Nornickel sets up automated geotechnical monitoring system in Norilsk

The geotechnical monitoring system launched in Norilsk as a pilot project has proved its effectiveness. In the future, it will cover NornickelPublic Joint Stock Company "Mining and Metallurgical Company "Norilsk Nickel” and its subsidiariesGo to the glossary’s main industrial facilities and the city’s residential infrastructure. The full implementation of the system will ensure environmental safety and operational reliability of buildings and structures in the harsh Arctic environment.

Nornickel staff inspect fuel storage tanks

The pilot project — Buildings and Structures Monitoring System, was launched at the emergency diesel fuel storage facilities of the thermal power plants operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy CompanyPublic Joint Stock Company "Mining and Metallurgical Company "Norilsk Nickel"Go to the glossary (JSC NTEC, a Nornickel subsidiary). Its purpose is to maintain continuous automated monitoring of the permafrost ground temperatures and the deformation behaviour of the foundations. This monitoring will make it possible to ensure accident-free operation of the facilities and timely identify potentially dangerous defects and deviations that could lead to damage to buildings and structures or their individual elements.

Dmitry Litvinov, First Deputy CEO of NTEK, said that investments in the pilot project were RUB 50.5 mn. It was implemented at 11 diesel fuel storage facilities (at 8 tanks and 3 pumping stations) at CHPP-1, CHPP-2, and CHPP-3. About 40 thermocos were installed in pre-drilled boreholes, which allow online monitoring of the temperature state of the ground bases of the facilities. In addition, the system was equipped with seismic sensors (which monitor longitudinal and transverse vibrations of the structures) and inclinometers, which respond to deviations of reinforced concrete foundations. The system also makes it possible to monitor the temperature and humidity conditions in technical cellars, another indispensable parameter in geotechnical monitoring.

Element of the monitoring system installed at a fuel storage tank

All data from the sensors is sent to the local data collection centre. The system allows the operator to monitor in real time the status of the key safety parameters of the facility. In the future, this software will be integrated into an integrated set of data collection and analysis parameters for all facilities referred to as the Security Information and Diagnostic System (SIS).

Prior to the installation of the automated control system, monitoring was carried out in manual mode. The introduction of the information and diagnostics system will substantially reduce the time spent, as well as enable a prompt response to potentially dangerous changes.

According to Deputy Chief Engineer of Nornickel’s Polar Division Anton Pryamitsky, a geotechnical monitoring system is currently being installed at other sites in the Norilsk municipal district and Dudinka. In 2021, a system to monitor temperature condition of subsoil, temperature and humidity conditions in technical cellars and deformation behaviour of foundation structures will be installed at 150 different Company facilities (375 new temperature wells will be drilled and previously existing ones renovated, some 470 thermocouples will be installed; about 750 inclinometer sensors will be installed on foundations) with data output to the unified building and facilities monitoring centre. A satellite monitoring system is also actively used to determine displacements and deformations of buildings and structures by taking images from specialised satellites.

Operator reviews monitoring system data

The Norilsk State Industrial Institute and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences are also involved in permafrost research in built-up areas. For example, a specially created permafrost laboratory has been set up at the Norilsk Industrial Institute for this purpose.

“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,” commented Dmitry Litvinov, First Deputy CEO of NTEK.