Braced for the cold snapDespite cold temperatures, production runs at full speed in Siberia / Production unaffected by temperature and pressure conditions
It is cold in Germany. And the next few nights are supposed to be the coldest of the year here. Minus 17 degrees are expected. But it can get even colder than that: In Novy Urengoy temperatures are already approaching the 30 degree mark. Snow and ice have taken hold of the country. But this doesn’t put off the Wintershall staff: they produce natural gas in Siberia near the Arctic Circle and production is currently in full swing.
“All the production wells are fully operational. We want to deliver as much natural gas as we can so that the people in Russia and Europe get through the cold spell comfortably. After all, we don’t want anyone freezing,” explained Mario Mehren, Member of the Wintershall Board of Executive Directors with responsibility for Russia. Wintershall produces natural gas from two large reserves in Siberia via joint ventures with Gazprom. But the current cold temperatures do not affect the natural gas production operations: the situation above the ground has no bearing on the temperature and pressure conditions in the reserve, at a depth of about 3,800 meters. Even when temperatures hit minus 50 degrees, which is certainly possible here, natural gas can still be produced.
In the blue production hall of the production facility UKPG-31, which provides a touch of color on the otherwise snowy white landscape of the Siberian tundra, natural gas flows to the surface. “Actually it’s not pure gas coming out of the ground but a mixture consisting of 47 percent condensate and 53 percent gas,” Deputy Operations Manager Dean Kadajew explains. In order to separate the elements, the mixture is cooled down and warmed up again several times. In addition, the pressure – 108 bar – with which the gas surges from underground, is reduced to about 55 bar.
Once separated the condensate then flows by pipeline to a refinery – and the gas heads for the West. It has to travel 5,000 kilometers from here to Germany; the gas needs almost a week to get to Mallnow near Frankfurt/Oder via the Yamal pipeline or to Greifswald on the Baltic Sea coast via Nord Stream. Together with Gazprom and other European partners, Wintershall also operates the new natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea.
But the onset of winter has recently caused a sharp rise in consumption of natural gas in Russia, and in order to supply all its Russian customers with natural gas, Gazprom has had to increase its domestic deliveries. The cuts made in the natural gas transported from Russia to Europe were announced by Gazprom and agreed in advance. WINGAS is therefore still able to supply its customers reliably with natural gas. With the natural gas storage facility in Rehden, in northern Germany, Wintershall and Gazprom have at their disposal the largest natural gas storage facility in Western Europe. With its working gas volume of over 4 billion cubic meters, it accounts for about a fifth of the total storage capacity available in Germany. Two million single-family homes could be supplied for a whole year with this volume alone.