The SPM advanced technology used by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) for crude oil lif5ting is used by only 40 oil ports in the world. Similar single point moorings are operated in the oil harbors in North Europe, in Western Africa, in the Gulf of Mexico and Mideast Gulf. International experts note: there are few terminals in the world to compete with CPC in technical equipment and work organization.
LOADING FROM UNDER THE WATER
In the 1990s, 235 leading Russian scientists, including 90 Academicians and Associate Members, as well as 70 PhDs were engaged in review of the design documentation and environmental expertize of CPC project. A more reputable commission in Russia in respect of engineering of this type of facilities could not be even imagined at that time.
From a distance of 5 km from the shore in Yuzhnaya Ozereevka CPC three single point moorings (SPM) look like small red buoys. And only the Consortium’s employees know the huge industrial power hidden in these marine facilities. About 12,000 tons of black gold is loaded on the tankers through each SPM per hour of operation. It is more than 200 railway tanks. And if two tankers are loaded simultaneously, then the number of railway tanks will amount to 400!
Why did the Consortium choose this distance from the shore to place the single point moorings? To begin with, it is five times more than the sanitary protection zone boundaries established by the legislation, allowing the light fractions of hydrocarbons emitted from the tanker’s hold during the loading to disperse not reaching the shore. Secondly, the use of the single point moorings facilitates navigation of large-capacity vessels to the maximum, thus minimizing the threat of accidents within the Marine Terminal seawaters.
Crude oil comes to the Black Sea from CPC Tank Farm situated in the mountains. From the height of 250 m it is delivered to the Shore Facilities gravitated, that is, it flows by gravity, through the crude pipeline with a diameter of 1,200 mm. Via the pressure reduction station, the flow goes to the custody transfer meters and then, by the subsea pipelines (1,000mm in diameter) it is delivered to the tanker through the floating hoses of the single point moorings - SPM.
Close by, the buoys are not small at all - as high as a two-story building, 9 m in diameter. Each SPM is made fast to the seabed by six multi-ton suction anchors. A tanker is moored to the SPM and connected to the pipeline. A loading hose and a mooring hawser allow the vessel to maneuver depending on the sea and weather conditions.
The first two SPMs put into operation in 2001 were built in the Netherlands in accordance with an ad hoc design tailored to the Black Sea conditions and bed relief and are capable of standing the strongest storm out of those which have occurred there over the last 100 years.
The third SPM was commissioned as part of CPC Expansion Project in 2014. SPM-3 was manufactured at the plant in the United Arab Emirates by the company called Blue Water Energy Services B.V. And delivered to Novorossiysk on the cargo deck of a unique cargo vessel - Atlant Frauke.
SPM-3 design has significant improvements as compared to the first two buoys. Because of the buoy mass (362 t), the load is reduced during its contact with the tanker called “a tanker’s kiss” in a professional slang. The buoy is equipped with a large boat berth and a plane deck located below the roller path level. Because of a low center of gravity, the buoy is more stable and the access to it is easier and safer. All mechanical and electrical equipment is located in the watertight deck unit, thus making its maintenance easier. Lubrication and surge relief systems and pump equipment operation control instrumentation are installed on SPM-3.
JACQUES-YVES COUSTEAU’S COMPANIONS
In CPC they believe that the Marine Terminal employees are happier than the others in some things, they observe the products of the their labor not just by way of diagrams on the computer monitors and pressure gage vibrating hands but by watching tankers leaving the single point moorings.
The Marine Terminal (MT) industrial safety is ensured by both its advanced equipment, and timely maintenance. The personnel conducts pre-mooring and weekly inspections of the equipment. Each summer, the SPM loading system is flushed using the seawater with the help of a specially chartered tanker. The service life of the subsea and floating hoses amounts to two to six years, then they are subject to mandatory replacement. This process is extremely labor-consuming as each hose section weighs about five tons.
All diving operations in CPC are conducted by two standards: the international ones effective worldwide and the Russian Diving Service’s requirements. Divers maintaining 15 km of subsea pipelines work at a depth of up to 60 m where the diving is in a special wet bell and the breathing mixture is fed by an umbilical cable.
That is why a diver can spend no more than 30 minutes on the seabed and it takes him another hour and a half to broach with stops for decompression.
The most experienced divers, some of them even participated in the diving expeditions of the world-famous explorer of seas and oceans - Jacques-Yves Cousteau - monitor the condition of the PLEM, buoyancy tanks, anchors, their chains, subsea and floating hoses, clean them from marine vegetation, check the integrity of the SPM components, welds, measure metal thickness and cathodic protection efficiency, replace the subsea and floating hoses and other SPM components.
