Roman Dashkov Talks About the Specific of 2020 Integrated Gas System Shutdown

Roman Dashkov, Sakhalin Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, is talking about Sakhalin-2 project Integrated Gas System Shutdown 2020 in his interview to Gas Industry Magazine.


The COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be the most serious test of recent years for almost all sectors of the Russian economy, including the oil and gas industry. It required much effort on the part of many organisations to overcome the unprecedented challenges and keep their businesses afloat. For Sakhalin Energy, the pandemic became the challenge of our time, but the company coped with it admirably, turning difficulties into new opportunities, and ensuring the company's sustainability into the future. Roman Dashkov, Sakhalin Energy Chief Executive Officer, talked to us about the 2020 Integrated Gas System Shutdown and what it entailed.

– Mr Dashkov, the company delivered the planned gas system shutdown at an extremely difficult time. What made you choose not to defer the planned scope?

– The events of the current year caused the company to change its plans considerably. The oil and gas business is very sensitive to external factors, and the COVID-19 pandemic declared at the beginning of the year affected it especially badly. With the fall in oil prices and the continuation of sanctions, Sakhalin Energy's main task was to quickly develop and implement a set of measures to preserve the stability of its business operations in the current environment and ensure that all of its production goals were met.

Continuous production is characterised by a number of features that affect the organisation of equipment maintenance and repairs. These processes are primarily aimed at achieving the most efficient use of time, in other words, carrying out the required scope of high-quality work related to equipment maintenance, repair, and diagnostics within a set period of time. On the other hand, reducing the duration of scheduled preventive maintenance — fr om the shutdown to the start-up of the processing facilities — without any detriment to quality or product quantity helps to reduce lost profits in the form of non-manufactured products during downtime.

Sakhalin Energy is a “continuous cycle” company; therefore, we carry out of scheduled shutdowns annually as part of the maintenance of the entire production chain. Due to the specific features of the Sakhalin-2 project — the relatively limited redundancy of the main process equipment and the focus on the export of hydrocarbons, we always make the most of this time to ensure reliable and continuous production throughout the year.

– What were the key contributors to the successful completion of the scope?

– To ensure the effective management of the company during the pandemic, as well as the development of measures to prevent the spread of the disease at the remote sites, and prompt decision making, we created the General Coordinating Committee (GCC), which developed and approved all key decisions that made it possible to preserve the continuity of the company’s production processes.

The GCC focused its efforts on organising the safe rotation of Sakhalin Energy and contractor shift personnel at the company’s remote facilities. This process was exceedingly complex as we had to keep our production facilities virus-free while working towards our set targets, including those related to the scope of work planned for the 2020 scheduled shutdown, the implementation of which required mobilising more than 1,500 people.

As part of this work, the company set up temporary accommodation facilities (TAFs) for the 14-day self-isolation of employees before entering the territory of the production facilities; we developed all necessary regulations and procedures (for example, the Procedure for Personnel Transportation and Observation; Decision Matrix for Suspected COVID-19 Cases; Algorithm and Procedure for Interaction During Medical Evacuation of Suspected COVID-19 Patients) and had them approved by the relevant supervisory authorities; we developed and implemented a procedure for contactless delivery and transfer of inventory items and their mandatory disinfection. In addition, Sakhalin Energy developed a procedure for interacting with the regional department of Rospotrebnadzor, customs and border services on confirmed coronavirus cases among crew members of vessels used by the company.

In the course of its work, the GCC analysed worst-case scenarios and, together with the regional authorities, developed courses of action that excluded the shutdown of the remote production facilities. Sakhalin Energy contractors were informed about all the decisions taken by the GCC deemed necessary for them to carry out their operations.

It goes without saying that the pandemic also drastically changed the daily work routine of office personnel. For health and safety reasons, most of the employees were transferred to remote work. The company also purchased additional disinfectants and equipment to disinfect its offices, production facilities, and vehicles.

All of the above measures ensured the successful completion of the summer maintenance, diagnostics and repair work at the production facilities of the integrated gas production chain. As a result, the scheduled shutdown was completed ahead of schedule, in just 29 days.

Carrying out comprehensive maintenance of any production facility is a challenging task due to many factors, so having highly-competent and efficient personnel is key to success. In the face of the pandemic, the company managed to ensure the safety of its employees and, consequently, stable and reliable production operations.

– Given the remoteness of the production facilities, organising the work schedule of 1,500 people for a whole month down to the minute seems a ‘mission impossible’...

