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Russian pipeline transport (1860-1917)

The history of the pipeline transport in Russia (former USSR) is more than a century old. It appeared together with the industrial development of Baku and Grozny oil deposits. At the start of pipeline transportation was Dmitry Mendelejev, who said that construction of the pipeline would ensure a reliable basis for oil industry development and would open the world market for the Russian oil.

V. Shukhov, S. Voislav, K. Lisenko, L. Leibenson, M. Lazarev, I Ilimov and many other Russian scientists, engineers and inventors largely contributed to the oil pipeline development. In 1860s the Baku region was overwhelmed by the oil boom. Thousands of people flock to the Baku regions, such as Balakhany, Sabuchany, Ramany, in an attempt to get rich on oil extraction and processing. The most well-known region for oil extraction was Shaitan-Bazar, where the area of 150 dessiatins (old Russian measurement unit, equal to 2 ? acres) was housing 120 wells and 110 companies. Everything there had the color of oil, even birds. Chaotic development, huge crowds, dirty, and dust - it looked like hell. Many years after, Maxim Gorky wrote after visiting Baku oil fields: The oil fields remained in my memory as a perfect picture of the grave hell. This picture suppressed all the fantastic ideas of depressed mind, I was aware of Well-known at that time industrialist V. Rogozin noted, in relation with the Baku oil fields, that everything there was done "without counting and calculating".

Simultaneously with oil extraction, oil refineries were built for kerosene output, according to the scheme of Dubinin brothers' factory. In 1869, there were already twenty four factories, two more were in Surakhany. In addition to the oil distillation factories, there were lots of oil distillation installations, also in dwelling houses. Constant fires, pollution of residential areas with soot and carbon forced the local authorities to concentrate oil refining away from the city, in the so called Cherny Gorod (Black City). The oil was delivered from fields to the plants of Cherny Gorod in barrels and wineskins by bullock-carts. Over 10 thousand carters were engaged in the delivery process. Since the 1870s the wineskins were substituted for wooden 20-25 poods (old Russian weight measurement unit, equal to 16.3 kg) barrels. This delivery method was extremely expensive. So, in 1877 a pood of oil in the fields cost 3 kopecks, while its delivery from Balakhan to Cherny Gorod cost up to 20 kopecks. Already in 1863, while visiting Baku Dmitry. Mendelejev recommended to build a pipeline to transport oil from the fields to the refinery, which, he thought, would allow to significantly reduce the transport costs. At that time, the Mendelejev's proposal was rejected.

In 1877, in Baku, a subdivision of engineer Bari's construction company was opened. Its headquarters were in Moscow. The founder and owner of the company was an energetic organizer of technical manufacturing, Alexander V. Bari and Vladimir G. Shukhov, a young and promising engineer, who had been earlier employed in drawing a division of the Warsaw-Vienna Line Office, became chief engineer of the company. Bari and Shukhov introduced their numerous ideas on using new technical tools and technologies to the head of Nobel Brothers company Ludwig Nobel, who was very active in the Baku oil market. The negotiations showed the key problem of the company - oil transportation from the fields to the refinery in Cherny Gorod. Soon, Bari's company wins a contract for building a pipeline from Balakhany fields to Nobel's refinery in Cherny Gorod. Its throughput was planned as 80 thousand poods oo oil a day. After signing the contract, 25-year old Shukhov received full freedom of actions in design and construction of the pipeline. He had to become the first one in Russia to design the entire system of the pipeline facilities and to make the project a reality. Shukhov's trip to America before his arrival in Baku, certainly had influenced this project. In fact, the Americans practically realized Mendelejev's idea, who stated that "it was necessary, and even urgent, to put pipes and transport through those pipes crude to vessels or refineries situated on the sea". Some time later, Mendelejev wrote on this occasion: "It looks as if the Americans had overheard the idea: they ran the pipes and built refineries not near the wells, but where there were marketplaces, sales, and trade routes."

Shukhov actively starts the organizational work to prepare for laying the pipeline. Pipes for the oil pipeline were imported from America, because their quality, low price, and short delivery terms were above the competition. The planned length of the oil pipeline was about 10 km, and the pipe diameter was 76 mm. Construction of the pipeline was carried on despite constant counteraction of its opponents - owners of cooperages, oil transport companies and actually the carters. Arson of the building stock in Balakhany; damaging the pipes, various other troubles during the construction induce Nobel to resort to such steps as route guarding, outbidding the carters, paying high wages to workers. However, some time later, Nobel himself would not hesitate to undertake any counteraction with regard to the railroad line construction Balakhany - Baku that was put into operation in 1879.

