New projects emphasize the continuing strategic importance of pipelines
Sakhalin II gears up for full production
THE LAST major offshore gas well is being completed at the Lunskoye platform in Russia’s sub-Arctic Sea of Okhotsk preparing the way for full LNG production at Sakhalin II, one of the world’s largest integrated oil and gas projects. Production at Sakhalin II’s first LNG unit got under way in March with a flawless start-up programme, and completion of the final gas well – ¬Russia’s largest – is a vital step towards starting operations at its second LNG unit. Full capacity of 9.6m tons/yr is expected to be reached in 2010.
Sakhalin II is one of the most challenging engineering feats ever achieved. It operates amid some of the world’s harshest conditions in Russia’s far east, an area prone to earthquakes. The project, on Sakhalin Island, exports LNG and oil to the fast-growing energy markets in the Asia-Pacific region and the west coast of North America, and will meet nearly 8% of Japan’s gas needs and 5% of South Korea’s. The first Sakhalin II LNG cargo delivered arrived in Japan’s Tokyo Bay in April, the first time Russia has exported gas from its eastern borders and the first time it has supplied gas to Japan. Shell is a partner and lead technical adviser to the project’s operator, Sakhalin Energy. Sakhalin II has total resources of around 4bn brl of oil equivalent, and at full capacity, the LNG plant would add up to 5% to the world’s current LNG capacity.
The platforms that produce Russia’s first offshore oil and gas, 15km off Sakhalin Island, stand in water up to 50m deep in the stormy Sea of Okhotsk. They are the Piltun-Astokhskoye A platform (also known as “Molikpaq”), Piltun-Astokhskoye B, and Lunskoye A platforms. In this region, temperatures can drop to -45oC in winter, and Arctic winds combine with high humidity for a wind-chill factor of -70°C. At such temperatures, people can work outside only in short shifts despite steel cladding on the outsides of the platforms that break the wind, offering some protection. Ice poses serious technical challenges: from December to May, a thick layer of ice surrounds the platforms in the Sea of Okhotsk, preventing tankers from reaching them to load oil and gas. Instead, a 300-km network of underwater pipelines now takes the hydrocarbons ashore year-round.
Ridges of compressed ice can carve deep gashes in the seabed and could damage pipelines, which are therefore protected by a thick concrete coating and buried at up to 5m beneath the seabed wherever the sea is less than 30m deep. As an extra safeguard, electronic leak-detection systems stop the flow of oil and gas if the pressure drops.
Once the hydrocarbons reach the shore, a processing plant treats the gas and condensate from the Lunskoye-A platform, along with oil and some gas produced by the Molikpaq and Piltun Astokhskoye-B platforms. From there, the gas is sent through two parallel 800-km long pipelines (48-in diameter for the gas, and 24-in diameter for the oil) to the Prigorodnoye complex at Aniva Bay in the south of the island, which includes an LNG plant, an oil-export terminal, and a port which is virtually ice-free during winter.
The pipelines cross seismic faultlines at 19 places, and more than 1,000 rivers and streams. The 8,000 construction workers who built them could only start work after unexploded munitions from World War Two had been cleared. Although the pipeline route was planned to avoid most of the active faults, where even low levels of seismic activity could cause ruptures, if no alternative route existed ultra-high-strength pipeline steel was used to withstand the seismic forces.
The Prigorodnoye terminal is the site of Russia’s first LNG plant, designed to produce 9.6m tons/yr of LNG, typically enough to generate electricity for around 24 million European homes. Almost all the production capacity is committed in long-term contracts to supply customers in Japan, Korea, and North America. The new oil-export terminal next to the LNG plant has the capacity to store 1.2 million barrels of oil – six days of pipeline supply. A 4.5-km long offshore loading takes the crude oil to tankers waiting at an offshore installation.
Sakhalin Energy was set up in 1994 to implement the project, in which Gazprom has a 50% stake plus one share. Partners Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui & Co Ltd, and Mitsubishi Corporation, hold stakes of 27.5% minus one share, 12.5%, and 10% respectively.
Tauern pipeline to enhance Europe’s security of gas supply
THE feasibility study for the 36-in diameter, 290-km long, Tauern gas pipeline (TGL) project in Austria is on schedule. The key project parameters and the pipeline route were confirmed late last year for the 32m cum/d bi-directional gas pipeline that will run from Haiming in Bavaria to the country’s border with Italy at Malborghetto. Currently, the capacity allocation process is about to start, and the feasibility study is expected to be completed by the autumn. The final decision on the implementation of the project will follow shortly afterwards.
