to be interesting and unforgettable. On the photo there is a monument to a mosquito, made by the same mechanical and repair service.

Before our visit to the production facilities, the management of Severneftegazprom tells us about the company and the field. In the center of the photo is Stanislav Tsygankov (Director General), on the right-hand side is Boris Sannikov (Deputy Director General for Personnel and Social Development), on the left-hand side is Andrey Kasyanenko (Deputy Chief Engineer).

But it is time to see everything by ourselves. We pass the main checkpoint and head to the building where the main control room, the heart of the field, is located.

The Yuzhno-Russkoye field has the most up-to-date equipment in Russia. The workers control the technological process without leaving the room. There are 250 workers at the field during the rotation. Operating staff executes round-the-clock control of the production process and adjusts equipment operation parameters. Other workers maintain gas wells, water supply and discharge systems, perform transport operations, inter-field roads maintenance, repair and check up of process equipment, well inspection. The rotation lasts one month. After a month of hard work the workers go back to the place of permanent residence and the next shift team replaces them. On the photo: in the background – Sergey Savenkov, the shift team chief, in the foreground – Anatoly Novopashin, 6th grade gas production operator.

Gas production from the field is as automated as possible. Most of the operations are carried out without human assistance. Vladislav Razgon, Deputy Head of the Gas Production Service, demonstrates us the machine enabling to regulate gas supply from the well to the gathering line in a remote mode.

He demonstrates proudly the well fitting constructed with the use of the most advanced engineering solutions.

There are currently 143 production wells at the field. Anatoly Andreev, the gas production operator (4th grade), “starts” the well, i.e. delivers the gas contained in it to the gas collecting system.

A well is like an iceberg. Only its small part is located above the surface. Its underground part represents a complex construction consisting of pipes of various diameters nested in each other at the depth from 900 to 1,000 meters or deeper. Not all the wells are vertical. There also sub-horizontal ones, where the underground part of a well is parallel to the surface. There are also slanted wells – a combination of vertical and sub-horizontal wells.

Gas-dynamic study of a well is always accompanied by the well output flaring in a well cluster. Though this sounds strange for non-professionals, but this helps to control the field development process, determine the formation characteristics and well operation parameters.

We pay a short visit to the comprehensive gas treatment unit (CGTU). It looks like a sophisticated web of pipes, but actually it is a complex structure consisting of modern engineering solutions, cutting-edge technologies and the highest quality of staff working here.

Marat Husulin, field supervisor, welcomes us.

This building is the switch equipment station. Gas flowlines stretch to the station and unite in the single gas main. This is also the starting point of commercial gas supplies.

And this is how the switch equipment station looks like inside.

Construction in permafrost conditions is very specific. In order to prevent permafrost from thawing, buildings must be constructed on piles. Otherwise, the foundation will be moved together with the house. The piles and the foundation must be equipped with special protection. All these pipes on the photo are heat stabilizers that prevent permafrost from thawing. They are filled with Freon-22 gas that serves as a heat accumulator.

These are pig launchers and receivers. Gas workers call them scrapers or even pigs or piglets among themselves. These devices clean gas pipelines from water and mechanical impurities.

The Turonian reserves of the Yuzhno-Russkoye field are estimated at 300 billion cubic meters. These reserves are industrially significant. However, though the Turonian gas lays higher than the Cenomanian gas (Turonian deposits – some 800 meters deep and the Cenomanian deposits – from 900 to 1,700 meters deep), it is harder to produce due to low permeability, along-strike variability, low gas rate, low reservoir temperatures, proximity to permafrost formations and abnormally high reservoir pressure.

Marat Husulin demonstrates proudly flowline No. 3, which moves gas from the Turonian deposit to the CGTU. Well No. 174 is an experimental one built specifically for the Turonian gas production.

The two-branch sub-horizontal well structure enables to carry out gas production from two Turonian deposits simultaneously or separately. The unique home-manufactured well equipment costs 100 times less than its analogues made in the USA.

This pipeline moves commercial gas to the UGSS. Though it looks rather small on the photo, there are not many people high enough to reach it.

The field has a fire station, where the fire fighters held a short training demonstration for us.

The station always stays on alert. Aside from maintenance of production facilities, the fire station helps fight forest fires in the region.

Pyotr Maryin, the fire engine driver, says: “I live and work in Urengoy since 1991 after finishing my military service. I’ve come to love the North Region and decided to stay here forever”. We wish successful work to the fire fighters and go back to the rotational camp for a tasty dinner and overnight stay.

