Extraction of helium and its liquefaction on an industrial scale in Russia is carried out at the Orenburg Gas Processing Plant. Helium transportation in liquefied form is the most convenient method of its transportation. For these purposes Cryogaztech LLC (Saint Petersburg) implements a unique project for Gazprom Gazenergoset OJSC – ОG-500 Helium Liquefaction Plant at Orenburg Gas Processing Plant. Facilities of this type have not been constructed in Russia for more than 20 years.
A liquefier made by Linde Kryotechnic that is one of the world leaders in production of cryogenic plants is the central system of the plant created by Cryogaztech LLC at the Orenburg Helium Refinery. The liquefier works using modified Brayton cycle with two-stage helium expansion in turbine expanders and preliminary cooling by liquid nitrogen. The plant capacity is 500 l/h. The ready product temperature is minus 269 °С.
The Helium Liquefaction Plant consists of the following systems: compression, oil removal, liquefaction (Cold box) and storage of liquid helium, gaseous helium conditioning with a buffer tank, shipment station, liquid nitrogen storage and supply system. Auxiliary systems include a vacuum-pumping system, a commercial weighing room for accounting of loaded liquid helium and an adsorber regeneration unit. The system has been designed in the shortest possible time. Just 6 months were spent to work out packages of design and detailed documentation and to approve the design by the State Expertise. One of the main difficulties the designers faced with is a total absence of regulatory technical documentation in helium liquefaction industry. To solve this problem they had to use standards from related branches such as gas refining and cryogenic air separation.
Cryogaztech LLC developed the detailed documentation using 3D simulation technologies. 3D model was filled with content and transfered to Linde Kryotechnik for approval according to accumulation and specification. Thus the designers have managed to trace and to eliminate collisions occurring between pipelines, networks and building structures at the stage of documentation development.
The project was managed under Project Management Institute (USA) methodology. It allowed the Project Manager to approach changes in scopes of work flexibly, to plan works, to trace and to mitigate occurring risks. A general work schedule pegged to Linde Kryotechnik equipment manufacturing schedule was developed.
The Helium Liquefaction Plant was constructed at the Orenburg Gas Processing Plant for 5 months. The unique project in Russia was built by efforts of hundreds of people from September 2013 till January 2014. Sophisticated problems connected with transportation and assembly of large-size equipment, welding and certification of cryogenic pipelines with vacuum insulation, laying of kilometers of pipelines and cables in conditions of operating highly hazardous production facility have been solved. A lot of efforts have been made to document and to approve the executed works due to extraordinary safety measures taken at the Helium Refinery. All these have become possible by virtue of joint work of the Group that includes Cryogaztech LLC.
For the whole period of construction Cryogastech LLC (Saint Petersburg) specialists have conducted designer's supervision and that allowed minimizing expenses and implementing the project in accordance with the design documentation. Currently commissioning works are in progress at the Plant. Putting of OG-500 Plant in operation is planned in Q2 this year. The Plant represents a unified technologically interconnected structure for production and shipment of liquid helium and its subsequent transportation to consumers located at large distance.
The launch of the new Helium Liquefaction Plant will allow completing the logical chain on production, extraction, purification and refining of such unique product as liquid helium in the scope of the enterprise.
Helium is a rare and nonrenewable natural resource. The field of its application is very wide: it is used in nuclear power industry, aerospace, electronic and laser industries, medicine and of course cryogenics as well in various branches of knowledge from fundamental to applied researches.
A series of countries have gas fields containing helium in concentrations which make its extraction profitable. Currently the highest concentration is observed in USA fields*. As for helium content gas reserves USA ranks No. 3 only giving way to Qatar and Russia that is the world leader which reserves are estimated in 11.2 bln m3**. In spite of moderate helium concentrations in theses gases (0.053–0.055 %) the helium market in Russia has a great potential especially taking into account helium reserves in undeveloped fields in Eastern Siberia and Yakutia (0.19–0.67 %). Prices for helium grow and this growth will continue especially taking into account the fact that currently a large part of USA strategic helium reserve providing about 35 % of the world helium supply has been sold***.
* Broadhead, Ronald F. Helium in New Mexico – geology distribution resource demand and exploration possibilities.
New Mexico Geology 27(4):93–101. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
** Kontorovich А. E., Korzhubaev A. G., Eder L.V. Raw material base and prospects of helium industry development
in Russia and worldwide // Mineral resources of Russia. Economics and management. – 2006. – No. 2. – Page 17–24.
M. Y. Kutsak, Director; I. G. Manilkin, Technical Director; Т. G. Dubinin, Project Manager; D. E. Ageyskiy, Research Engineer; A. V. Kupriyanov, Process Engineer, Cryogaztech LLC