Shukhov overcame the difficulties - the pipeline was built, and the year of 1878 went down in history as the year of construction of the first Russian field pipeline, and the pipeline itself became the ancestor of the giant network of trunk pipelines that are operating nowadays.

Nobel Brothers company readily accepted oil for transportation from other manufacturers in exchange for five kopecks a pood. All these factors implied a quick pay-back on the pipeline. Nobel's competitors realized the advantages of pipelines, and Bari's business receives orders for construction of new oil pipelines. Already in 1879, the second oil pipeline Balakhany - Cherny Gorod, 12.9 km long, 70 mm in diameter, was launched, after which three more pipelines appeared: Balakhany - Surakhansky Zavod, Surakhansky Zavod - Zykhskaya Kosa, and Balakhany - Cherny Gorod. These oil pipelines were designed and built by V. Shukhov. In 1879, Shukhov heads the Design Department of Bari's Moscow Technical Company.

In 1881, Shukhov publishes his work Pipelines And Their Use In Oil Industry that was for many years the major guide book for pipeline design. In his work Shukhov determined the dependence between liquid consumption and its thickness. He wrote a formula for calculating head dropping depending on the mode of liquid flow, offered the method to determine the best pipeline diameter, speed of the liquid, thickness of pipe walls. He designed a graphic-analytical method of arranging intermediary pumping stations, which is still in use. Bari's company, in addition to oil pipeline design and construction, created by 1881 more than 130 steel tanks designed by Shukhov. While working in the research department, Shukhov created a scientific theory of building and operating pipelines. The result of the long and laborious work was the publication Oil Pipelines that appeared in Vestnik Promyshlennosti in 1884. In this and his further works, Shukhov was the first to scientifically research the subject of movement of oil and warmed-up fuel oil along the pipes. This put the beginning to the oil hydraulics. By 1883, the total length of oil pipelines in Baku region was 96 km, while the overall daily throughput was over 200 thousand poods of oil. Pipelines almost ousted all the other methods of oil transportation.

In the Grozny oil region the oil also in 1894 was transported from the Old fields with horse traction. Up to 15 thousand poods were transported daily, over 300 carts were used. Only in September of 1895 a five inch oil pipeline was launched that stretched by 12 versts (old Russian distance measurement unit equal to 3500 ft), connecting Old fields with refineries in Grozny. This pipeline, too, was designed and built by Bari's company. The project included proven and tried ideas of Shukhov.

Grozny oil region was actively developing. Along with the oil extraction increase, also its processing amount grew, new refineries appeared. So, in 1896, three large for those days refineries were built near Grozny. Their normal operation was hindered by the absence of reliable transport, so in 1896-1898 there were actively built oil pipelines from Old fields to the refineries. Five oil pipelines were laid, that belonged to various oil companies. In 1898, the throughput of field pipelines in Grozny region was 190 million poods. By 1899 this region gave over 25 million poods oil. The extraction could be significantly increased, as well as processing. Such an increase was limited by the absence of required transportation means for delivery of the oil and oil products from Grozny to the shores of the Caspian and Black seas.

Along with construction of the field pipelines, a question of remote oil and oil product transportation via pipelines was discussed, because as the oil extraction in Baku increased the problems of delivery of oil to other regions of Russia grew more and more pressing. In winter, the only solution was the Transcaucasian railroad line. The idea of pipelines was under ongoing discussion by progressive scientists and politicians. Transportation of the Caucasian oil and oil products to the Black Sea ports for export to the world markets became a pressing requirement. In 1882, at the meeting of Technical Society in Moscow, the discoverer of the process of deep oil decomposition Alexander A. Letnij delivered the report On StepstTo Develop and Make Cheaper the Transportation of Caucasian Oil to the Southern Russian Ports via the Transcaucasian Line. His detailed calculations showed that it is cheaper to transport the oil from Baku to the Black Sea via the Transcaucasian line, rather than via the circumferential South-Russian roads. He saw the Baku oil reaching the ports of the Black Sea as a key condition for its successful competition with American oil. Letnij argued that only a successful solution for the oil and oil product transportation would allow to force out poor quality American kerosene that flooded the world market in those days.

Letniy and Mendelejev were consistently supporting development of an ideal oil and oil product transportation system, well realizing the obstacles that hindered this development, clearly seeing the ways for removal of these obstacles. Attempts to reach the Black Sea and further, the international market for oil and oil products brought to the idea that it was necessary to build pipelines.

