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No. 4, 2012


Oil of Russia magazine talks to Alexander Danilenko, Deputy General Director of JSC LUKOIL-Engineering and Director of its subsidiary PechorNIPIneft in Ukhta

LUKOIL's scientific research and design complex - JSC LUKOIL-Engineering - includes five regional scientific research and design institutes (NIPI) in Volgograd, Tyumen, Perm, Ukhta and Kaliningrad. The oldest of these, the Ukhta PechorNIPIneft, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Within the framework of LUKOIL, this NIPI provides scientific and design support for the entire production cycle, from geological exploration to production, in the Timan-Pechora oil- and gas-bearing province, and carries out scientific research work geared to the Company's innovative development.

Q: In 2012, PechorNIPIneft is 75 years old. What historical contribution has PechorNIPIneft made to the development of the Timan-Pechora oil and gas bearing province?

A: PechorNIPIneft is, indeed, one of the oldest design institutions in Russia. It was set up on October 26, 1937 as a design and survey bureau, later to become an institute. It was our institute that, for decades, was responsible for issuing the design and technological documentation determining the strategy of search and exploration for hydrocarbon raw materials, provided engineering support for development of oil and gas fields and developed nature protection measures.

In general, it turned out historically that our institute has been, right from the start, the intellectual center of the oil industry development in Komi and the Nenets Autonomous Area.

From 1940 to 1960, it was PechorNIPIneft that designed the key facilities of Yaregsky oil mines, the Ukhta refinery and the Ukhta thermal electric power plant. The Institute developed the technology for obtaining thermal furnace micronex and prepared the design documentation for oil-black plants near Ukhta. Specialists from our Institute participated in drawing the design documentation for construction of the Ukhta Engineering Plant, the design of the world's first above-ground gas pipeline on supports, from Voyvozh to Ukhta, the designs for planning and development of the town of Ukhta itself, of the Yarega and Voivozh settlements, and the design of the Republic of Komi's first television center.

PechorNIPIneft designers took a direct part in drawing the design documentation for facilities at the Zapadno-Tebukskoye, Pashninskoye, Usinskoye, Vozeyskoye and Kharyaginskoye fields and the design of the Usa-Ukhta trunk oil pipeline.

The oil of many of the Timan-Pechora fields is highly viscous and has a high solidification temperature, a high paraffin and hydrogen sulphide content and our research institute worked actively to find the optimal technologies for these fields. In particular, thanks to PechorNIPIneft, a high temperature head technology was developed and implemented for oil mining and surface extraction of the highly viscous crude of the Yaregskoye and Usinskoye fields.

The PechorNIPIneft team has successfully resolved problems of producing high-paraffin oils under the conditions of the Bolshezemelskaya tundra, constructing various oil production facilities and pipelines on multi-year frozen ground, in particular at the Kharyaginskoye field. The Institute has developed various means and methods for lateral well drilling, designs and schemes for deep-pump equipment. Also developed were a technology for transporting high-paraffin crude oils and methods for providing equipment with anti-corrosion protection and a extensive field research was carried out in the form of geocryological surveys of promising operating areas.

PechorNIPIneft has also always provided one of the country's best schools for development and construction design for fields located in the north. The Institute's scientific and technical developments have been established by more than 230 author's certificates and 52 patents to inventions. In 2011 and 2012 alone, 5 patents of the Russian Federation have been received for patents and another 3 applications have been submitted to Rospatent registration agency.

Largely thanks to the scientific research work of our Institute, the region has become an effective testing ground for running progressive engineering and technical solutions on an industrial scale in the oil industry. Many engineering problems of the Timan-Pechora region were first resolved by the Institute's specialists, and not just in the oil industry alone. After all, PechorNIPIneft experts also designed all the production bases, on-site roads, external power, heat and water supply systems for the fields and for Usinsk itself. Only in 1987, in view of the increase in the demand for designing of production facilities, did the Institute stop designing housing and could concentrating exclusively on the oil and gas sector.

