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Grigory Pasko: Traveling the Nord Stream, Part VI

Whatever They Demand of Us, We Do By Grigory Pasko, journalist A compressor station (KC in Russian) can be regarded as something like the brain of a gas pipeline. Here are found the most important services: line-operation, gas compressor, electricity supply, dispatcher, communications… It is not enough to merely lay a pipe under the ground – you need to keep a watch on the flow of the gas, the pressure inside the pipe, react to off-normal situations.

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Photo of Compressor Station KC-2 in Babayevo by Grigory Pasko

The Babayevo KC isn’t the largest in the system of trunk gas pipelines of Russia. But it is typical. In recent times, the Babayevo KC is mentioned, in the main, in connection with the fact that the first joint of the North European Gas Pipeline was welded right here in the year 2005. However, one thing that caught my eye was a decision of session No. 2 of some kind of «Section of the power generation complex» on the topic “Problems of the creation of a system of trunk gas pipelines Yamal-West on the territory of the Komi ASSR” from the year 1985. What was being spoken of in it was that the construction of gas pipelines and infrastructure along the trunks would allow population to be attracted into the regions and anchored there for operational and repair servicing of gas pipelines, transport communications, the construction and power generation base. And to do all this, it is said in the decision, is possible only “upon the creation of conditions for the formation of an all-sidedly developed Soviet person in accordance with the decisions of the XXVI congress of the CPSU and the April (1985) Plenum of the CC CPSU.” I doubt that the youth of Babayevo, or even many of the workers at the KC, remember what a “developed Soviet person” and a “Plenum of the CC CPSU” are. I got to hear about what KC-2 is today, how it works, how the construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline is going from engineer Eduard Sudarinin, head of the service Vladimir Dudka, and head of the welding-and-assembly trust Sergey Belyayev.

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Photo of Compressor Station KC-2 in Babayevo by Grigory Pasko

Engineer Eduard Sudarinin:

“KC-2 is a unit of the Sheksininsky line production administration of trunk gas pipelines. Pumping gas – that’s its principal task. From here the gas goes to the west – in the direction of Pikalevo, Tikhvin, Volkhov, and later to St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. And it’s from right here that we will pump gas through the North European Gas Pipeline, too. “Around 200 people work at Ks-2. Now there are two shops in operation; there will be two more built. The youth isn’t coming to work, the situation with cadres is strained. Our salaries aren’t the highest, the railwaymen’s is bigger, so that’s where they go. “Indeed, not even every gasman has natural gas in his home. Many buy it liquefied in tanks at 275 rubles. This is a big minus, of course. Like the Russian saying goes: a boot-maker without boots. sydarinin0619.jpg Photo of Eduard Sudarinin by Grigory Pasko “You say you’ve heard that gasmen live well? What does “well” mean? Here, for example, construction of residential houses for gasmen isn’t being conducted for 10 years. Many are built themselves, some rent apartments, some live with parents. It’s expensive to rent. “Russian gas is going to Europe – that means, people should be living better. That’s the ideal. But in actuality – it’s not like that. “The ecological component of the branches, in my opinion, is in order. «Gazprom» has an ecological program. Capital repairs are being conducted. Sheeting, garbage, plank roads – they clean everything up after themselves. Before, it was like a Mongol horde had just passed along the right-of-way… “I have a higher education, since June 2001. I’m former military. Served on the Baltic Fleet up to senior lieutenant, in an electromechanical combat unit – BCh-5. Yes, I’ve heard about the chemical munitions in the Sea. That they’re there since the times of the war. I think that their danger – that’s big myths. The Swedes, the Balts are worried. But there’s going to be surveying, after all. So everything’s reliable, I think.”

Line-operation service head Vladimir Dudka:

“I think that pulling a branch of the gas pipeline along the bed of the Baltic Sea – that’s advantageous for Russia. Of course, the question is more political. But it’s justified technologically, too. Modern gas pipelines are designed for 50 and more years of operation. New technologies for welding, control, insulation allow considering gas pipelines reliable. dydka0619.jpg Photo of Vladimir Dudka by Grigory Pasko “What kind of problems? Salary isn’t high. 20 thousand, like they told you in Gryazovets – that’s an exception to the rules. A line-walker has a salary of 4200 rubles. Plus bonuses and supplements – total 7 thousand rubles a month. You won’t get very far on that kind of money. “You say in Germany people live well? It’s good wherever we’re not. And us… What about us? We work. Whatever they demand of us, we do.”

Head of OAO «Welding-and-Assembly Trust» Sergey Belyayev:

“Our trust – is the oldest organization in Russia for the construction of gas pipelines: this year it will be 60 years old. The trust stood at the sources of the construction of the pipeline transport of the USSR. A mobile company, over 800 persons highly skilled workers in this sector alone. We build pipelines of any designation and diameter. belyaev0619.jpg Photo of Sergey Belyayev by Grigory Pasko Of course, on the territory of construction we hire local residents. We took 40 people, soon kicked out 10 – for drunkenness and absenteeism. We have 150 units of equipment. The pipes – of the Vyksninsky metallurgical combine, and the steel – Cherepovetsian, are designed for 40-50 years of operation. American CRC-EVANS automatic welding is applied for welding. The welding of a single joint is done during the course of one hour. The working pressure in the pipe will be 100 atmospheres. The pipes are heavy, one and a half times heavier than regular ones. “The people, in the main, are highly skilled. Our earnings, I consider, aren’t bad. We fulfill the construction plan. We even had to accelerate the tempos at several sectors. Shipments of the necessary materials are being implemented without delays.”