To implement the Transcaucasian pipeline, the American G. Tweddle intended to obtain a concession for building the oil pipeline from the Caspian to the Black Sea. For the project he offered, almost half of the Caucasian territory was requested. This requirement was seen outrageous, and the project was rejected. New entrepreneurs came up wishing to get a concession for the oil pipeline, such as the Moscow manufacturer G. List, retired lieutenant commander A. Khanykov, and others. The house of Rothschild, as The Caspian and Black Sea Oil Manufacturing and Trading Society, too, made an attempt to obtain a concession. It was only for the attraction of authoritative scientists and experts that the extremely unfavorable for Russia conditions were duly rejected. Baku oil manufacturers played an active part in rejecting almost every project. Creation of refineries in the more profitable Batumi and Poti, from the perspective of availability of transport routes to the Central regions and for export, could have put an end to their monopoly for kerosene production. Whereas in Baku the advantages of oil pipelines could not be argued, at a meeting of the Russian Technical Society in 1879, professor K. Lisenko, against obvious facts, gave preference to the railroad, thus fully accomplishing his mission, entrusted with him by the Baku manufacturers, whose consultant he was. After this session, considering construction of the remote oil pipeline was postponed. Some years later, Konon Lisenko admitted that his stance was wrong and agreed with Mendelejev in that an oil pipeline Baku - Batumi and allocation of some refineries along the Black Sea coastline would have made the economic situation for development of Russian oil industry more favorable.

Oil extraction rates in the Baku region continued to grow, the railroad was unable to timely deliver the kerosene, and the idea of an oil pipeline once again became urgent. The Caspian and Black Sea Oil Pipeline created by the mining engineer I. Ilimov and a retired major-general A. Lavrov, too, joined the competition for the concession. Ilimov, an honorary member of the Russian Society of Physics and Chemistry, argued in his works in favor of building an oil pipeline. Mendelejev considered Ilimov as a supporter of his idea and in his work Oil Matters, published in 1885, seconded Ilimov's statements, especially concerning the interests of Russian foreign trade. At that time the Bari's company (or, rather, its chief engineer Shukhov) is creating a scientifically-based draft and estimate of the oil pipeline Baku - Batumi. Information on the project and its basic details are published in the October issue of Vestnik Promyshlennosti from 1884. The same issue publishes the article Measures Proposed by the Ministry of State Property for Oil Industry Development in Russia. The article was signed under the alias "K". The article repeats in Bakinskiye Izvestiya # 57-59, 1984, but this time with the full author's signature - Arkhipov.

Ivan Arkhipov was the acting state advisor, doctor in technology, serving at those days in the Ministry of State Property. In his work Arkhipov wrote: The whole future of our oil export mainly depends upon reduction of its transport costs to the extent where any price lowering for the American kerosene would not be able to get our oil products out of the international markets. The only way to achieve this goal he thinks is building the oil pipeline Baku - Batumi. Arkhipov gives the cost estimation for construction and operation that illustrates the subject. According to the project, the total cost of the pipeline, 820 versts long, 16 pumping stations, was 15 million 700 thousand rubles. The annual operation costs would be approximately 300 thousand rubles. Arkhipov raises another important issue in his work: What is more profitable - to refine the oil in Baku and then transport it by trains to Batumi or transport it by trains to Batumi and refine there. With his calculations Arkhipov demonstrates that the second option will allow to save from 7 to 10 million rubles annually.

The question on the pipeline construction is raised at the 1st session of oil manufacturers in Baku. K. Iretsky, the commission member for this issue, reads a report On the Importance for the Transcaucasian Oil Industry of an Oil Pipeline from Baku to One of the Black Sea Ports. Iretsky was also the manager of the Volga-Caspian steamship society Druzhina, which certainly affects his conclusions on behalf of the Commission: Construction of the pipeline is untimely and unnecessary until all capacities of the Transcaucasian line are exhausted. The session is over, the construction of the oil pipeline is postponed for indefinite time.

Dmitry Mendelejev supports the idea of building the oil pipeline. He argues, that the normal development of the oil production is hindered by monopolism of some business people, in whose hands all the production steps are concentrated. With Mendelejev's support, a company headed by Ilimov is created and tries to get the concession for building the oil pipeline.