It must be admitted that the Institute suffered difficult times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was a period of real crisis in oil production caused by both the reconstruction of the sector and recovery of the "mature" fields main reserves. The scope of construction, wells repair work and stimulation oil dropped. There was a sharp decline in the crude production in the region. Accordingly, there was also a sharp drop in the scale of scientific research and design work performed by the Institute for the oil sector.

For restoration of its positions, our Institute is largely beholden to LUKOIL, which came to the Republic of Komi in 1999. After all, the Company, with its serious plans for development of the northern part of the Timan-Pechora province, breathed new life into the region's oil industry.

The Company invested substantial funds in developing the material and technical facilities of the PechorNIPIneft and in training its personnel. The Institute was immediately set the strategic task of providing design and technological support for developing the new oil-production regions.

As a subdivision of LUKOIL-Komi, PechorNIPIneft received an enormous batch of contracts for design documentation for oil field facilities construction, erection of facilities for treatment and transportation of oil, and social facilities. The Institute was reborn as a comprehensive R&D institution, capable of providing the highest quality scientific and design support for the entire production cycle from geological exploration to production, and also of conducting scientific research work promoting the Company's innovative development.

In 2009, when the LUKOIL scientific design complex was reorganized, Pechor-NIPIneft, together with the Company's other regional design and research institutes, became part of the unified structure LUKOIL-Engineering. Considering the tremendous experience PechorNIPIneft had accumulated, this branch, in particular, was assigned the role of profile center for developing technological solutions in the sphere of thermal enhanced recovery methods, production of high-viscosity crudes and oils with a high hydrogen sulphide content.

Q: Which of the Institute's recent achievements would you emphasize in particular?

A: The Institute has fulfilled a multitude of projects: major feasibility studies, technological workflows for developing fields and designs for construction and upgrading oil fields infrastructure facilities for LUKOIL-Komi and other companies located in the Timan-Pechora province.

The most significant of the Institute's projects have been the following: process flow sheet for development of the Usinskoye field of Permo-Carboniferous formation using steam treatment and a flow sheet for a unit to treat heavy crude at the Usinskoye field; a feasibility study of investment in integrated development of the Yaregskoye oil field and titanium deposit; technical and economic proposals for integrated use of the Yarega hydrocarbon raw materials involving recovery of rare-earth metals.

I would also note the engineering workflows for working the Kharyaginskoye high-paraffin oils reservoir, as well as the unit for treating high-paraffin and high viscosity crude oils of the Kharyaginskoye and Usinskoye fields, design documents for developing the Bayandyskoye and Vostochno-Lambeyshorskoye reservoirs of crude oil with a content of hydrogen sulphide over 10%. At the same time, the design for developing fields using a method for removing hydrogen sulphide from oil invented and patented by the Institute's was positively assessed by of State Expert Evaluation Department. This made it possible to commission these fields into production without significant capital investments.

Together with NPF Izmeron, PechorNIPIneft specialists developed technological workflows and project design documents package for a complex of downhole equipment for flush and mechanized means for producing oil with anomalously high hydrogen sulphide content. The equipment is currently undergoing on-site tests.

The system for transportation and treatment of crude oil by JSC LUKOIL-Komi, envisaging an increase in the through capacity of the Kharyaga-Usinsk oil pipeline; the Tedinskoye-Ardalin, Yuzhno-Shapkino-Kha-ryaga and Kharyaga-Severny Vozey oil pipeline designs - all these projects were also carried out by our efforts.

In the sphere of designing field development, PechorNIPIneft has made several steps over recent years to introduce new technologies. In particular, these included introduction of 3-D design of field facilities, electronic archives and databases of standard pipeline elements, construction elements and equipment parts. As of today, the database contains over 25,000 standard elements, this allowing the time for developing design documentation to be cut and its quality improved.

On the basis of the Regional Data Processing Center technical resources, the Institute's engineers have set up a computer cluster capable of performing calculations on 64 cores. The cluster is currently being used for calculations connected with three dimensional hydro-dynamic model-building of oil reservoirs. This cluster is 10-15 times more productive than that of the workstations used previously.

