Heart of gas transmission system

April 21, 2016

Gazprom owns the largest gas transmission system in the world. An unparalleled technological complex, the system includes transportation facilities (some of which were mentioned in other photo essays, such as 72 hoursSakhalin – Khabarovsk – Vladivostok – tested by natureGetting ready for winter season; and Gryazovets – Vyborg: cross-country gas pipeline) and storage facilities (Gas keepers), as well as ensures continuous gas supply from wells to end consumers. The total length of Gazprom’s gas pipelines in Russia is 170.7 thousand kilometers. The gas transmission network includes 250 compressor stations with 3,825 gas compressor units (GCU).

This photo essay covers the construction of GCUs which represent the core of the gas transmission system and enable natural gas transmission via gas trunklines.

At present, the gas industry in Russia is entirely self-sufficient in domestic GCUs produced by a number of plants located in Kazan, Perm, Rybinsk, Saint Petersburg, and Ufa. The Saint Petersburg GCU manufacturer is REP Holding, an industrial company of Gazprombank. REP Holding is comprised of major industrial companies, such as the Nevsky Plant and ELECTROPULT Plant, as well as its own research and design institution, the Institute of Power Machine-Building and Electrotechnics.

REP Holding produces a wide range of power equipment and turbomachinery, including Ladoga gas compressor units for stationary gas turbines with a capacity of 16, 22/25 and 32 MW. Gas turbine manufacturing and testing take place within the Nevsky Plant which we visited first.

The Plant was founded in 1857. The company has been designing and producing power machinery – gas and steam turbines, centrifugal and axial compressors, and blowers – for over 75 years. In 2007, the Plant joined REP Holding. Drawing on investment assistance from Gazprombank, a large-scale renovation was carried out. It resulted in the construction of new production shops, introduction of modern technologies, and procurement of unique equipment.

The Nevsky Plant has a highly qualified staff. In fact, Saint Petersburg is going through rapid industrial development; technical professions are prestigious and in demand. When our witty interviewees at the Plant speak about their technical school, they mean Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Russia’s leading institution of higher technical education. They also name turbines after their capacity, like thirty-second or twenty-fifth.

Today, the main product of the Nevsky Plant is Ladoga GCU-32 (manufacturing license of GE Oil & Gas) designed specifically for the Russian market and based on gas turbine series MS5002E. It is the only 32 MW gas compressor unit produced in Russia. It has 36 per cent efficiency. Moreover, the ecological performance of such units is very high – harmful emissions do not exceed 18 ppt (parts per million).

The 32 MW capacity is perfectly balanced with the throughput of a trunkline with a diameter of 1,420 millimeters – the largest in diameter pipe used in gas trunklines (in exceptional cases the GCU capacity can be increased: for instance, the Portovaya compressor station, which ensures gas transmission via the Nord Stream gas pipeline, has several 52 MW gas compressor units).

Using the example of the Ladoga GCU, engineer Filippo Pizzi, who was born in Italy but has long lived in Russia, explains how a gas turbine works: “The power turbine is split into two parts, namely the gas-generating section and the low-pressure section, or the so-called power section.”

The blades located in the gas-generating section (pictured on the right) compress atmospheric air. It is then heated in a combustion chamber as liquid fuel is burned in the compressed air. The resulting hot and high-pressure air (gas) expands and speeds up while passing into the low-pressure section (left).

Gas moves through the working blades in the turbine, imparting some energy to them and causing them to spin quickly. The spinning blades turn the drive shaft. The shaft activates the gas compressor.

The Nevsky Plant is forging ahead and continuously evolving by introducing new developments. At present, the Plant is preparing to launch the serial production of new T16 stationary gas turbine units with a capacity of 16 MW (16 MW engines are the most widely used by Gazprom, installed in one-third of all GCUs). Pictured: mechanics Sergey Grishin and Kirill Ruzhitsky, assembly operator Vyacheslav Kush, assembly manager Oleg Kirillov, and foreman Fyodor Oblomov.

As in the case of Ladoga GCU, it is also a joint development with GE Oil & Gas. However, this time the project is not limited to a manufacturing license, since it also covers joint design. The CGU’s efficiency is 37 per cent.

Filippo actively participates in the production project. “The advantage of such units is that they are well-suited for both gas transmission and power generation. We can install it anywhere. The prototype will be sent to Moscow’s energy workers,” says Filippo. Pictured: holder of auxiliary devices for a new turbine.