The next day we had a vast cultural program – visit to the reindeer herders camp and the Krasnoselkup settlement, the regional center of the eponymous Krasnoselkup District of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area, which is called the region of countless fur resources. We loaded our hardworking Mi-8T plane with important goods (there are no unimportant goods here) for the herders camp. The Director of the reindeer collective farm was glad to take the occasion and deliver food supplies and housewares to the employees. The farm employs several reindeer herders families who graze the herds in different pastures. Severneftegazprom supports the indigenous people not only by delivering goods to the reindeer herders camps, but also by ensuring favorable conditions for living, working, studying and leisure. The company financed the IT system at school No. 17 of Novy Urengoy. It also sponsors the construction of the Seraphim of Sarov Church, construction of accommodation in the Tolka and Ratta settlements, purchases diesel fuel for indigenous communities, sponsors the children’s ice-hockey team Geolog and a number of sports and cultural venues and events. Recently, it made a special present for children from needy families – arranged a trip to Germany.

In addition to mosquito repellents, we received the protective clothing – mosquito nets. They turned out to be very useful as the mosquitoes in the camp were really wild. If it wasn’t for protection, they would eat the media team alive.

We fly again above the endless tundra. There are no roads here, only the so-called winter roads that function only in winter.

In Krasnoselkup the aircraft commander deftly landed the helicopter near the concrete ground.

The settlement originated in 1933 at the place of the Selkup herders camp called Nyary Mach. In English translation it means “swampy tundra forest”. As gas fields were discovered the number of habitants started to grow. After the decline of the 1990s the settlement is experiencing its revival through the help of Gazprom. It is being restored and rebuilt. A new school has been built, the roads are under construction, a new gas pipeline is being laid from the Yuzhno-Russkoye field.

Then we get into the helicopter again, heading to the reindeer herders camp. The ability of the crew to choose the landing spot from the air and land on it is the evidence of professional excellence. The case is that the tundra here is very much like a big soft bog. It’s possible to walk here but the surface is swampy. After the touch down, the flight mechanic immediately rushes out of the cabin and watches how the landing gear presses the ground. If something looks wrong, he makes a sign and the aircraft commander lifts the aircraft off. By the way, a bit later one of us fell into the water two meters away from the landing spot.

After the unloading the helicopter departs for topping-up.

And we are going to meet the Selkups.

The inclement nature leaves a mark on the way of life of these people.

The Krasnoselkup District is among the least populated in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area. A little more than 6 thousand people live there. Among them – about 1,300 Selkups who maintained a traditional nomadic way of life. The average population density is less than 10 persons per 100 square kilometers.

On the contrary, there are too many mosquitoes we were warned about before. At first, some visitors were skeptical about mosquito nets, but soon everybody put them on. Even natives happen to put on mosquito nets.

A reindeer can purr like a cat. And it has shaggy horns. This one was receiving courtship with great pleasure.

Children live with their parents till the study begins. Then they move to Krasnoselkup, to a boarding school where they get education.

Hospitality is the hallowed principle. If you come under the raw-hide tent, there is no doubt you will be offered a cup of tea and something to eat.

Several families live here looking after the herd. In summer they roam once in two-three days, in winter they can stay in one place up to one week. The thing is that reindeer feed on reindeer lichen, which grows very slowly (3 to 5 millimeters per year). In order to avoid pasture depletion it is necessary to move the herds to another place.

The dogs protect the herds, bay the reindeer and simply savor the life. Usually they stay outside, but in bad weather they come under the raw-hide tent.

A small Selkup ran after his mother but got into a muddle of a bush and fell down. He stood up on his own and started crying. His crying could be heard in the whole neighborhood till his elder brother came back for him. Then he neither wanted to walk, nor to receive help from strangers.

A summer type of the raw-hide tent. In winter it is covered with more fell layers and the floor is made of wood boards.

A young family with a first-born, who is only several months old. Earlier, Vitaly grazed deer on his own and now he works for a collective farm, where he has approximately 200 deer of his own besides the “collective” deer.

Unofficially, Yamal is considered the world’s center of reindeer breeding. The amount of domestic reindeer in Yamal is more than 600 thousand animals – it is the largest herd in the world.

The herd numbers 3,000 animals in this collective farm, approximately half of them are privately-owned.

Our short stay came to an end – it is time to fly to Novy Urengoy.

We take off and encircle the camping ground.

The herd looks extremely beautiful from above.

Welcome to the airport. Our short trip is over but we are full of lively unforgettable emotions and hope to see again this wonderful place filled with the nature’s energy and people who live and work here. The North is severe, but very beautiful and we will undoubtedly return here!

Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large size images in Photos.