The largest shipbuilder of Latin America and the main logistics and fuel transportation company of Brazil, Petrobras Transporte S.A. – Transpetro – works with transportation and storage activities of oil and byproducts, ethanol, biofuels and natural gas.
The company, a fully owned subsidiary of Petrobras, was established on June 12, 1998, by federal law which restructured the oil sector in Brazil. Transpetro’s main goal is to grow and help boost the development in Brazil, aligned with Petrobras’ system business strategy. Transpetro is active in more than 200 cities in all Brazilian regions.
The company stores and transports oil, byproducts, biofuels and natural gas to the farthest locations of Brazil, a huge country with continental dimensions. Transpetro operates the largest natural gas processor in Brazil, with a processing capacity of 25 million m³/day (20 million m³ of NG and 5 million m³ of NG Condensate).
Transpetro’s operation includes about 15,000-km of crude oil, byproducts, multiproduct, ethanol and natural gas pipelines. The company also handles operations of 20 terrestrial terminals, 28 aquatic terminals, operates a 52-tanker fleet and has a program, to construct 49 new tankers until 2015. The pipeline network is operated and controlled around the clock from the National Center of Operational Control (CNCO) at Transpetro’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro using the latest generation of computers and state-of-the-art technology in telecommunications.
Transpetro’s Control Center
To learn more about Transpetro, P&GJ interviewed Marcelo Rennó, Natural Gas Director of Transpetro.
Rennó was born in Belo Horizonte City in Minas Gerais State in the Brazilian countryside. He earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). After moving to Rio de Janeiro, he also earned a postgraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at COPPE/UFRJ; an MBA degree in Marketing and Finance in COOPPEAD/UFRJ, and an MBA in Public Policies and Government at the Institute of Economics/UFRJ. In 1977, Rennó was approved in a National Public Contest to win the right to work for Petrobras, the biggest Brazilian company and one of the leading oil and gas companies in the world. All engineers approved in the Petrobras contest must complete the formation course to be able to work for the oil and gas industry as an engineer of: drilling; production; exploration; equipment inspection; refining process and all the specific branches of the oil and gas industry. Only after proving proficiency in the formation course of Terminals and Pipelines Engineer did Rennó become a Junior Engineer in this specific area.
Rennó began as a Terminal and Pipelines Engineer in 1978 in the Engineering Department of Petrobras, working on several projects related to pipeline and terminal businesses for the next 16 years. Later, he moved on and began working as manager of Gas Distribution Planning and Marketing at Petrobras Distribuidora Company (BR); later, he worked on several projects including the Brazil-Bolivia Gas Pipeline Project (GASBOL). In 2005, he was nominated for the Natural Gas Director of Transpetro. He is also the coordinator of the Pipeline Commission of the Brazilian Petroleum Institute (IBP), and president of the Stakeholders Assembly of CTDUT, a non-profit company dedicated to pipeline research and development.
P&GJ: How is the pipeline activity in Brazil organized according to technological concerns?
Rennó: The Research and Development Center of Petrobras (CENPES), the largest oil and gas research institute in Brazil, conducts studies to face the major technical challenges and limitations of the Brazilian pipeline industry. In the pipeline area, CENPES has a specific technological program, called PROTRAN, to ensure the application of the industrial best practices and innovations in the Petrobras pipeline network. CENPES works in connection with the technological Brazilian community, such as universities and technological institutes, in a matrix network, encouraging and supporting research, exploring the experience of each Institution. Nowadays this network involves five research institutes and 20 universities. PROTRAN has nine areas of knowledge related to pipeline technology. These are: corrosion management; leak detection and location systems; rehabilitation of pipelines; pigging technology; pipeline operation and automation; pipeline risk assessment and management; materials technology; increase of transfer capacity; and new techniques for design, construction and assembly.
Another very important institution in the technological Brazilian community is the CTDUT, an acronym for Pipeline Technology Center (Centro de Tecnologia de Dutos), a non-profit association of pipeline segment companies and universities. Working closely with these companies, universities and research centers, in addition to technological cooperation agreements with other institutions, CTDUT is focused on the technological demands and gaps, opportunities and bottlenecks in this sector. Together, they develop projects that will broaden the supply of high-grade innovative products and services for the pipeline sector in Brazil and elsewhere in the world.
CTDUT evaluating a new device to stop leaks.
The Brazilian Institute of Oil, Natural Gas and Biofuels, IBP (Instituto Brasileiro de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis), where Rennó is the coordinator of the Pipeline Commission, has a vital role in the technological development in the Brazilian pipeline community. IBP has more than 50 years of experience in organizing technical meetings, conferences, courses and standardization of oil and gas activities in the pipeline industry. The Pipeline Commission of IBP provides the link between all sectors of the Brazilian pipeline community, including operators, constructors, services and material suppliers, research institutes and universities.
On the academic side, the Pipeline Commission of IBP also stimulated the creation of a specific post- graduate course in Rio de Janeiro, the city with the most pipeline operating companies, regulators, contractors and engineering companies in the country, at PUC-RJ, the Catholic University (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro). This one-year course began in 2001 and has taken place every year since then, training engineers in order to meet the pipeline industry’s workforce demands.
Petrobras and Transpetro also participate in other technological international forums to keep up-to-date with the most advanced safety and profitable procedures. One of them is the PRCI (Pipeline Research Council International). PRCI is organized to conduct collaborative research programs according to the industry’s priorities as determined through an annual voting ballot. The majority of funding comes from the pipeline industry through annual subscriptions of member companies. Members may also allocate funds directly to programs they deem of importance to their operations and business drivers.