The debates go on for almost ten years, and by December 1887, the Committee of the Ministers decides to grant the concession to Ilimov and to establish a joint-stock company The Society of the Caspian-Black Sea Oil Pipeline. The condition for Ilimov is to contribute to the treasury 40% of the total worth of shares and a bail of one million rubles. He finds the money in London, but the conditions for their assignation were considered in Petersburg unacceptable. So, in 1891 the Committee of the Ministers postpones the oil pipeline construction as premature. For oil pipeline supporters a new stage of fight for their cause begins, where many factors need to be taken into account, including the underestimation of their main opponent and his influence in the governmental circles. It is true that Nobel's wishes were considered, even when removing and appointing Baku city governors. It was the power of Nobel that the future of the pipeline was dependent on. However, Bari's company fulfilled its task, because the oil pipeline project as a final product was submitted to the Ministry of the State Property. Bari did not have claims for the concession, because it required large and urgent investment. And still, in 1896, the construction of kerosene pipeline Baku - Batumi begins on the transit from Batumi to Khashuri, and only in 1906 the full length construction was completed, which was 835 km. The diameter of the pipeline was mainly 8 inches, but also 10 and 12 inches in some minor parts. 16 pumping stations were deployed along the kerosene pipeline. Construction-and-assembling operations were done manually, pipes were joined with threaded sleeves, covered with anticorrosive insulation - drying oil-based red lead - and wrapped with jute hessians, followed by red lead painting. Telephone communication was arranged along the route. All the pipeline facilities were made at the advanced in those days technical level, and the pipeline itself was one of the most powerful in the world. The pipeline was built along the railroad line, very close to it: given that the air line between these ends was 725 km and the railroad line length was 900 km, the pipeline route was 835 km long. Deviation from the air line was 15.2 %. When crossing the Kura River, the pipeline was suspended to the railroad bridge. Another specific feature of the pipeline was stretching the pipeline in the four km long Suram tunnel, which was strongly objected by the Transcaucasian Line board. Building the pipeline Baku - Batumi had to be done in such areas where work was only possible in winter time (Evlakh's neighborhood), because it was impossible to work in summer time due to the malaria. The annual pipeline throughput was 900 thousand tons. Pumping stations were equipped with plunger pumps, driven by steam and diesel engines. Since 1931 the pipeline began to transport raw oil for the refinery in Batumi.

This was the beginning of the age of Russian trunk oil and oil product pipelines. In 1910 and 1911, Tukha (Maikop) - Krasnodar pipeline was built. It had 8 and 10 inch diameter (90.4 and 11.8 km respectively) and had the annual capacity of 900 thousand tons. In the late 19th century, bringing Grozny oil to the Black and Caspian Seas was actively discussed. In 1896, the Military Ministry decides to allocate land for engineer Glushkov for construction of the oil pipeline from Grozny to Poti or Sukhumi. Having obtained the concession, E. Glushkov was seeking the capital both in Russia and abroad, but until 1899 he was never able to begin the construction. The resolution of the Military Ministry was reconsidered, and the pipeline construction was postponed. Only in 1913 building the oil pipeline acquires practical shape. The company A. Akhverkhadov and K begins to build its own oil pipeline Grozny - Petrovsk (Makhackala). The oil pipeline construction was completed by August 1914. The oil pipeline cost 4.5 million rubles, was 162 km long, had 200 mm diameter and the annual throughput of 700 thousand tons, while the operating pressure was 50 atmospheres. The pipeline consisted of 4 legs, the pumping stations were situated in Grozny, Gudermes, Khasav-Yurt, and Temirgoj. In the port of Petrovsk (Makhachkala) a refinery, oil loading rack, and a sea berth were built. The changed situation led to construction of a pumping station Makhachkala and reversing the oil transportation. In 1910 and 1911, two oil pipelines went under construction: Dossor - Rakusha, with 6-inch diameter, 120-km length, and 275 thousand tons annual throughput, and Rakusha - More, also with 6-inch diameter, 34 km length, and the same throughput. In 1913, the pipeline Kaluzhsky - Afinsky is built, 5-inch diameter, 25.5 km long. By the end of 1914, the total length of the Russian oil and oil product pipelines is 1278.7 km.

To compare, in the USA, the total length of the pipelines was 14,000 km, including 7,000 trunk pipelines. The level of pipeline transport was obviously not in favor of Russia, although the technical outfit was approximately the same.
The events that followed the year of 1914, were not constructive. The war, the revolution, the civil war did not encourage building pipelines. These years returned Russian oil industry many years back. For example, whereas in 1913, 10.3 million tons oil were extracted, in 1917 and in 1921, only 8.8 and 3.8 million tons oil were extracted respectively.

A. Shammazov, B. Mastobajev (UGNTU), A. Soshchenko (Transneft)
Truboprovodny transport nefti, No. 6, 2000.

  Russian pipeline transport (1860-1917)
  Russian pipeline transport (1917-1945)
  Truboprovodny transport Rossii (1946-91)
  Pipeline transport is a nervous system of Russian fuel and power complex (FPC)
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