CPC Marine Terminal operation is organized in absolute compliance with the requirements of the IMO (International Maritime Organization). The Consortium strictly observes the IMO regulations, including the following document - International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals which regulates all operation processes and safety measures during tanker loading.
Preparation for a safe tanker loading starts long before it approaches the Terminal. First, a Shipper’s request to nominate a certain vessel for the loading window is reviewed. Before they reply, the specialists examine the tanker’s history and its technical capabilities in terms of compliance with the requirements of international organizations and oil companies. Apropos CPC now asks the Shippers to charter the most modern tankers equipped with scrubbers to minimize the negative impact on the atmosphere air during loading.
After all these formalities are completed, the tanker can head for Novorossiysk to area 670 - the Marine Terminal’s operation responsibility zone. There it is met by custom officers, border guards, mooring specialist and surveyor whose functions include tanker acceptance prior to loading. The surveyor checks the cleanliness of the tank walls and quality of inert gases in them taking samples by a gas sniffer. If some of the standards are not complied with, the surveyor has enough authority to stop the loading.
MONITORING AND CONTROL
Recently, representatives of the world-known Mendeleev Institute from Moscow have measured the atmospheric environment directly on the tanker. The analysis demonstrated that even on vessels the maximum admissible concentrations of emissions to the atmosphere were not exceeded. The measurements were taken on March 13 and continued during the entire loading operation on the tanker’s stern and prow and the tanker’s waist. It was registered that the emissions of the nitrogen dioxide amounted to 0.2 maximum admissible concentrations, carbon monoxide - 0.2, sulfur dioxide - 0.1, C1-C5 saturated hydrocarbons - 0.02, C6-C10 saturated hydrocarbons, H2S- 0.1, toluene - 0.7, benzene - 0.6, xylene - 0.5,ethyl mercaptan - 0.01 maximum admissible concentrations.
What does it mean? Well, in a loose sense, the sanitary protection zone can be installed right on the tanker. The parameters are virtually safe to a human being.
Since last mid-year, CPC has expanded the Environmental Monitoring Program of the atmosphere air quality in terms of both frequency of measurements, and monitored parameters. A field accredited independent laboratory conducts research at the boundaries of the MT sanitary and protection zone and in the residential area. In the event of citizen petition, the laboratory goes to the residential area of Yazhnaya Ozereevka. Not a single case of excessive maximum admissible concentrations has been registered as of today - the atmosphere air within the measured zones complies with the hygienic standards.
The protocols with the air quality results issued by the accredited laboratory are provided on a regular basis to the governmental supervision and control authorities. In addition, CPC has purchased its own portable gas monitor for prompt measurements of contaminating agents concentration, including mercaptan which produces strong odor even in the smallest doses. And never have these measurements detected concentrations harmful to human health.
No practice currently exists in the world for connecting an SPM to a system for recovery of volatile fractions of hydrocarbons. The famous Japanese JFE Engineering Corporation is examining this field. Hiroshi Okuda, Company Manager, replied to our inquiry about installation of those systems: “The Company has conducted a number of serious researches and professional surveys. The project existing as of today has been developed for the Mideast Region for transportation of only a certain oil grade and, unfortunately, it has not yet materialized and still remains just a plan. As far as we understand, no facilities have been constructed and put into operation on an SPM in the world as of today to reduce the volatile organic compounds”.
For its part, Caspian Pipeline Consortium also undertakes a whole set of actions of technical, technological and information nature. Specifically, CPC discusses an SPM upgrade with the international manufacturers. Installation of automated gages of atmosphere air quality monitoring at the boundaries of the Company and sanitary and protection zone with a mechanism of public and permanent communication of the measurement results is also under consideration. In the mid-term, an electronic Ecomonitor will appear in Yuzhnaya Ozereevka to broadcast meteorological information and data on the air condition.
Experts note that CPC business of crude oil transshipment at the Marine Terminal near Novorossiysk fully complies with the International Conventions of MARPOL 73/78 and SOLAS 74/78 ratified by the Russian Federation. In the course of almost 20 years of operation of a large industrial facility no emergencies have occurred. The Consortium’s team is proud that not a single drop of oil has been spilled onshore or offshore during tanker loading and the number of processed tankers have already exceeded 6.2 thousand.
The Novorossiysk Worker, 28 April 2020