Gas keepers

February 24, 2016

It is well known that natural gas consumption is highly uneven. This is primarily related to seasonal fluctuations of demand. In order to smooth out these irregularities, special storages are needed for stockpiling excess gas, storing it and, in cases of increased demand, providing it to consumers. An underground gas storage is the most efficient and safest solution.

Today, during a heating season, the Underground Gas Storage (UGS) network of Gazprom secures around 20 to 40 per cent of gas supplies to the domestic and foreign markets.

It all started 60 years ago.

The Council of Ministers Decree on Measures to Ensure Reception of Stavropol Gas by Moscow Consumers No. 1673 was signed on September 12, 1955. The Decree marked the start of the UGS history in the Soviet Union as the construction of gas storages was essential for accomplishing the strategic task set out in this document.

The development of the domestic UGS sector was not quite typical. A fast and cost-effective way of creating a UGS facility is to use a depleted reservoir. Such was the case in Canada, where the first gas storage was constructed in 1915. In the Soviet Union, the first UGS facility, Bashkatovskoye, was built in 1958 inside the Bashkatovskoye depleted gas field near Buguruslan in the Orenburg Region. However, there were no such convenient reservoirs in the central areas of the USSR and the issue had to be dealt with in a different way. It was resolved to construct the Kaluzhskoye and Shchelkovskoye UGS facilities in aquifers. The first UGS well was drilled in 1957 near Kaluga and the second one – in 1958 near Shchelkovo of the Moscow Region. In the archive photo: Kaluga, August 1959.

Moscow started receiving gas from these UGS facilities as early as in the autumn/winter period of 1963–1964. The archive photo shows the construction of a gas engine compressor workshop at the Kaluzhskoye UGS facility.

In the 1960s the studies of aquifers potentially suitable for gas storage went on. During this period the Gatchinskoye UGS facility, which is still operational, was built in the Leningrad Region. Later on, the Kasimovskoye (Russia), Poltoratskoye (Kazakhstan), Incukalns (Latvia), Osipovichskoye (Belarus), Olishevskoye, Chervonopartizanskoye (Ukraine), Abovyanskoye (Armenia) and many other underground gas storages came into existence. In the photo: Gatchinskoye UGS facility.

In the 1970s and 1980s, depleted gas and gas & condensate fields were widely used for the UGS construction. They were located in the Stavropol Territory (Severo-Stavropolskoye UGS facility), Saratov Region (Peschano-Umetskoye, Elshano-Kurdyumskoye, Stepnovskoye UGS facilities), Orenburg Region (Sovkhoznoye UGS facility) and Bashkiria (Kanchurinskoye UGS facility).

In the 1990s, the UGS network was further developed. The Kushchevskoye, Punginskoye and Krasnodarskoye UGS facilities came into operation in depleted fields and the Nevskoye UGS facility – in an aquifer. In the photo: construction of the Kushchevskoye UGS facility, 1998.

At the end of the last century, the retrofitting of the existing UGS facilities was launched and automated process control systems were introduced.

Existing and projected UGS facilities of Gazprom in Russia

Gazprom operates 26 gas storage units at 22 UGS facilities in Russia today: 17 units were built in depleted gas fields, 8 – in aquifers and 1 – in a salt cavern.

As was mentioned above, Gazprom sees UGS facilities as the key tool for shaving peak loads and regulating seasonal consumption inequality which is increasing every year.

Therefore, the increase in the potential maximum daily deliverability by the withdrawal season start-up is one of the primary tasks of the UGS development strategy in Russia. Over the four autumn/winter periods, it has grown by 150 million cubic meters – up to 770.4 million cubic meters. By the next winter, this figure will amount to 789.9 million cubic meters.

In the future, the potential maximum daily deliverability of Russian UGS facilities will exceed 1 billion cubic meters of gas (by comparison, the corresponding figure for all UGS facilities worldwide averages 7 billion cubic meters).

In January 2014, the domestic UGS facilities attained a record level of daily deliverability – 725.2 million cubic meters of gas (42 per cent of the total gas consumption in Russia then) at the height of the withdrawal season. In the photo – the Krasnodar underground storage. The photo was taken at that particular freezing period of peak demand.

After a severe and long winter, gas reserves need to be replenished. The gas injection period starts in spring. Out of the 22 domestic UGS facilities, southern storages are the first to be filled with gas. For example, the Kushchevskoye gas storage (in photo above), where horizontal wells were drilled for the first time in the domestic UGS history. Due to this engineering solution, the facility’s performance was improved considerably.

Other unique solutions also find application in underground storage. Such is the case with the Gatchinskoye UGS facility. Here gas is stored in an aquifer (first time in the global practice) with no usual geological trapping. Tight and impermeable rocks are known to form a kind of a ‘dome’. Inside such domes, in more permeable reservoirs, it is possible to accumulate gas which displaces water from a dome due to a high pressure. There is no such trapping in the Gatchinskoye UGS facility. In order to prevent the gas loss, a faster withdrawal mode is used there.