Stationary is a key word in this project. Artyom Andropov, the T16 turbine’s designer, explains to us the main difference between a stationary gas turbine and an aircraft turbine. An aircraft turbine is significantly smaller and considered to be maintenance-friendly, although it has a shorter lifespan. Besides, aircraft engines have to be adjusted for the gas industry needs, while stationary turbines are designed for industrial consumers and provide for more reliable operation.

“The most considerable advantage of this machine is an extremely long service life. Its overall lifecycle is 200 thousand hours. That’s more than 20 years,” Artyom elaborates.

“Another important benefit of this machine is its high performance. We need less fuel to generate power. The machine is compact and easy to install. It is arranged on one supporting frame, so it can be fully installed and launched within 24 hours. It means that we will be able to receive power from generator terminals within 24 hours after the whole set of equipment is delivered to the facility,” he claims.

Artyom is 25 years old. He has worked at the Plant for almost six years. He graduated from the State Marine Technical University of Saint Petersburg. “I majored in turbines, as I’m very interested in this subject. I wanted to find a permanent job right away, and in my fourth year I started working here as a design engineer for three full days per week. I stumbled into Gas Turbines by accident. Initially I wanted to major in a more general subject – Automated Marine Installations. Should I call it a mistake or a stroke of luck that helped me find my own path? During the five years of my studies I grew more and more convinced it was the right choice,” the turbine designer says.

Pictured: manufacturing site for a new turbine’s frame. The advantage of this frame is the option of a lateral roll-out. Thanks to the attached rails, either the whole structure or its high- or low-pressure parts can be rolled out for the maintenance or repair of the required unit.

Site supervisor Anton Kazantsev (left) says that the turbine will be protected by a sound and heat insulating enclosure. “Overhead cranes will be located in the upper part of the enclosure. So any units that should be replaced or promptly accessed while in operation may be dismantled directly, without uncovering the sound and heat insulating enclosure, through special doors,” he clarifies.

Anton has worked at the Plant since 2011. He used to work at the ELECTROPULT Plant, another of REP Holding’s companies, which will be described below. He graduated from the Faculty of Marine Energy and Automatics at the State Marine Technical University of Saint Petersburg.

“Basically, I was trained for this job, because gas turbines are power units. This is interesting for me. I have always wanted to work on the factory floor. Our Plant has a strong recruitment policy and decent working conditions, which is very important,” Anton Kazantsev stresses.

We asked Anton how he managed to overcome the language barrier when communicating with Italian partners. “I have a good command of English within the scope of university education, and I studied at a specialized English school since I was five. My conversational English is decent,” Anton Kazantsev confidently replies.

After talking to the site supervisor we headed for the assembly shop.

Here, all unit components are assembled together.

Here is the casing of a low-pressure turbine. It houses the exhaust manifold of the T16 turbine combustion chamber. Burned gases come through the manifold.

“This unit will be assembled faster after it enters serial production, but the prototype is inspected repeatedly and in more detail,” assembly operator Vyacheslav Kush notes.

Vyacheslav has worked at the Nevsky Plant for four years by now. He started at the assembly of Ladoga GCU-32. Vyacheslav is a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Institute of Machine-Building.

In parallel with the assembly of the new installation, the Plant efficiently produces compressors, boosters, steam turbines, and other products.

Vladimir Yun, Chief Designer of the Centrifugal Compressor Directorate at REP Holding, showed us a machine for processing the compressor case that will operate as part of the GCU-25 compressor at the oil, gas and condensate field.

The compressor case is a forged seamless pipe with the wall thickness of circa 100 millimeters. The photo shows the case after the preliminary peeling (descaling). However, the case is only one of compressor components. In order to get the final product, the Plant workers will perform many operations: welding of feet, fixing of tubes, and boring of interior spaces.

This is a job for true professionals! Pictured: electric and gas welder Sergey Tyunin.

Pictured: foreman Mikhail Vorontsov and electrical mechanic Maxim Telegin.

The final stage of turbine production is its inspection at a test bench. Test benches are designed and constructed for each machine with a defined capacity, as every turbine has a unique design.

“We have preparation rooms, one for air and another for gas; there is a control room and electrical equipment upstairs. It’s not just a site; it’s a facilities complex,” says Vladimir Boldyrev, Head of the Bench Production Directorate.

Vladimir Boldyrev has worked at the Plant for 33 years. He has managed a test site for the last 13 years.

