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Ways for Science to Reduce Oil Production Costs

Oil prices, which recently exceeded the level of $85 per barrel, fell by more than 15% due to fears associated with a new strain of coronavirus — the primary reason being the rapid spread of omicron. This may force the governments of many countries to reintroduce lockdowns and close borders, which will lead to a sharp decline in demand for hydrocarbons. In this situation, the price of a barrel of Brent will inevitably start to decline, and the core companies will have to think seriously about minimizing costs, just like a year and a half ago.

Today production costs in different countries are very different. For example, in Saudi Arabia, due to relatively low drilling costs and low water cuts, it does not exceed $10. The U.S. shale industry becomes unprofitable if the quotations of black gold fall below 40 dollars per barrel. In Russia, depending on the climatic and geological conditions of the regions, the figure ranges from 15 to 40 dollars. This was reported the other day, during a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, by Deputy Head of the Russian Ministry of Energy, Pavel Sorokin.

That is, given the current situation, if the most pessimistic scenarios are not realized, the domestic fuel and energy complex has a certain margin of safety that allows investing both in the exploration of new deposits and modernization of the existing ones. However, most experts say this does not mean that top managers of oil corporations and their subsidiaries can “sleep well” and not think about an increase in profitability. Moreover, work in this direction should be a continuous and fairly routine process associated with the implementation of the best available technology, improving the quality of exploration, reducing operating costs, increasing productivity, and so on.

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The problem of reducing the cost of production was, of course, a concern both in imperial Russia and in the Soviet Union. The first to study this issue from a scientific point of view back in the 19th century was Professor Konon Lysenko of the St. Petersburg Mining Institute. His research allowed our country to catch up with the U.S. in terms of production and quality of fossil fuel processing, which had the most significant effect on the profitability of the industry.

According to the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, the average depth of oil refining in Russia has reached 84% – much less than in post-industrial countries.

In the second half of the twentieth century, when the industrial development of the West Siberian oil and gas province began, the demand for this work became much more obvious. Another graduate of the Mining Institute (then LMI, now St. Petersburg Mining University) Boris Abramovich was among those who proposed and put into practice the progressive solutions of that time, which ensured the economic growth of the USSR.

“The sphere of scientific interests of Boris Abramovich included the creation of energy-saving technologies for extraction, transportation, and processing of solid, liquid, and gaseous minerals. He formed the main provisions of the theory of automated management of power supply to mining enterprises, and he also developed methods of reducing energy costs for mining raw materials,” said Anatoly Koziaruk, professor of the Department of Electric Power Engineering and Electromechanics at Mining University.

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Professor Abramovich stood at the origins of the formation of the oil and gas production industry in the Irkutsk Region. He acted as a consultant and expert in the development of the Kovykta gas condensate field. It was thanks to him, according to Aidar Gumarov, head of Tatneft’s Energy Department, that the company “created an automated system for controlling regimes and metering electricity consumption on the basis of modern microprocessor technology and equipment”.

“In the early 1990s, the mass introduction of vacuum switching equipment in the distribution networks of Tatneft and Yuganskneftegaz began. Boris Abramovich supervised the work on the research of overvoltages arising in electric networks when switching loads with vacuum chambers. As a result, schemes of connections and technical characteristics of overvoltage limiters were determined, production of devices with required parameters and their widespread introduction", recalls Vadim Polishchuk, associate professor of the Department of Electrical Power Engineering and electromechanics of Mining University.

Another undoubted achievement of this outstanding scientist is that he managed to improve the excitation systems of the engines. This made it possible to ensure their smooth start and stable operation in nominal mode. Based on the results of his research activities, more than 100 thousand asynchronous motors were produced for various industries. First of all, they are used at compressor stations, in drives of units for reservoir pressure maintenance.

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Unfortunately, Boris Abramovich passed away last summer. On Power Engineers’ Day, Forpost decided to ask one of his first students, Alexander KLYUEV, how he remembered the man who had done so much for the development of the national fuel and energy complex.

Alexander KLYUEV: Boris Abramovich was born in 1937 in Minsk, having survived all the horrors of fascist occupation. He started working in science in 1956 when he was admitted to Leningrad Mining Institute. He received his candidate degree in 1971 and his doctorate in 1986.

It is very difficult to overestimate his contribution to the development of Russian industry. On his account are 58 unique inventions, which have found application in automated power control systems for mining and oil and gas enterprises, as well as more than 14 thousand electromechanical complexes with power over 100 kW.

When did you meet Boris Abramovich?

Alexander KLYUEV: Back in the early 1960s. At that time, several graduates of the Leningrad Mining Institute (LMI), including myself, came to work at the Central Design Bureau of Large Electrical Machines, which was located at the Leningrad Electromechanical Plant. All of them, by the way, later became leading specialists in electrical machines and their excitation systems, so that in Leningrad State Institute there was a very good school of training such specialists. Boris Nikolayevich and I worked in the research department. He was engaged in the development and testing of electrical machines, and I worked in the computer laboratory as an engineer.

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The professor, in particular, was involved in the creation of brushless excitation systems for synchronous machines at electric machine factories. These systems are still in operation in our country and abroad.

Did you also teach with him at Mining University?

Alexander KLYUEV: Yes, after I defended my dissertation, Abramovich suggested that I also teach at LMI. At the time, he was an associate professor in the department of Electrical Engineering and Power Supply. I was invited to work at the department, where I lectured for five years on general electrical engineering for the evening students and conducted laboratory work.

I must say that Boris Abramovich was as brilliant a teacher as he was a scientist. He defended his doctoral dissertation, became a professor, wrote many scientific articles, and published several books. For a long time, he was the head of the “Energy supply and energy efficiency of enterprises of mineral complex” scientific school at Mining University. In this capacity, he developed several methods and solutions for the transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity by mineral resource enterprises that are remote from centralized energy systems. These are, first of all, the regions of the Far North, Siberia, and the Far East. In 2011, he was awarded the St. Petersburg government’s prize for outstanding achievements in the field of higher and professional education.

He and I are almost the same age, I am only a year younger than him. Since we had worked in the same organization for many years, lived close by in Kupchino, and our children went to the same school, our families had long been friends. We celebrated each other’s birthdays together, and in the winter we went skiing with our families to Pavlovsky Park. On New Year’s Eve, his hospitable wife Valya always invited us and many of her friends. How many late nights, his graduate and doctoral students would gather in Boris’s kitchen to discuss their scientific work. Valya always had patience with these discussions, many thanks to her for everything.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Boris Abramovich, thanks to his professionalism and diligence, has achieved comprehensive recognition in the national and international scientific community. He published over 500 scientific articles and monographs, trained about 60 candidates and three doctors of engineering. To this day, his numerous students work at the leading enterprises and teach at the largest Russian universities, continuing his work. They modernize the energy complex and train personnel to work in the fuel and energy complex.