Wierzchowice – the investment pearl of the ORLEN Group

Wierzchowice – the investment pearl of the ORLEN Group

The ORLEN Group invests in increasing energy security in Poland. In August this year Work began to expand the Wierzchowice Underground Gas Storage Facility. The investment will increase the domestic storage capacity of the blue fuel by as much as one quarter and is consistent with the ORLEN Group’s 2030 strategy.

The possibility of storing natural gas is an important link in ensuring an uninterrupted supply chain of this raw material to recipients. The energy crisis caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has painfully proven how much. The destabilization of raw material supplies from the east meant that underground gas storage facilities were being filled at a record pace in 2022 both in Poland and in EU countries. Thanks to the accumulated reserves, gas prices, which remained at record levels on European stock exchanges in 2022, began to decline systematically from the beginning of 2023. The warehouses fulfilled their role both by allowing the necessary supplies to be collected and by contributing to the stabilization of the European gas market.

The expansion of the largest underground gas facility began in 2022

In response to the turmoil on the energy market, in April 2022, PGNiG (currently ORLEN Group) decided to expand the largest Polish underground gas storage facility. The commencement of investment works was preceded by the stage of developing a detailed investment project and precisely defining the scope of work included in the contracts concluded with contractors.

Based on the license for tankless storage of natural gas, the first construction works started in August 2023. As a result, the active capacity of UGS Wierzchowice will increase by 800 million cubic meters. from the current 1.3 billion cubic meters. up to 2.1 billion cubic meters of gas, and the largest gas storage facility in Poland will have nearly half of the national storage capacity.

The expansion of the gas storage facility in Wierzchowice is the largest investment in the history of the Polish gas industry increasing storage capacity. As a result of its implementation, they will increase in our country by nearly 25%, from the current approximately 3.3 billion cubic meters to over 4.1 billion cubic meters. This is a very large increase in a short time, taking into account the demanding investment process, the completion of which is planned at the turn of 2025 and 2026. Increasing the working capacity of the Wierzchowice UGS will significantly strengthen the resistance of the Polish gas system to crises and will also increase the development potential of the gas market in our country. country.

If the total capacity of national storage facilities achieved as a result of the investment were related to the average gas consumption of all households in Poland, the stored gas would be enough for approximately 10 months. It should be emphasized that the investment will also significantly improve the efficiency of the UGS Wierzchowice storage facility. The injection capacity of this storage facility will increase by as much as one third – to 19.2 million cubic meters. per day, while the reception power will be increased even further by as much as 66%. – up to 24 million cubic meters per day.

One of the elements of the strategy until 2030

Launched by ORLEN in August this year. drilling the first hole is the beginning of work, which will consist of a total of three new wells enabling the injection and withdrawal of gas, as well as the installation of the necessary compressors. A Bentec device with a walking system was used for drilling. Thanks to this, subsequent drilling will be carried out without the need to dismantle and reassemble the nearly 1,000-ton device, which will move independently between subsequent locations. This will greatly accelerate and improve the implementation of the investment, the key contractors of which are companies from the ORLEN Capital Group.

PGNiG Technologie is the main contractor supervising the investment. Gazoprojekt has developed the investment design, and Exalo Drilling will perform the planned drilling. The implementation of such a large investment also involves the involvement of many subcontractors, including regional companies, which will contribute to increased activity of local businesses.

Investment in the expansion of storage capacity plays an important role in ensuring an uninterrupted supply chain, thanks to which the ORLEN Group constantly increases national energy security. This is in line with the goals of the ORLEN Strategy until 2030, related to ensuring stable supplies of energy, fuels and gas. One of the pillars of this strategy is also the planned increase in natural gas production from its own deposits to approximately 12 billion cubic meters per year over the next seven years (in 2022 it amounted to approximately 7.7 billion cubic meters). Gas production on the Norwegian Continental Shelf will play a key role here, but an equally important task will be ensuring and maintaining a stable level of natural gas production from domestic deposits.

Why do we need underground gas storage facilities?

Underground gas storage facilities play a stabilizing role in the gas system, enabling the level of supplies to be adjusted to market demand, which varies seasonally. In the summer season, when customer demand is lower, warehouses are crowded. In turn, in the winter season, when demand for gas increases, warehouses release blue fuel into the system, thanks to which the profile of remaining deliveries to customers is more even. They are also a reserve in case of extraordinary events in which there might be a need to supplement appropriate volumes of gas to the national system.

The ORLEN Group owns seven underground high-methane gas storage facilities, with a total capacity of approximately 3.3 billion cubic meters. Five of them: Wierzchowice, Strachocina, Husów, Swarzów and Brzeźnica are reservoirs located in depleted natural gas and crude oil deposits. The next two, in Kosakowo and Mogilno, are cavern warehouses located in salt caverns – empty spaces created in salt deposits as a result of salt leaching, the so-called leaching.

Although the underground gas storage facilities are owned by ORLEN, their capacities are managed by Gas Storage Poland from the ORLEN Group, which has the status of the storage system operator. In accordance with applicable regulations, it makes storage capacities available on equal terms to all interested market participants. According to the information provided by the operator, as of September 6, 2023, the filling level of domestic storage installations was 97%.

Appreciating the role of underground gas storage facilities in ensuring uninterrupted supplies to customers, the European Parliament and the EU Council introduced a requirement that, starting from 2023, EU Member States are obliged to achieve 90%. filling the warehouses by November 1. It should be mentioned that underground gas storage facilities in Poland reached the required level already on August 1, 2023. Thus, three months before the deadline specified in the EU regulation, Poland met the conditions set for Member States in this respect.

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