After testing, the turbine will be ready for operation. The workers will add the finishing touch by connecting it to the automatic control system. Pictured: crane operator Natalia Gorodetskaya and foreman Sergey Bogomolov.

Determined to see how the control systems are made, we came to the ELECTROPULT Plant.

The ELECTROPULT Plant was established in 1935. Back then, the company’s first products were electric switchboards for power stations, which gave the Plant its name. In 2004, the company became part of REP Holding.

Today, the Plant’s core product line includes automatic control systems, converter equipment, medium-voltage equipment, switchgear cubicles, complete transformer substations, electrically-driven gas compressor units, and container structures for electrically-powered equipment.

For example, the low-voltage switchboards pictured above were manufactured for the Bovanenkovo – Ukhta gas pipeline facilities.

The switchboards are assembled from rails based on the universal technical solution of the German companies Siemens and Rittal, owners of the basic production technologies for Sivacon (Siemens design) and Rittal switchboards in the global market. Pictured: switchboard frames.

Rittal manufactures rails from stainless steel. The design is very elaborate: every bracket has 16 facets.

Meanwhile, the ELECTROPULT Plant has developed its own switchboard design, named Sfera. The device receives and distributes electricity via a three-phase alternating current, as well as controls equipment and protects it from short circuits and overloads. The Plant’s team designed the switchboard in 2015, making a contribution to the important cause of import substitution.

The engineering process was led by Andrey Gogulin, Head of the Complete Transformer Substation Department.

“This switchboard is meant as a full-fledged alternative to foreign technological solutions. While foreign switchboards require the equipment produced by certain manufacturers, who are also foreign, the Sfera switchboard can be assembled from equipment produced in any country,” the developer says.

Andrey Gogulin demonstrates a newly-assembled Sfera-N switchboard. ‘N’ indicates low voltage. The engineers are planning to make similar switchboards for every voltage rating (low, medium, and high).

Sfera is a rather straightforward name; it was coined by the Plant’s employees. “The sphere of ELECTROPULT’s activities is the production of electrical equipment, particularly switchboards,” Andrey Gogulin explains.

The company takes pride in its staff. Just as with the Nevsky Plant, ELECTROPULT is home to true professionals like Sergey Chikin and Viktor Kruglov.

Pictured: Alexander Vidanov.

Pictured: Yuri Kondratov and Alexey Galankin.

Pictured: Vladimir Novoseltsev.

However, iron is nothing but iron. The task of giving a switchboard its ‘soul’ and unique functionality is in the hands of Olga Ivanova, Head of the Harness Section at the Assembly Unit.

Olga Ivanova says every switchboard is unique. “We receive the documentation – the assembly drawings. Then we mark the locations of devices at the layout sheet and make harnesses according to the layout. After that we prepare the product for assembly, insert a rod, weld the joints, insert marked tubes and install the product into the frame.”

The shop where harnesses are made resembles an oasis.

The switchboard is now fully functional. It will be installed in a containerized unit that houses both people and machinery at the oil, gas and condensate field.

Here is how those units are built. In the foreground you can see the structure’s foundation. It was welded to ensure the required rigidity and strength.

Here you can see the unit’s walls and ceiling. The supporting frame is light and strong. It is made of steel and sheathed with sandwich panel insulation materials. As a result, the containerized unit can be used at the ambient temperatures of minus 60 degrees Celsius to plus 40 degrees.

Containerized units are easy to transport by car, rail, and handling and lifting equipment.

Power-generating equipment for compressor units is installed in the container. It looks like a ready-made kitchen complete with appliances.

The containerized units are provided with lighting, heating and ventilation systems, as well as fire and security alarms.

“That fixes the housing problem,” Plant workers joke. The units’ design allows for incorporating separate rooms, vestibules, work areas and recreation zones into the structure.

The above containerized unit was made in Pantone-300, Gazprom’s recognizable trademark color, which means the unit was commissioned by Gazprom.

The unit will be part of the Usinskaya compressor station at the Bovanenkovo – Ukhta gas pipeline. Let us wish it safe travels and a long service life.

It is time for us to go home after a busy and intensive day. We visited two Saint Petersburg plants closely linked to the gas sector. We saw firsthand how the Russian industry works, producing high-quality and competitive gas compressor units – the heart of the gas transmission system.

Gazprom website Editorial Board

You can find large photos in the photo album.