31 January 2023 - 12:57
  • News ID: 468216
SP14 Refinery Close to Operation

TEHRAN (Shana) -- The refinery of Phase 14 of the giant offshore South Pars gas field is almost coming online. With the completion of this megaproject, which has been operated only by Iranians, all South Pars refineries would have become operational. The offshore section of this project came on-stream in 2019 with a current output of 56 mcm/d of rich gas. Over the past one year, three trains of gas sweetening have become operational at this refinery, which sets a record. The onshore section of this project has been invested $5.2 billion in.

To learn more about the project, “Iran Petroleum” has interviewed Mohammad Mehdi Tavassolipour, the SP14 project manager.

The SP14 refinery is close to coming on-stream. Would you please tell us about the details of this project?

The SPD14 project is divided into two parts: onshore and offshore. The onshore part of this project includes refining facilities, and the offshore part includes 4 gas platforms (two main platforms and two satellite platforms), 44 wells and two 32-inch pipelines to transfer offshore gas to the refinery to undergo onshore sweetening process. Given the classification of South Pars projects based on priority in recent years and the Petroleum Ministry’s policy of preventing lucrum cessans in gas recovery from this jointly-owned field, the consortium in charge of SP14 was ordered to launch the offshore section as fast as possible to allow for production. In April 2018, two offshore platforms came online and two more platforms become operational by March 2020. Now, 56 mcm/d of rich gas is being supplied.

How much gas has so far been produced from this phase?

The aggregate gas production from SP14 is estimated at 62 bcm.

How much has been invested in SP14 development?

The investment made in drilling, offshore platforms, pipelines and onshore installations totals $5.2 billion, provided by National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).

What are the characteristics of the SP14 refinery?

The SP14 refinery is the 13th and the last refinery in South Pars, which is approaching its inauguration. With the operation of this refinery, the file of development projects in the South Pars refinery sector will be closed. The products of this refinery are similar to the two-phase projects of South Pars, including 50 mcm/d of methane to be injected into the national trunkline, 77 kb/d of gas condensate, 400 tonnes a day of sulfur as well as one million tonnes of ethane and one million tonnes of LPG per annum.

Over the past year, three trains of sweetening have come online at this refinery. Is it a new trend in South Pars refineries?

No. Fortunately, with the mission assigned to us by the Petroleum Ministry, we managed to bring three trains of gas refineries into operation as of 2022. The first train came online in March 2022, to be followed by the second one in November 2022 and the third one in January 2023. We’re trying to complete the last train of sweetening in the near future.

What’s the share of domestic manufacturing in the SP14 refining sector?

The SP14 refinery project coincided with the tightening of Western sanctions against Iran. As expected, foreign partners denied us any service. However, we managed to complete the SP14 refinery without any foreign companies’ involvement and relying only on our own technical capacity and expertise. In the equipment manufacturing sector, the domestic share is about 70%, which is a record in the South Pars refineries. I would like to add that because the foreign companies from whom we had purchased some of the refinery equipment were legally obligated to set up the equipment and be present alongside the Iranian manpower, but due to the sanctions, they did not respect their commitments and we moved forward using the power of knowledge-based companies. At the beginning, we were very worried about employing knowledge-based companies due to the sensitivity of the equipment used in the refinery, but now that a year has passed since the launch of the first gas sweetening train of the refinery, we are witnessing the success of local companies. Although at the beginning, the activities of this sector were a bit difficult and time-consuming, in launching the next trains, the work progressed at a significant speed and we were able to put all the refinery units into production without the presence of foreign companies.

NIOC applies strict standards to oil and gas projects. It was the first time knowledge-based companies were engaged in the SP14 refinery trains. To what extent is the equipment up to NIOC standards?