P&GJ: What were the great achievements of pipelines in Brazil and what have been the latest challenges?
Rennó: Some achievements in Brazil began in the 1950s. The development of the city of Sao Paulo demanded the delivery of oil byproducts, and long-distance pipelines were required to supply the new refineries which were located 100-km from the sea shore. The first big challenge for pipeline construction was to climb an 800-meter-high rocky hill. The picture below shows the difficulties of the Santos-Sao Paulo Pipeline construction with the equipment of the day.
Santos-Sao Paulo pipeline construction in the 1950s.
In the ‘60s a 357-km, 16-inch pipeline was built from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte. After that, in the‘70s, offshore oil and gas production in Campos Basin, close to Rio de Janeiro city, increased greatly, and the first offshore natural gas and crude oil pipelines were laid on the seabed. In the ’80s, the Brazilian market introduced ethanol into the energy matrix, replacing gasoline as fuel for vehicles to reduce dependency on external oil and protect the environment. This new product started to flow into our multiproduct pipelines that had recently been built. Since then, those pipelines have operated safely and profitably, with no incidents regarding ethanol corrosion. Also in the ‘80s, the northeast pipeline network was established to transport natural gas from the northeast offshore production fields.
In the ‘90s Brazil’s growing demand for natural gas required construction of the Bolivia-Brazil pipeline, named GASBOL. This is a telescopic pipeline with diameters ranging from 32 inches down to 16 inches. It brings natural gas from the production fields in Rio Grande City, Bolivia, to the city of Canoas, in the south of Brazil. It delivers natural gas to five states in Brazil and has total length of 3,160-km.
Some significant endeavors from the beginning of the 21st century deserve special merit in the Brazilian pipeline network:
• The connection of a natural gas transportation network from Porto Alegre in the far south of the country to Fortaleza in the northeast region, with the construction of the GASENE project pipeline;
• The 800-km natural gas pipeline system in the heart of the Amazon jungle, linking the city of Urucú to Manaus, as detailed ahead;
• The growth of São Paulo city created a need to relocate a complex network of pipelines in order to address the biggest public hazard, and about 400-km of pipelines are being relocated around the city area, known as the PDD project;
• The construction of a dedicated pipeline system for ethanol transportation from the production areas to the domestic consumers and exportation harbors with a total length of 1,300-km.
The most recent challenge faced by the Brazilian pipeline community was the construction of an 800-km natural gas pipeline system in the Amazon rain forest, the Urucu-Coari-Manaus gas pipeline system, called GASCOM. The successful preservation of the environment and the overcoming of adverse climate conditions were great victories. That geographical area where the pipeline was built has two very characteristic seasons: six months of the year are flooded and the other six are “dry”. In some sections of this pipeline, during the “dry” season it was impossible to work due to the muddy terrain. Working conditions were better during the wet season when special barges could be used.
Several horizontal directional drills were performed to preserve the environment and crossed many rivers along the route. The two largest river crossings were the Amazon (30-km) and the Negro (20-km) rivers, but both were constructed by conventional techniques, laying down the pipeline over the river bed using floatators. The Petrobras Engineering Department was in charge of the construction which became part of the gas and energy area of Petrobras assets. Transpetro is the operator.
As the pipeline network in Brazil is located exactly in the most populated area, Transpetro has developed an intensive 30-party damage prevention program to prevent major threats to the natural gas pipeline network. Through the years this program has become a well-established procedure concerning each particularity for any region of the country. One of those activities was the communitarian vegetable-garden in a partnership with the local landowners over the right-of-way. This project was awarded the Global Pipeline Award at the International Pipeline Conference in Calgary 2006. This public awareness campaign has ended but we are still reaping the benefits.
P&GJ: What is your opinion about the future of the pipeline industry as it relates to the environment, energy conservation and cost-reduction in CAPEX and OPEX?
Rennó: Regarding pipeline projects’ economic feasibility, there is a challenge to reduce the transportation tariffs, through CAPEX and OPEX cost reductions. As an activity based on capital, the CAPEX reduction is the most representative cost-component demanding innovation in its phases of design, materials selection and construction techniques.
In the design phase we can list the application of 3D visualization centers of pipeline route and new criteria for mechanical design such as strain-based theory. Regarding material supply we can realize a substantial cost reduction by using high-resistance steel for pipes. The development of these steels by refining the grain size through adding alloy elements, such as niobium, into the steel’s chemical composition, or else by using a complex thermal mechanical process, has allowed a significant reduction in thickness, mainly in high-diameter pipelines operating at high pressure levels.
Regarding construction and assembly techniques, we can say the onshore pipeline industry has not experimented with relevant innovation for a long time. Some spot trials have been conducted by international institutes, but they have not produced too many relevant results. But it is important to acknowledge some relevant construction innovations for pipeline installation in environmentally sensitive areas, such as tunneling, pushing and hybrid construction techniques, the latter using a combination of onshore and offshore construction techniques.
Talking about OPEX, several initiatives and innovations have been executed, targeting data centralization in control centers, such as: energy optimization through better selection of alignments of pumps or compressors; image transmission systems; and leak detection, etc.
The great goal for this industry is the constant search for zero leakage. Initiatives and research projects intend to block the great threats that could cause pipeline failures. The most likely threats are third-party damages, corrosion and material or construction defects. The integrity program is the great solution to the search for this “zero leakage” goal. The development of pigging techniques associated with third-party prevention programs, fluid quality assurance, cathodic protection monitoring programs and leak detection software has ensured a constant reduction in leak statistics.
The final message is that the pipeline industry needs continuously technological initiatives to meet the demands of industrial economical feasibility and pursue the zero leakage goal.