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How to save money on the environment

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Russia's first Aframax-class medium-tonnage tanker “Vladimir Monomakh” has completed its sea trials and set sail heading for South Africa, where it is to deliver the oil loaded in its hold at the port of Nakhodka.

According to the experts, the ship, built at the Far Eastern Zvezda Shipyard, was designed in compliance with the highest standards of environmental safety. For instance, its power plants can operate both on traditional ship fuel and LNG, which meets the new rules for limitation of sulfur oxide and greenhouse gas emissions.

Nevertheless, to say that our country is ready to dramatically reduce the level of negative impact on nature during transportation of hydrocarbons is too early. Today, their losses along the entire chain - from the well to the power plant or gas station can reach 30%. And most of them occur not because of leaks, that is, abnormal situations, but because of poor management and unwillingness to implement innovations that would increase the efficiency of energy resources use.

According to Transneft analysts' estimates, annual losses of petroleum products from evaporation alone during storage in above-ground metal tanks amount to 0.3% of the total volume. And that is so only if the tanks are filled by more than 90%. If this figure decreases, the damage grows, and can reach 10%. This situation leads not only to financial losses of the subsoil user and each of the following intermediaries, but also to air pollution, which gets CO2 and other harmful substances, including heavy metals.

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"Gas cylinders, tankers, tanks, railroad tanks, any storage and transport of hydrocarbons are equipped with breathing valves. They are needed to maintain the necessary pressure inside the tank and to evacuate excessive gas-air mixtures, the excessive concentration of which can cause an explosion. It is through them that the light fractions of hydrocarbons, valuable raw materials for the oil refining industry, evaporate. Their emissions reduce the quality of oil products and have a negative impact on the environment," says Vadim Fetisov, assistant professor at the Department of Oil and Gas Transportation and Storage at St. Petersburg Mining University.

Western states have tightened the rules of the game today, forcing owners of ships and oil loading stations to take measures to prevent losses. One of the most effective ways is to install a recovery system, which captures oil product vapors and then returns them back.

Unfortunately, such equipment does not enjoy great popularity in our country, first of all, because of its extremely high cost. Market participants find it easier to periodically pay fines than to invest in technology. Even for domestic models manufacturers are asking from 60 to 150 million rubles, which exist only as single units because they are not in demand, let alone imported counterparts from Jordan Technology or Carbovac (ALMA Group). Of course, their products are even more expensive.

However, it is quite possible that things will change soon. Mining University is now preparing a patent application for an experimental unit for recuperation, which can be used both in transportation and transshipment of oil products and natural gas. Its price will be many times lower.

Вадим Фетисов
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

"Soon we will be ready to offer the market a recuperation unit, i.e., the capture of light hydrocarbon fractions, for 20 million rubles. The cost of production will be reduced by simplifying the design and introducing a number of innovative solutions. Several domestic and foreign companies, including those from South Africa and Norway, have already expressed interest in our project, the payback period of which will be only a year and a half. After this period, the owner will start making profit by minimizing losses of oil products," explains Vadim Fetisov.

The technology is quite simple. When a tanker is being loaded, pressure in the hold grows due to the reduction of gas volume and intensive oil evaporation. Similar processes take place during tank filling at the oil filling station. Usually these vapors are discharged through breathing valves into the environment, but in this case they are discharged through the pipeline, enter the separator, where they become liquid again and then return back. This way a looped system is created, which reduces financial losses and environmental damage to almost zero.

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Such innovations are especially in demand in southern latitudes, where due to high air temperatures the volume of evaporation is about one and a half times higher than in northern latitudes. However, according to Vadim Fetisov, the Russian Arctic needs them just as much. It is developing today by leaps and bounds, and in the future, this trend will only gain momentum. Our task is not only to unlock the potential of this unique region, but also to preserve its environmental well-being.

"New oil transshipment complexes are being built in the polar region, the Northern Sea Route is becoming more and more busy, and this is primarily due to gas and oil tankers, which make up more than 29% of the entire global sea fleet. I am firmly convinced that when implementing new projects in the Far North, the business community must make use of the best available technologies which, on the one hand, will increase the profitability of the mineral resources sector and, on the other hand, will minimize environmental pollution. Naturally, this will only be possible if there is closer integration with science," summarized a scientist from Mining University.

Evaluation of Pollutant Emissions into the Atmosphere during the Loading of Hydrocarbons in Marine Oil Tankers in the Arctic Region

Last year, with a grant from Mining University, he conducted basic research on the recovery of oil and petroleum products vapor to reduce CO2 emissions. According to their results, he published an article "Assessment of emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere during loading hydrocarbons into tankers in the Arctic region" in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering of MDPI PH (second quartile). The young scientist was co-authored by his foreign colleague, Amir Muhammadi, a professor at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The second paper, entitled "Evaluating the economic efficiency of a vapor recovery unit for loading oil tankers", written jointly with international colleagues from Germany and South Africa, is currently under review by Oil & Gas Science and Technology (Q2). It is due to be published in this February.