Environmental Technology, News, Oil & Gas

Biggest pipeline in Brazil opens

Petrobras has opened the Southeast Northeast Integration Gas Pipeline, the biggest pipeline in length built in Brazil in the past ten years and the main project to expand the natural gas transportation network in the country between 2003 and 2010.

Between 2003 and 2010 has the Brazilian gas transport pipeline network grew from 5451 kilometers to 9219 kilometers. The event took place Friday (03/26).

A Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) project, the Gasene measures 28 inches in diameter and can transport 20 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. In a circuit that connects Rio de Janeiro to Bahia, the pipeline has the strategic role of integrating the natural gas transport networks in Southeastern and Northeastern Brazil, affording the Brazilian gas pipeline network a new configuration. When it goes on stream, the Gasene will have the initial capacity to carry 10 million cubic meters/day. As the market grows, this will be increased by means of compressor stations.

With the integration pipeline, the country breaks a gas boundary: on one side, the Southeast, where the main producing fields and the largest consumer market are located; on the other, the Northeast, which produces natural gas, but in insufficient amounts to allow market growth. Now, natural gas produced in the Southeast (Campos, Santos, and Espírito Santo basins), imported from Bolivia or regasified at the Guanabara Bay liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal can reach the Northeastern states.

This integration allows for the supply of natural gas to the Northeast to be increased substantially, it provides more supply reliability, and increases operating flexibility to meet the needs of the region’s thermal and non thermal markets. The 20 million cubic meters per day equal twice the average consumption in the Northeastern region in 2009, which topped-out at 9.8 million cubic meters per day (21.5% of domestic natural gas consumption). In other words, with the Gasene, Northeastern Brazil now has more natural gas available to it and, thus, more power to support its economic development.

With investments in the order of R$ 7.2 billion and generating 47,000 direct and indirect jobs, the integration pipeline construction work was divided into three sections: Cacimbas-Vitória (130 km), Cabiúnas-Vitória (303 km), and Cacimbas-Catu (954 km). The first two are ready and in commercial operation. Ranging 954 kilometers, the third and largest section, the Cacimbas-Catu (Gascac), was completed this March.

Central to integrate the two regions, Cacimbas-Catu interconnects the Cacimbas Gas Treatment Station, in Linhares (state of Espírito Santo), to the Catu Gas Distribution Station in Pojuca (state of Bahia), the site of Hub 1 (place where different pipelines meet). In Pojuca, the Gasene interconnects the Catu-Pilar gas pipeline. It is over this infrastructure, which is now integrated, that the natural gas is transported to the states of Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, and Ceará.

Along the route, the Gasene has eight delivery points (Itabuna, Eunápolis and Mucuri, Bahia; Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, Anchieta, Viana and Vitoria, in Espírito Santo; and Campos dos Goytacazes, in Rio de Janeiro.), in addition to three compressor stations (Piúma and Aracruz, in Espírito Santo, and Prado, in Bahia).

The delivery points allow the natural gas to reach new markets and drive product use interiorization. An example of this is the service provided to the Itabuna market. A trade agreement signed on March 1 between Petrobras and Bahiagás – a natural gas distributor in Bahia – allows the delivery of natural gas in southern Bahia to be anticipated. The first three customers of the gas transported by Gasene in Southern Bahia are the Trifil (textiles) and Nestlé (food) industrial plants, and the Posto Universal (CNG) service station, all in Itabuna.

On the same day, the three customers signed an agreement with Bahiagás and with the Companhia de Distribuição de Gás Natural (CDGN). The state distributor is in charge of providing natural gas, while CDGN, by compressing and transporting the fuel, of taking it to the final consumers by truck. CDGN will deliver the gas until the fourth quarter of 2010, when Bahiagás will have completed the construction of the distribution branch that will receive the gas at the Gasene point of delivery, in Itabuna, taking it to the final consumers.

Cacimbas-Catu (Gascac) construction work – the third and largest section of Gasene

The Gascac construction work got underway in March 2008 and was completed in 24 months. The pipeline route crosses 51 municipalities: five in Espírito Santo, and 46 in Bahia. The work was divided into six work fronts that operated simultaneously to meet the planned schedule. At the peak of the work, the third and largest section of the Gasene generated 9,500 jobs.

In the 954 km of the Gascac, there were 151 river crossings, six of which made using directional holes, and 88 special crossing area projects, including roads and railways. Part of the route shares the Orsub track, Petrobras’ pipeline that connects Salvador to Itabuna and transports oil derivatives (gasoline, diesel, and LPG).

To complete this long section and overcome construction challenges, Petrobras adopted special technologies in the work. In rocky terrain areas, located between the cities of Ipiaú and Itabuna, for example, it blasted rocks using explosives in a controlled, localized fashion. This approach replaces the traditional ditch opening process.

Another novelty was the use of the Pipe Sak, an alternative method to concreting pipelines, which uses woven polypropylene bags filled with gravel and belted to the pipeline to prevent buoyancy in floodplains.

Another technology that was also used for the first time in Brazil was Vacuum Lift, a device that lifts pipelines by means of vacuum suction and eliminates the use of wire ropes and straps. Used in the section between the cities of Valencia and Catu, Vacuum Lift reduced the 28-inch pipe lifting time from 10 minutes to 25 seconds.