I would like to note that the Institute's scientific developments have repeatedly been highly appraised at all-Russia and international exhibitions and conferences. As a result, PechorNIPIneft is today conducting scientific research work relating to the processes involved in production, transportation and treatment of oil for fields of JSC Turgai-Petroleum (Kazakhstan) and a proposal has been received from JSC Ukrneft for introduction of pumps developed and patented by the Institute for production of high viscosity crude oil at the fields of NGDU Akhtyrkaneftegaz.

Q: One of the "pearls" of the oil industry in the Republic of Komi is the Yaregskoye field, the only one in the world where crude oil is produced by the mine method. What technological tasks has the Company set for PechorNIPIneft relating to this field?

A: This field is of strategic importance for both LUKOIL and the Republic of Komi as a whole. Yarega is unique not only in its reserves and the oil reservoir engineering technology but is also one of the biggest explored reserves of titanium in Russia.

All the Republic of Komi's major fields have been discovered, of course, and are long since under development. The Yaregoskoye is the region's oldest field (discovered in 1932), yet its unutilized potential is tremendous. That is why the Company attaches such hopes to the Yaregskoye field. LUKOIL is planning to increase crude oil production almost five-fold by 2023-2024 by using new and improving tested technologies.

The main spheres of further advancement of the thermal mine development method consists in increasing the length of underground wells from 300 to 1000 meters, mechanizing mine working, automating production processes, transferring from underground to surface treatment of the oil and building new mines with minimum mine works.

On the Lyaelskaya area of the Yaregskoye field, which was not previously subjected to mine development, Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) technologies are being tried out. The essence of this technology consists in drilling a pair of lateral wells in one vertical plane, the upper one being the steam injection well and the lower serves for production. Calculations have shown that the oil recovery rate using the SAGD technology may reach 60%.

This technology derives from the single horizon system of thermal mine development. In 1977, Canadian specialists came to Yarega to study the experience of high-viscosity crudes development. On the basis of the thermal mine development at Yarega, an oil mine using the single horizon system was built at the Atabasca field in the province of Alberta. Subsequently, on new sites of the Surmont field, pairs of lateral wells were drilled from the surface, using an improved single horizon system technology producing high-viscosity crude oil.

For the Yaregskoye titanium deposits lying below the main oil reservoirs, PechorNIPIneft developed for LUKOIL designs for drilling in an experimental sector for mining titanium ore and pilot production of titanium coagulating agent. Titanium coagulator is a new, innovative, highly efficient chemical reagent for treating drinking quality water and purifying industrial and domestic waste water. The studies undertaken show its advantage over the aluminum coagulant currently used for treating water. It is planned to complete construction of the pilot sector for mining titanium ore and producing titanium coagulant in 2013.

Q: Timan-Pechora is quite a mature oil production region. How do you perceive the future prospects for the oil industry in this area?

A: According to official quantitative assessments the Timan-Pechora ranks fourth in the Russian Federation in terms of initial hydrocarbon resources and third in terms of explored reserves. So far, over 240 hydrocarbon fields, most of them crude oil, have been discovered here. A significant proportion of the discovered fields and promising territories of the province are located in unallocated subsoil reserve fund, which is distinctive feature of this region.

The fund of discovered and prepared structures includes over 200 promising areas where discovery of dozens of fields is forecast.

The tremendous potential of the Timan-Pechora province is evidenced not only by the high proportion of unexplored hydrocarbon resources but also by the results of exploration and prospecting work carried out in recent years. For instance, according to the results of the scientific research performed by PechorNIPIneft alone six new fields have been discovered within JSC LUKOIL-Komi over the last five years. Some of these are quite large and high-yield fields and the corroboration factor of the assessments made by the Institute is over 90%.

Timan-Pechora's beneficial geographical location, the possibility of reaching the coast, the existing infrastructure here, the system of transportation pipelines, the availability of highly educated personnel and the subsoil wealth make it one of the regions with the greatest investment appeal and the best oil production development prospects in Russia. The work of our scientific design institute, I am sure, will help in effectively realizing this tremendous potential.

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Oil of Russia, No. 4, 2012
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