We show no flexibility in implementing standards. The job is sensitive and the slightest error imposes life costs on us, not to mention financial costs. The Petroleum Ministry has no desire to endanger human life by disregarding the implementation of standards due to sanctions and cause environmental pollution and ultimately reduce the useful life of refineries and offshore platforms. Iran's petroleum industry has been always subject to sanctions, but we also tried to have minimal deviations in the design and specifications of the projects. I would like to emphasize that NIOC shows no flexibility in these issues. Under certain circumstances, we may have to be flexible in discussing financial issues and duration of projects, but never in technical issues. It is noteworthy that the activities of the onshore and offshore sectors with a gas pressure of more than 120 Bar and a high amount of H2S do not allow flexibility to the contractor. Worrying about sanctions does not make us use non-standard equipment in our projects. Therefore, the manufacturers are not authorized to launch a project until they are cleared by NIOC for standards. As I mentioned, the first sweetening train of the SP14 refinery came online in March 2022 and has been working for one year now. We are not worried anymore about the absence of foreign companies as we can launch our equipment.

Could you give us figures about the structure used in the SP14 refinery?

The onshore facilities of the SP14 refinery has been built on 170 ha of land by four of the eight members of the consortium led by the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO). The structure at the refinery includes 40,000 tonnes of metal structures, about 6,000 kilometers of cabling equivalent to the distance from Iran to Germany, 3 million inches of pipe in diameter, 360,000 cubic meters of concrete injection, equivalent to 6 times the concrete structure of Milad Tower in Tehran.

In launching the refinery, how much attention has been paid to environmental issues?

The Petroleum Ministry has a comprehensive program to gather flare gas from the 13 South Pars refineries, and this plan is being studied. SP14 is not excluded from this plan and I hope that the financial resources of this plan will be secured soon and we will see a decrease in the amount of flaring in South Pars. But in the case of the parts related to the SP14 refinery, Unit 129 of effluent treatment unit is operational to treat a major part of the refinery's pollutants. The next issue is, according to the instructions given to us by the Department of Environment, to use online monitoring analyzers in all furnaces of the refinery, including Units 104 and 116 and all exhaust chimneys of the refinery. We have notified our contractors so that we can measure water and air pollutants real-time to prevent any excess. Fortunately, these instructions have been chiefly implemented and the rest will be implemented in the near future.

How many persons were employed in the SP14 refinery?

At different stages of the project implementation, the active forces varied depending on the project implementation, but at the peak of the implementation activities, about 9,000 service workers, including unskilled workers, specialists, and technicians, were hired. Currently, about 8,100 persons are working, and with the operation of the refinery, the type of persons will actually change towards the operation and maintenance forces, and it will reach about 1,100 during the operation period, like other phases of South Pars refinery. During the last five years, we have not had any accidents leading to injury or death during the implementation of the project, which I hope will continue until the end of the operation.

As the SP14 refinery project is approaching completion, which one do you think is more difficult: offshore or onshore?

It is difficult to implement the project in both the onshore and offshore sectors, but the restrictions in the offshore sector due to bad weather especially in the second 6 months of the year make it more difficult to work in the sea. On the other hand, in terms of cost, work in the offshore sector is more expensive than the refinery sector, but in terms of implementation calendar, project implementation in the offshore sector has a shorter time than the refinery sector. Due to the limitations in the offshore sector, we have tried as much as possible to do all the activities that can be done in the onshore sector in the construction yards of our onshore platforms so that when the platforms and their accessories are installed offshore, they could be done with less time. Of course, I would also like to add that drilling offshore wells is a very complicated task. Wells must be drilled from the 70-meter seabed and about 4 kilometers, which is a very complicated and heavy task; however, Iranian companies have long been highly capable to implement drilling projects in South Pars.

South Pars is supplying 700 mcm/d of gas, while in cold months, domestic and business sectors consume 600 mcm/d. Does it show the significant contribution of South Pars to national gas supply?

Yes, that's right. The South Pars gas field is a joint gas field possessed by Iran and Qatar, so the sooner the production from South Pars phases starts, the better it is for Iran. The SP14 production, which stands at 56 mcm/d of rich gas, is equivalent to half gas required by Tehran Province at peak shaving. Therefore, you may see how this gas feed to the national trunkline can help stabilize gas production, not to mention the well-being of citizens in the domestic and industrial sectors.

By Negar Sadeqi

Courtesy of Iran Petroleum

News ID 468216


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