BGC operates a network of around 1,800 kilometres of pipelines to transport natural gas, hydrocarbon liquids and industrial water from where it is produced to our plants for processing and then to customers.
To keep natural gas and liquids flowing through these pipelines, we run compressor stations, or pumping stations located at different points on the network.
Natural gas pipelines
If our entire pipeline network was laid in a single straight line, it would stretch from Basrah to Ankara in Turkey.
Many of BGC’s pipelines were built some 30 years ago. Years of sanctions and conflict made maintaining and upgrading these pipelines very difficult for South Gas Company’s engineers, despite their best efforts. As a result, significant rehabilitation work is required.
Unfortunately even inspecting our pipelines is very challenging. Most are buried for much of their length. Important original design information has been lost over the years, despite work to preserve it. This has made the knowledge and experience of many of the staff who transferred from South Gas Company to BGC even more critical to our success.
Mines and other explosive remnants of war are a serious hazard along many of our pipeline routes. They have to be carefully cleared before work can begin, frequently along the entire length of the pipeline and throughout the 50-metre wide pipeline right of way. Sometimes walking many kilometres along pipeline routes is the only safe way to reach inspection sites.
Our pipelines also cross very remote areas. Our staff and contractors, as well as equipment and parts, have to undertake lengthy journeys to reach work sites.
The pressing need for energy in southern Iraq means that pipelines cannot be shut down for lengthy periods for rehabilitation or repair.
Despite these challenges we have made significant progress in checking the integrity of our pipeline network since BGC assumed responsibility in May 2013.
By the end of 2014, we had assessed and categorised according to an internationally-accepted system the integrity of about a quarter of our total pipelines. This includes the key 24 inch trunkline from Zubair field to the Khor Al Zubair gas processing plant, the pipelines transporting products between the Umm Qasr storage and marine terminals, and the 40 inch gas and eight inch condensate pipelines from West Qurna to the North Rumaila gas processing plant.
Inspection work will enable us to establish a pipeline integrity management philosophy that will direct a long term pipeline integrity management programme.
At the same time we are rehabilitating the sections of pipeline that are in most pressing need of repair to restore asset integrity and secure production. We are replacing sections of pipeline that total approximately 50 kilometers as part of the first phase of this rehabilitation work. This work requires 200 truck trips of hundreds of kilometres each to transport some 600 joints of line-pipes to various worksites.
We are also implementing a programme to install or restore cathodic protection to abate the main corrosion mechanism of the pipelines. Cathodic protection involves connecting metal that needs to be protected – in this case the pipeline itself – with more easily corroded ‘sacrificial’ metal which then corrodes instead. This work is being conducted by AKT Oil Services, a wholly Iraqi-owned company. This will extend the service life of our pipelines.
Our pipeline rehabilitation programme is providing training opportunities for BGC staff in disciplines that include pipeline engineering, construction and operations. For contractors the work creates development opportunities in skills like welding, pipe fitting, rigging, scaffolding, heavy equipment operation, and cathodic protection
Successfully rehabilitating our existing pipelines will enable gas gathering to be increased by 200 million standard cubic feet per day, in a cost effective way. Replacing these pipelines instead would cost around $250 million, funds which are greatly needed for further development.
BGC currently runs nine compressor stations, or pumping stations, which are located at key points of our natural gas pipeline network. We are constructing a further nine compressor stations to boost capacity.
Compressor stations ensure that natural gas continues to flow through our long pipelines. They pressurise the natural gas, and this provides energy for movement.
BGC’s existing compressor stations were built decades ago. Sanctions and conflict since construction made it challenging to maintain them.
When BGC assumed responsibility in 2013, only some of the existing compressor stations were operating, most only partially. Others were not operational and in need of repair.
Nonetheless some have been running with minimum maintenance, in order to keep vital natural gas flowing to generate much needed power in Basrah.
We have been working to repair and rehabilitate our compressor stations, whilst keeping them operational to maintain production.
To increase power availability in Basrah quickly, BGC is installing three temporary compressor stations that can provide a rapid shorter term solution. An example is the Zubair temporary compressor, which was built within just 10 months on a site that was previously a scrap metal dump.
The Zubair temporary compressor was transported to the site in modules, which were then fitted together on site in a matter of days. Iraqi contractor Al Bilal completed over 225,000 man-hours of work on this project, without a single HSE incident.
The Zubair temporary compressor adds 60 million standard cubic feet of capacity and will enable the recovery of an additional 350 tonnes of LPG per day, enough for 17,000 cylinders.
Our nine new permanent compressor stations will significantly increase further the amount of gas that can be moved from the oil fields to BGC’s gas processing plants.
BGC is building 3 new compressor stations in West Qurna to start capturing and treating gas from West Qurna 1 field, currently flared.
This is a legacy project that BGC took over from the State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP) and it includes the rehabilitation of a 40 inch pipeline built 30 years ago and the installation of additional compression at our plant in North Rumaila.