Another gas storage worth mentioning here is the Kasimovskoye UGS facility – the largest one among the storages created in aquiferous formations. The photo shows preparations for gas withdrawal – the equipment testing is underway.

The Kaliningradskoye UGS facility is the youngest of Gazprom’s operating storages and the only one in Russia created in a salt cavern. Its technical advantage is that it can be promptly converted from the injection mode to the withdrawal mode and back. The experience gained from the UGS construction will be applied in the projects for building the Volgogradskoye and Novomoskovskoye (Tula Region) UGS facilities.

Almost every UGS facility has something worth saying about. The same is true of the people who work for Gazprom UGS (Gazprom’s wholly-owned subsidiary which consolidates underground gas storages located in Russia). The company employs over 7.7 thousand people representing 188 professions united by a common cause. Sometimes it becomes a family occupation, such as for the Karzanov dynasty that works in the Kanchurinsky UGS Directorate. In the photo: brothers Denis and Vitaly and their father Alexander.

If you create a collective portrait of a Gazprom UGS employee, it will be a man about 40 years old, a blue-collar worker with a professional experience of more than 12 years. Alexander Utkin (see the photo), an oil production operator, fits this profile quite well.

Driver is another widespread profession in the company, along with the production operator. In the photo: Denis Pchelintsev – best driver of Gazprom UGS – winner of the last vocational skills competitions. It is really difficult to compete with Denis. His career history even includes police service with risky pursuits of offenders.

The most experienced employee of Gazprom UGS is Mikhail Efremov, a well puller at the Moscow Emergency Response & Well Workover Directorate. His professional age is almost 50 years.

Gazprom UGS workers, whom we may figuratively call the gas keepers, cherish their history. For instance, the Nevskoye UGS Directorate is named after Sergey Barmin, Hero of the Socialist Labor who was in charge of Lentransgaz from 1967 to 1989. He made a great contribution to the gas supply development in the northwestern part of our country. The photo captured the moment of unveiling the memorial bust of the legendary gasman in the premises of a branch company in 2013.

This is another monument. It is installed at the Elshansky UGS facility. Such 10 GKN gas engine compressors (‘samovars’ as the storage workers tenderly call them) were installed here in 1967 when the UGS facility was commissioned. Over time, their small capability could no longer comply with the growing working gas capacity and the increasing daily deliverability of gas storages. So it raised the need to fit UGS compressor stations with high-performance equipment. During the re-equipment process, it was decided to keep one of the ‘samovars’. The gas compressor service employees put together the disassembled unit carefully, piece by piece.

It should be noted that Gazprom is intensely upgrading the equipment of gas storages. The obsolete equipment is being taken out of use. In the photo: gas engine workshop No. 3 of Gazprom UGS, Moscow branch company. Although still operational, it currently serves as a backup reserve. In the photo: operators Arthur Badovsky and Valery Kolomyitsev performing scheduled maintenance of the facilities.

This is a new compressor workshop of the Shchelkovskoye UGS facility during the startup operations carried out last winter. 14 gas engine compressors were replaced by four highly automated gas compressor units Saturn-4 RM.

Cutting-edge equipment with higher efficiency and reliability standards was also installed at the new compressor workshop of the Elshansky UGS facility. Two state-of-the-art domestically produced gas compressor units (GCU) 10UGS 01, Ural series, with a total capacity of 20 MW were mounted there instead of eight units produced by American Solar.

This is the Kaluzhskoye UGS facility – one of the first reconstructed gas storages in Russia.

Existing and projected UGS facilities abroad

The story about Gazprom’s UGS facilities will not be complete without mentioning our foreign projects. In order to balance out its gas export, the Company is using storage capacities in Austria, Armenia, Belarus, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands and Serbia.

For instance, in Belarus Gazprom operates three UGS facilities: Osipovichskoye and Pribugskoye – in aquifers, Mozyrskoye – in salt caverns.

In Armenia Gazprom uses the Abovyanskoye UGS facility in salt caverns.

In the photo: Rehden gas storage in Germany.

Summing up our story, we should mention that nowadays Gazprom is among the global leaders having the largest volumes of gas reserves for operational needs. By the 2015–2016 withdrawal season, Gazprom’s domestic UGS facilities will hold 72.018 billion cubic meters of operating gas reserves. The Company keeps on boosting the UGS capacities by constructing new gas storages in Russia, such as the Arbuzovskoye, Bednodemyanovskoye, Volgogradskoye, Kaliningradskoye, Novomoskovskoye, Shatrovskoye UGS facilities and the Udmurtia reserving complex, as well as abroad: the Katharina UGS facility (Germany) and Damborice UGS facility (Czech Republic). In the photo: the world’s largest Severo-Stavropolskoye UGS facility.

Gazprom UGS PR Service and Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large photos in the photo album.