Russian mining giant Nornickel says that a pilot geotechnical monitoring system set up at 11 diesel tanks in Norilsk, Russia, has proved to be effective and will be rolled out more widely.
The diesel tanks involved in the pilot scheme, known as the Buildings and Structures Monitoring System, are all at a thermal power plant site operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company (NTEC), a Nornickel subsidiary, which is constructed on Arctic permafrost. Nornickel installed 40 thermocouples, small devices which monitor temperature, in pre-drilled boreholes, along with seismic monitors and inclinometers, which respond to deviations of reinforced concrete foundations. The system can also monitor humidity. Data from the sensors in sent automatically to a local data collection centre, which allows an operator to monitor conditions in real time and identify potentially dangerous deviations and defects before an accident occurs.
Nornickel set up the pilot scheme following the collapse of diesel tank owned by subsidiary Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company (NTEC) in Norilsk, which spilt almost 20,000 L of diesel into the surrounding land and waterways. Nornickel’s investigations found that the collapse had been partly caused by melting permafrost, although this was disputed by the Russian environmental supervisory body Rostechnadzor. Clean-up costs for the pollution have been estimated in excess of €1 billion, and Rostechnadzor fined Nornickel RUB 146.2 billion (€1.67 billion) for the disaster, the largest environmental fine ever imposed in Russia.
The pilot project cost RUB 50.5 million. Anton Pryamitsky, the deputy chief engineer of Nornickel’s polar division, says that the system is now being installed at 150 Nornickel facilities, involving the installation of 470 thermocouples and 750 inclinometer sensors. The company will drill 375 new temperature wells and renovate existing ones. Data will be sent to the unified building and facilities monitoring centre, backed up by a specialised satellite monitoring system which can take images of structures to check for displacements and deformations. In future, the monitoring software will be integrated into Nornickel’s automated Security Information and Diagnostic System (SIS).
‘Scientific data suggests that the ground bases of facilities in the course of their operation may change significantly in the event of rising temperatures – there may be a decrease in bearing capacity, which in turn increases the likelihood of accidents. Therefore, an automated geotechnical monitoring system is so important to us. It will make it possible to minimise the risks of emergencies, observe environmental safety and ensure reliability of operations at the company’s facilities,’ says Dmitry Litvinov, first deputy CEO of NTEC.