Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Field trip to Kårstø

Today was pretty amazing. I joined a field trip to the Kårstø gas processing plant about an hour north of Stavanger. About 15 of us went in a bus which included a ferry trip as the complex is on an island. The first thing that we could see were the burning gas flares (actually done only when there is maintainance work)  and then you notice the huge size of the complex - its Europes largest export port of Natural Gas Liquids and the worlds third largest. Over 500 shiploads of the stuff is exported each year.

So what actually happens here? Well, basically rich gas from a number of offshore fields is piped in to the complex, and is then fractionated in tall towers into propane, butane, isobutane, naphtha and ethane (which, if I can remember correctly, go into making a huge number of products like plastics and as fuel in cars, jets and camping stoves). What was really interesting is that the propane is actually stored in two large caves drilled into the mountain. The water surrounding the halls turns to ice, creating a natural "fridge"in which it is stored.

After the briefing, we got to dress up in safety overalls and hardhats, and then got taken on a tour of the complex. We got to see the central control room - a nerve center filled with huge computer screens, from which all operations are managed. I was surprized that although it is very industrial, it is also very neat and tidy. Also I had no idea how they could keep track of which pipe does what as there are literally hundreds of pipes all over! We then were shown the 658km long Europipe II which transports gas to the continent via Germany. The diameter of pipeline is around 107cm and can transport up to 24 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year! Its an amazing sight to see this pipe which transports the gas that heats hundreds of thousands of homes as it actually dissapears into the ground.

The important part for me was to see the Naturkraft combined cycle gas-to-power plant which is one of the projects I will be working on. Its a 420MW plant which in simple terms will operate when the electricity price is greater than the gas plus CO2 permit price.

After that, we had a very satisfying lunch and then it was time again to catch the ferry back to Stavanger.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! very interesting Paul. So glad you sound so happy!