Minnikhanov to oil companies and Russia’s safety watchdog: ‘You shouldn’t pit your strength, decide who is right’

The Tatarstan president advised strengthening the engineering service of small oil companies (SOC) to avoid accidents in oil production facilities. Russia’s safety watchdog urged companies to comply with instructions on time

The performance of small oil companies (SOC) of the republic was summarised in the Tatarstan House of Government on 12 February — at the meeting with the Tatarstan president, special attention was paid to process safety in these enterprises. Rustam Minnikhanov advised the SOC to strengthen engineering services to avoid accidents in oil facilities, while Russia’s safety watchdog urged the companies to comply with instructions on time.

Accident rate was in decline until 2020

The accident rate in hazardous facilities of the oil production complex of Tatarstan kept a stable tendency for reduction from 2013 to 2020 when no emergency was reported. Acting head of the Volga office of Russia’s industrial safety watchdog Rodion Karpov claimed this at the meeting on the performance of small oil companies President of the republic Rustam Minnikhanov held.

Vice Chairman of the Russian regulator Alexander Trembitsky who praised the republic for its systemic work in complying with process safety rules participated in the session via teleconference. “Big attention in the republic is paid not only to oil production volumes but also process safety,” he said.

He reminded the audience that the number of accidents was the main efficiency indicator for the Russian regulator. According to him, last year, the Russian Fuel and Energy Complex had 14% fewer accidents and 13% fewer incidents that ended with death. Moreover, a considerable reduction in emergencies took place after switching to the remote control.

“Within the Russian president and government’s instruction, Russia’s industrial safety watchdog and all supervisory agencies worked under the aegis of the mechanism of regulatory guillotine. All regulations, federal norms and rules in the Fuel and Energy Complex were reconsidered. The norms and rules have been updated since 1 January 2021, some requirements have been cancelled, some have been revised, but not to the detriment of process safety,” he said.

Watchdog to do an experiment in Tatarstan

This year, the watchdog will work within a project on remote control and oversight. “It is a unique thing to apply to all kinds of supervision, we should operate in pilot mode,” he noted. The Russian regulator can use one or two oil companies of Tatarstan for a pilot experiment on remote control over the state of process safety this year.

“We will perhaps use one or two enterprises of the republic to test the remote control system and present it to the government’s chairman,” Alexander Trembitsky offered Minnikhanov.

“Self-complacency can’t be allowed”

Head of the Volga office of Russia’s industrial safety watchdog Rodion Karpov reported on the state of process safety in small oil companies in detail. The Volga office carried out 94 inspections last year, detected 600 violations. 83 officials were held accountable. The office issued 22 instructions, which allowed avoiding the probability of emergencies. Every detected violation is a potentially prevented accident, Karpov indicates.

38 inspections are scheduled during the first six months. “Don’t wait for the inspections, fix problems on your own,” he urged the companies.

Karpov named the following characteristic violations: a loading/unloading point is set up on the site of oil preparation and recovery without engineering documentation, corrosion on commodity unloading lines, safe use of the pipeline isn’t provided.

“We have repeatedly said self-complacency can’t be allowed, that oil companies should stick to strict requirements,” he indicated reminding them of a fatal accident in Sarmanovo District on 22 January. Two workers of the enterprise died, workers of the contractor had serious injuries, one employee had a mild injury. A commission is working.”

Head of the Volga office of Russia’s industrial safety watchdog Rodion Karpov complained that not all small oil companies properly respond to the regulator’s instructions. Instead of fixing problems, some “take all measures not to comply with the instructions”.

“This emergency graces neither you nor the companies”

The Tatarstan president considered necessary to react to a threat of unnecessary opposition.

“So, it is necessary to sort it out, I think they will make conclusions. Now you shouldn’t pit your strength, decide who is right. Help to arrange courses, select staff. This graces neither you nor the companies. The director of the company will also draw some conclusions because such things aren’t very pleasant,” Minnikhanov said.

“Other enterprises shouldn’t think they are fine. It is necessary to carry out internal inspections, systematise the work, which will allow avoiding accidents. Moreover, enterprises now provide logs that don’t show remote control. We are constantly talking about the risk of accidents, but judging by the logs, all training exercises are top-class. But training exercises are evaluated positively in less than 30% of the cases. Small oil companies use 341 hazardous facilities in total, 36 of them are 1st-degree hazardous and are constantly controlled,” Karpov went on.

The Tatarstan president, in turn, warned oil companies of an environmental threat. “Every hazardous facility can also lead to environmental consequences. You’ve seen what happened in Nornickel’s facilities. Over 140 billion were claimed, and it is true. This can happen to any of you,” he warned.

Minnikhanov also gave them a piece of advice — to strengthen the engineering service of the SOC. “The recipe is one. Clearly, you have a lot of tasks as director, but you should have trained engineering services. Any oil company should have a good engineering service. If its director is principled, you will sleep tight and work!” the president urged the companies.

Also, he remembered a trip to Canada where he saw bitumen oil production. “We weren’t even allowed to enter the territory without training, without changing our clothes. Any briefing starts with process safety, and it must be this way here too.”

Vice Chairman of the Russian regulator Alexander Trembitsky urged the Tatarstan service to visit companies not only because of inspections but also work preventively. “Nobody prohibits us from working with companies. It is necessary to monthly gather companies’ engineers and discuss accidents with them. It is necessary to switch to a normal discussion, not simply conduct inspections,” the vice head of the Russian watchdog indicated. “The task is not only to punish but also provide qualified help,” the Tatarstan president agreed.

We should add that in 2020 small oil companies sent 78,4bn rubles to the budget, which is 32,4% less than in 2018, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov said at the meeting dedicated to the performance of small oil companies of the Republic of Tatarstan in 2020 and tasks in 2021. “Nevertheless, it is big, serious digits. Any SOC pays more taxes than a factory,” he commented. According to him, tax payments decreased because of the general fall in oil production, which totalled 10,8% in the republic. 32,7 million tonnes of oil was produced, of which 7 million tonnes was produced by the SOC.

The spread of the novel coronavirus infection led to serious consequences in the oil sector. Oil production in Russia dropped to a 10-year-old level and amounted to nearly 500 million tonnes. Most companies had to look for ways of optimising operational costs, and oil service companies were one of the first to feel it.

By Luiza Ignatyeva