^ The complete Yamal project

Article By Lucien Joppen

The Yamal Peninsula and the Gydan Peninsula, in the north of Russia, each contain massive LNG reserves. Novatek and Total are the prime movers in both the Yamal Project, which is up and running, and planned Arctic LNG-2 project. Total, which has a 19% stake in Novatek, the biggest Russian gas producer, has developed a strategic partnership with Novatek in Yamal and intends to leverage this joint expertise to tap into the gas reserves in the nearby Gydan Peninsula.

According to Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné, Arctic LNG-2 will contribute to the strategy of growth in LNG by developing competitive projects based on low cost resources. “The project fits into our strategic partnership with Novatek and also with our sustained commitment to develop the vast gas resources in Russia’s far north which will primarily destined for the strongly growing Asian market.”

Multibillion project

With a production capacity of approximately 19.8 million tons per year (MT/year), or 535,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d), Arctic LNG 2 will unlock more than 7 billion boe of hydrocarbons in the onshore Utrenneye gas and condensate field (see box).

The project will involve the installation of three gravity-based structures in the Gulf of Ob on which will be installed the three liquefaction trains of 6.6 MT/year capacity each. The project is estimated to cost USD $20 to USD $21 billion. To compare both projects in terms of cost: Yamal LNG’s costs are approximately USD $27 billion. The first train for Arctic LNG-2 is expected to start up at the end of 2023. As for project development challenges, Arctic LNG-2 will mirror Yamal. Both production facilities are and will be built on permafrost, meaning that tens of thousand piles in varying shapes and sizes are needed.

Frozen subsurface layer

The reason for using this MO is that for roughly three months per year the top layer of this permanently frozen subsurface layer of soil thaws. This process turns the first two meters of the top layer into unstable mud.

The construction of the Yamal LNG gas liquefaction plant on this unusual type of ground required the engineering of very specific foundations. The technical solution chosen for the foundations involved driving piles of various diameters and depths into the permafrost.

“The Gydan and Yamal peninsulas have a vast resource base … comparable to LNG production in Qatar.” Leonid Mikhelson, CEO Novatek

These foundations are also designed to compensate unforeseen bearing and volume variations in the active layer, thereby ensuring the stability of the plant throughout the site’s lifetime (50+ years).

Predictive model

These solutions, adapted to the Russian Arctic region with temperatures dropping below 50 degrees Celsius, have been successfully applied by Novatek and its partners for decades. However, in the case of Yamal LNG, it is the first time that these have been applied on such a scale, given the large size and weight of the facility.

A total of 65,000 piles, including 38,000 primary piles, have been installed to guarantee the stability of three liquefaction trains, a number of natural gas processing units and four 140,000-metric storage tanks (maximum operating weight).

The design of these foundations was based on an advanced geotechnical and geophysical analysis of the soil, whose purpose was to identify the characteristics of the soil in as much detail as possible and to predict its long-term behavior.

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