Oil production and processing are potentially dangerous industrial operations. However, as Gazprom Neft’s experience shows, constant monitoring of equipment reliability and the implementation of new technologies means the risk of soil being contaminated with oil and oil products can be minimised. At the same time, the company is actively eliminating the legacy of the past, recycling or disposing of those waste products previously accumulated over decades.
A clean landscape
Gazprom Neft has been implementing its “Clean Landscape” project since 2014, directed at improving oilfield pipeline reliability. Implementation of this project includes diagnostics, corrosion monitoring, and pipeline reconstruction.
This programme is essentially predicated on the use of preventative measures allowing the timely detection of pipeline defects and potential vulnerabilities likely to give rise to pipeline failure, thus avoiding emergency situations arising.
Gazpromneft-Noyabrskneftegaz, in particular, employs a mobile laboratory for non-destructive pipeline testing, allowing the technical condition of trunk pipelines to be monitored remotely using
In addition to traditional pipeline-system protection and diagnostics systems, innovative technologies are being developed and implemented as part of the Clean Landscape programme. For example, the magnetometrical method in external diagnostics (also known as corrosion detection through the measurement of natural frequencies) is based around the so-called “magnetic memory” of metal — whereby the registration of magnetic allows areas of local corrosion to be identified.
A further innovation in diagnostics involves intratubal defect detectors, which allow the condition of small-diameter infield pipelines (of up to 219 mm), those most susceptible to corrosion, to be assessed.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) were proactively used by Gazprom Neft in 2016 to monitor the technical condition of oil pipelines. UAVs are convenient, predominantly, for monitoring status in remote field locations and reducing response times in an emergency. UAVs, equipped with photographic and video cameras, as well as thermal imaging technology, are controlled from a ground station through a GPS system.
Advanced technologies are also being used in the construction of new oil trunk pipelines in developing major Arctic deposits. For example, in building the pressure pipeline connecting the Messoyakhskoye group of fields to the northernmost point of the Zapolyarye-Purpe oil transportation system, semi-automatic and automatic welding was used for the first time in the company’s history, ensuring high-quality pipe joints and, consequently, high pipeline reliability. In addition to this, a fibre-optic cable has been laid along the entire route, registering any risks of depressurisation in the system.
A further focus of the “Clean Landscape” project concerns legacy operations — the reclamation and re-cultivation of contaminated land. In implementing the re-cultivation programme, land is surveyed and the level of soil contamination assessed, following which the most effective technologies are selected, in line with climatic and hydrological conditions, and consistent with soil and vegetation.
In 2017 Gazpromneft-Noyabrskneftegaz began pilot testing land-reclamation technologies to remove salt deposits from contaminated lands. Flooding the soil layer with water, and the application of agrotechnical and biological re-cultivation techniques, have confirmed the possibility of cleansing and rehabilitating the soil layer.
The handling of wastes generated during drilling at Gazprom Neft fields is regulated under company policy developed in 2017, taking the infrastructure of specific fields into account, as well as existing technologies for neutralising drilling wastes, technical and economic metrics, well-construction methodologies, and the isolation and remoteness of each field.
The latest rigs currently in use at Gazprom Neft are equipped with a system for cleaning and drying drilling wastes, which ensures as much previously used drilling fluids and process water as possible are returned to the production process. Wastes remaining thereafter are collected in slurry pits, the waterproofing of which ensures soil and groundwater are protected from potential contamination.
Since 2016 oil sludge has been re-cultivated with the help of new technologies, directly in slurry pits. The addition of mineral fertilizers and deoxidising agents allows environmentally-safe soil to be secured, to which plants can acclimatize.
Land reclamation at the Moscow Refinery
“Legacy operations” — directed at liquidating historical wastes at the Moscow Refinery — are playing a key role in Gazprom Neft’s waste management programme, with the plant having eliminated wastes accumulated up to 1991 and rehabilitating contaminated soil, releasing approximately 15 hectares of land around the site.