The TGL project will allow continuous gas transmission from Haiming via the Inn region of Upper Austria with its numerous storage facilities, and on to Salzburg, Carinthia (where it will tie-in to the Trans Austria gas pipeline), and the border with Italy. When constructed, the new pipeline will be a key component of the future integrated European natural gas grid connecting the central European pipeline system with the Adriatic region and gas markets in Italy and SE Europe. There are also plans to extend the system into Slovenia.
The recent gas crisis has underlined the need to push for greater diversification of Europe’s supply sources. The TGL project provides access to alternative sources of supply including liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped from North Africa and Arab countries (among others) to the Mediterranean by tankers. This greater diversification on the supplier side will translate into more security of supply for countries whose pipeline systems are part of the European gas grid, as it reduces the dependency on individual producer regions and transmission routes.
As part of the TGL ‘open season’ this year, long-term transportation capacity from the north to the south and vice versa will be allocated to shippers on the basis of binding booking confirmations. Around half the planned capacity of the pipeline (15.6m cum/d) will be available to the project’s shareholders following an application for an exemption in accordance with Section 20a of the Austrian Gas Act, and around 3m cum/d will be kept available for short-term transportation contracts. These capacities will be allocated shortly before the TGL is commissioned, and potential shippers will be informed about the details of the TGL open season via the company’s website after consultation with the regulatory authorities.
The decision on whether the pipeline project goes ahead will be taken after the open season and the completion of the feasibility study, and after consultation with local residents and landowners. The project’s environmental-impact assessment is expected to be submitted to the authorities before the end of 2009, construction is scheduled to start in 2010, and the pipeline is expected to be ready for commissioning in 2015.
The TGL project is backed by a predominantly-Austrian consortium. The minority shareholders in Tauerngasleitung Studien- und Planungsgesellschaft are Energie Oberoesterreich (15%), Kelag (7.5%), RAG (10%), Salzburg (15%), and TIGAS-Erdgas Tirol (7.5%), while Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas, one of Europe’s leading gas suppliers, holds 45%.
Nabucco: “an additional contribution to improving security of supply in Europe”
THE OPERATOR of what will be the world’s longest subsea pipeline system when it is completed, Nord Stream AG, has welcomed the signature of the international agreement that will pave the way for the much-discussed Nabucco pipeline. “If we want to close future gas supply gaps in Europe and reach its climate-protection goals, then we must increase investment in infrastructure development,” Matthias Warnig, managing director of Nord Stream, said as the Journal went to press. Nord Stream, like Nabucco, will make a significant contribution to countering the impending shortfall in European gas supply: from 2012, the twin subsea pipeline system across the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany will supply approximately 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to the European gas grid.
Gas import demands in Europe are expected to rise by 150 to 200 bcm/yr by 2025 as a consequence, among other reasons, of decreasing production from North Sea gasfields, and this shortfall is seen primarily as affecting the gas supply to the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Given this background, Nord Stream considers that a number of further infrastructure projects will be necessary to meet these additional gas demands. Mr Warnig said that this long-term rise in demand should not be ignored in the current economic crisis. “Prominent institutions now see the potential for even greater use of gas in power generation, since in some regions of Europe, this energy source performs a bridging function for reaching ambitious emissions goals,” he said. “If gas from our pipeline was used to completely replace coal-fired power generation, Europe could reduce emissions by more than 120 million tonnes of CO2 per year.” This amount is almost double all of Sweden’s emissions in 2007.
It is planned that the first of the two 48-in diameter parallel pipelines will be operational in 2011, and will allow transmission of 27.5bn cum/yr. Full capacity of about 55bn cum/yr will be reached in the second phase, when the second line goes on stream by the end of 2012. The Switzerland-based operator is an international joint venture in which Gazprom holds 51%, BASF/Wintershall Holding AG and E.ON Ruhrgas AG hold 20% each, and Nederlandse Gasunie hold the balance of 9%.
New pipeline-industry magazine launched
TWO OF the leading providers of technical and business information for the pipeline industry, Scientific Surveys Ltd (co-publisher with Clarion of the Journal of Pipeline Engineering) and Great Southern Press (GSP) of Melbourne, Australia, publisher of the Australian Pipeliner among its other interests), have merged. As well as continuing to produce the current range of pipeline publications and information sources, the newly-formed partnership has launched the flagship of its new venture, a new print magazine entitled Pipelines International.
Details of the new publication, and other plans that are to be implemented, can be found at www.pipelinesinternational.com, and are reflected in the announcement on page 93 of this issue of the Journal. Pipelines International will be available on a controlled-circulation basis to qualifying members of the international pipeline industry, and it is hoped that Journal readers will find it of interest.