– We really went to great lengths to ensure that everything went smoothly. During the planned shutdown, work was carried out at the Lunskoye-A offshore gas production platform, the onshore processing facility (OPF), Booster Station No. 2 (BS No. 2), and the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant. Given that the platform and the OPF are located in the north of Sakhalin Island, BS No. 2 — in the middle of it, and the LNG plant — in the south, the task was extremely complicated.

Despite all the difficulties, the teams of these assets successfully completed all assigned tasks without any harm to employee health or to the environment, thereby ensuring the safe and reliable operation of the company’s onshore production facilities. The excellent results were achieved thanks to the well-coordinated teamwork of all employees engaged in the work and thorough supervision over the most critical operations.

The resources were reallocated in a timely manner by adjusting the shift rotation schedules. Effective use of time in the TAFs by staff before leaving for the production facilities was another important success factor. We had developed special training plans in preparation for the shutdown and implemented them during the self-isolation of our permanent employees, as well as temporary workers mobilised for the shutdown.

During the work, our efforts were mainly focused on the scheduled preventive measures: inspections, checks, testing, visual examinations, diagnostics, and so on. A fairly large part of work concerned electrical equipment and the instrumentation and control system, which is designed to control production processes, detect deviations as early as possible, and promptly start an automatic shutdown in emergency situations.

It must be noted that this year — for the first time at the LNG plant — our specialists replaced the carbon-based mercury adsorbent in the natural gas purification and treatment system for the cryogenic liquefaction plant. They also upgraded the mixed refrigerant axial compressor, which will significantly increase its reliability and improve the uptime.

The COVID-19 pandemic made us look at things fr om a different perspective. For instance, this year the company used on-line remote technical support — for the first time ever — to perform maintenance of the General Electric gas turbine drives.

– Almost all the processes in the oil and gas industry have been digitised, with the pandemic accelerating the introduction of new formats and technologies. Have you experienced this first-hand?

– Today, digitalisation is transforming the activities of enterprises, significantly changing business processes, reducing costs, and accelerating decision making. Sakhalin Energy is no exception in this respect.

For the Sakhalin-2 project operator, digital transformation of production is becoming a key strategic development area, wh ere a portfolio of innovative technologies is being formed empirically.

Long before the start of the planned shutdown, it became clear that key foreign vendors would not be able to directly participate in this process due to the restrictions imposed by the Government of the Russian Federation. For this reason, Sakhalin Energy launched real-time remote support systems — digital twin workstations. These systems allow production facility personnel to perform work in such a way that their colleagues in the office, equipment manufacturer representatives or technical support engineers can take part in the process remotely and give advice to facility staff or answer their questions in real time. Therefore, we had to make a quick decision to create a new infrastructure for the repair of critical equipment, which would enable the use all available methods of remote expert support.

At present, we are evaluating the feasibility and assessing the possibilities of using this technology at the company's other production facilities. This is a natural phase of the digitalisation process. Such equipment can be used with maximum benefit not only during scheduled shutdowns, but also during on-line inspections, as well as when working with pressure vessels and other mechanical equipment. This does not mean that we will completely forego engaging specialists and subject-matter experts. There are technically complex operations related to setting up and debugging equipment wh ere the participation of certified specialists is absolutely crucial. Nevertheless, the development of digital strategies involves minimising the presence of vendor representatives wherever possible.

By using and refining digital platforms, perfecting artificial intelligence solutions, with qualitative analysis of massive databases in real time, we render invaluable assistance to the operation of high-tech enterprises and, as a result, help them efficiently manage cash flows.

– We have already realised that things will never be the same — both the pandemic and new trends in the global energy sector have changed the world. Are you prepared for the new reality?

– In Russia, the oil and gas industry has become one of the leading sectors that ensures the state's economic stability. Its development will always be associated with new opportunities and, at the same time, new risks, so this task must be regulated at the highest level. The development of LNG production, an increased use of renewable energy sources, social accountability of businesses, and environmental protection — all these factors strengthen the country's energy security. In turn, we are responsible for the safety and reliability of production, the stable operation of equipment, and the quality of the technological process. Therefore, it is especially important for Sakhalin Energy to ensure business continuity, no matter what happens in the world.

The company has learned its lessons from the current situation, so in the future we will be able to respond to any changes and uncertainties, taking into account the demands of the “new reality”. Consolidating the efforts of the shareholders and the Russian party, we will strive to structure our internal and external resources so that no external factors will ever affect our plans.


Full version of the interview (in Russian) in the Gas Industry Magazine (# 8, 2020).

9 September 2020