31.05.2005
SAFETY AND CLEAN AIR

Kazakhstan Today

By Ruslan ISKANDEROV

Modern industry has become large scale and has begun to influence the environment.

The list of dangers and catastrophes of humankind now also include man made ones, which in a moment could kill the economy, the ecology of a huge region or even a country. Chernobyl is an extreme expression of this constant threat. There are also so many more, smaller disasters. In the late 1960s, a Venezuelan tanker crashed near the Norwegian coast. The subsequent oil leakage fatally damaged the environment for hundreds of miles; the consequences of which are still felt today. This is why environmental protection during industrial production is one of the most important issues today. It is especially topical for Kazakhstan, with its fragile environment and large concentration of dangerous production operations. An environmentally friendly production culture that minimises its impact is required from any business, especially from such potentially dangerous ones as the oil and gas sector. Kazakhstan has good examples where this principle is being strictly observed, and the foreign oil companies are loyal to these ideas. These companies are under the strict control of the state environment protection agencies and themselves feel responsible for the environmental conditions, which is common for the western style of business.

When you visit one of the world largest oil and gas condensate fields, Karachaganak in the WKO, the first surprising thing is the absence of people and the sense of quiet on the huge territory, which is surrounded by a fence. Only the wind rocks the steppe grass, and bus tires rumble on the road while transporting the employees. Outsiders can walk here only when accompanied by a designated employee, and security posts are everywhere. The huge processing complex is operating almost without a sound, but underneath, powerful forces are working at huge depths with high-pressure oil and gas.

Today, the employees of Karachaganak Petroleum Operating working at the field have achieved record highs in hydrocarbon production – 20 million cubic metres of gas and 240,000 barrels of oil per day. This gives confidence to the consortium management regarding their achievement of the strategic goal by end of this year – the production of 10-10.2 million tonnes of oil and about 7 billion cubic metres of gas. The second stage of field development was completed in 2003. This stage was finalised with the launch of the 635-km Karachaganak-Bolshoy Chagan-Atyrau export pipeline. This branch connected the field with CPC system, and allowed for transportation to Novorossiysk. High production achievements have been accompanied by an enhancement in the safety system for potentially dangerous production.

Two large facilities were constructed recently at Karachaganak for the processing of gas and liquids and re-injection. This is the first time in the world that such technology is being used. Under huge amounts of pressure, the gas is re-injected, thus forcing out the hydrocarbons, which go up through the wells. The power of the turbines used for this is comparable to the power of a rocket during ignition. KPO has conducted the modernisation of oil production capacities, it constructed a 120 MW capacity gas turbine power station, did a work-over of over 100 wells. All of these were preparations for the sharp increase in hydrocarbon production with a simultaneous increase of safety and a reduction in toxic waste into the environment.

At a meeting with journalists, KPO General Director Paolo Campelli especially stressed this fact that according to independent expert assessment, KPO is in first place in terms of safety and environmental protection among the production companies working in Kazakhstan. This is reflected in their investment policy – during the last 3 years, KPO invested over USD 100 MM into environmental initiatives at Karachaganak. The goal of KPO, Campelli said, is to become the world leader in this area, and Karachaganak is the result of such policy. KPO had to take care of these problems from the very beginning of its arrival in Kazakhstan in 1999. It inherited a challenging legacy from the Soviet times. The foreigners had never seen an area so polluted before. They had to clean up hundreds of hectares of steppe from old oilrigs, rusty pipes, metals and industrial waste. Over a 3-year period, 1.4 thousand tonnes of metal waste were collected. Land was re-cultivated and de-contaminated. Roads were constructed in places where even tractors could not pass. Today around the oil complex there are wide steppes of grass. Rabbits and foxes and tens of species of birds live in the area. The small lake attracts ducks, swans and other birds during the summer.

KPO pays special attention to waste utilisation. Every unnecessary piece of metal, plastic, barrels for chemical materials are recycled. The company works in this area with many Kazakhstani and foreign companies, including the Aksai branch of Nuclear Physics Institute of the National Nuclear Centre. New methods are developed and introduced for environmental monitoring, waste recycling and utilisation. For example, during the operation of oilrigs industrial oil wastes are produced. KPO collects these, recycles them and produces a new product –various kinds’ automobile oils, which are sold to West Kazakhstan consumers. A Methanol mix regeneration plant was also launched at the field. The mix is produced in the process of gas condensate production. The plant allows for the return of the regenerated methanol into the repeated production cycle, and the water mix-free is then re-injected. Today at Karachaganak construction of another important facility is nearing completion – waste utilisation complex. Solid oil-containing waste will be processed; this will allow solving the problems for many years. It is worth noticing that foreigners always try to solve not only current problems, but also the future problems of the production development. This is why the complex will include a drilling liquids production plant, equipped with modern technology from Baker Hughes. The drilling liquids will be delivered to drilling sites, and the used liquids will then be delivered back to the plant. This will be the closed production cycle and will result in a considerable savings of time and money.

The field operators check to see that the equipment at the new production facilities is in compliance with international environmental standards. For example, several years ago the company refused products from certain well-known companies, since they did not meet the environmental safety requirements. KPO chose state-of- the-art generators for the new power station, which is equipped with a unique fuel dry burning system, due to which the Karachaganak Power Station Complex is recognised as one of the most environmentally safe in the world. The consortium is constantly providing training and qualification improvement for safety experts. A safe behavior programme was introduced for the employees. Order, control, and attention to all aspects of safety provision, for which every detail is important, all of this has allowed the company to be a leader in this area, and has been able to provide accident-free operation for years. All of the Kazakhstani producers have something to learn from companies working at Karachaganak.