Yamal LNG: The gas that came in from the cold

Project type: LNG
Operator: Yamal LNG
Partners: Novatek (50.1%), Total (20%), CNPC (20%) and Silk Road Fund (9.9%)
Start date: 2017

16.5
million metric tons: Yamal’s annual LNG production capacity
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A world leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG), Total draws on strong, diversified positions along the entire LNG value chain. One iconic Group project in the area is Yamal LNG, located in Russia’s Far North.

A Complex Yet Highly Competitive Project

Launched in late 2013, Yamal LNG is one of the largest and most complex LNG projects in the world. But it is also one of the most competitive, as it leverages the immense onshore gas resources of Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. With partners Novatek, CNPC and the Silk Road Fund, Total is developing the enormous South Tambey gas and condensate field. 
 
The project aims to tap natural gas reserves totaling more than 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent. To do so, more than 200 wells have been drilled and three liquefaction trains built, each with a capacity of 5.5 million metric tons. Every year, nearly 16.5 million metric tons of LNG will transit through the port of Sabetta, with all LNG production sold to customers in Europe and Asia under 15- to 20-year contracts.

A Major Technological Challenge

Yamal LNG is located above the polar circle in the estuary of the Ob River, a wild, remote region that is frozen for seven-to-nine months a year and where winter temperatures can drop as low as -50°C.
 
To ensure its stability in the permafrost (a thick layer of frozen subsoil whose surface only thaws in summer months), the LNG plant was built on tens of thousands of piles of varying shapes and sizes - a solution never used on such a large scale before the Yamal LNG project.

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Foundations on permafrost: Learn more about the engineering challenges involved in Yamal LNG on our Exploration & Production site

At the start of the project, there were no access routes to the site by land or by sea. To facilitate the transportation of equipment and staff, construction began on a large-capacity regional transportation hub in 2011, comprising the port of Sabetta and an international airport.

Shipping LNG in such extreme conditions also required Total and its partners to design a new breed of vessel: the LNG ice-breaker tanker. This innovative solution allows LNG to be transported all year long without the assistance of ice breakers. Measuring 300 meters and boasting a capacity of 172,600 cubic meters, the ship can sail in ice of up to 2.1 meters thick. In all, 15 LNG ice-breakers will be gradually commissioned between now and 2019, the first of which is the Christophe de Margerie.

The Northern Sea Route

To unlock access to the vast gas resources of Russia’s Far North, the Yamal LNG project has inaugurated a new LNG shipping route. Known as the Northern Sea Route, it enables vessels to reach Asia in 15 days via the Bering Strait, compared with 30 days using the conventional route through the Suez Canal. The journey can be made between May and November, when the ice is thin enough to navigate. This feat is only possible thanks to a new breed of versatile LNG carriers, which feature ice-breaking technology.

Yamal LNG: Total's Natural Gas Asset in Russia