A membrane plant from CIS-based gas technology and equipment company Grasys is set to be one of the first major pieces of equipment deployed in the development of the East Siberian Gas Programme run by Gazprom.

The plant will be deployed at the Kovykta gas field in Eastern Siberia.

The field is thought to represent the closest conditions in terms of technical and climatic characteristics to those of the Chayandin field in Yakutia, which Gazprom hopes to develop as a source of helium.

The enormous natural gas fields in the Irkutsk and Yakutia regions (Kovykta and Chayanda) possess large underground reserves of helium that have not yet been developed, labelled the ‘East Siberian Gas Programme’.

Gazprom intends to start the development of its major natural gas resources in Eastern Siberia and plans to implement large-scale helium production from the helium-rich gas feedstock in the Blagoveshchensk region beginning in 2018.

This development is of huge significance to the industrial gases industry, as the East Siberian Gas Programme could lead to Russia becoming a major global helium producer. This is all the more significant given expectations that the US Federal Helium Reserve, currently accounting for around 30% of the world’s helium supply, will be depleted (except for a permanent 3 BCF stockpile) by 2020.

The Grasys membrane plant for helium production from natural gas will be first tested in the Kovykta field. The field is thought to contain helium in commercial concentrations, with the test results used for development of the industrial membrane helium plan.

This project is being implementing by RPC Grasys in conjunction with Gazprom dobycha Irkutsk LLC, Gazprom razvitie LLC, Gazprom OJSC subsidiary CKBN and Gazprom VNIIGAZ OJSC.

Helium summit graphic

Pursuant to the contract between RPC Grasys and Gazprom dobycha Irkutsk LLC, the commissioning is scheduled for late 2013, including membrane cartridges testing and tests monitoring with analysis of the test results. This project has serious strategic implications for the Russian gas market – therefore, it is considered highly important at this stage to determine the rational helium recovery technologies and designs.

The tests will include checking the pilot plant suitability for the field operating conditions, especially taking into account the severe climatic conditions of Eastern Siberia and the Far East.

It will be the first example of membrane technology use for helium production from natural gas. The results of the recent studies and tests allow suggesting that the membrane method of helium production is the most energy efficient one.