We need development at the level of the whole country
Gazprom Neft Science & Technology Center (STC) CEO shares his opinion on how changes in the quality of petroleum reserves affect professional requirements for specialists, where to look for and how to educate real engineers, and how the STC builds up an innovative infrastructure throughout Russia
— Could you tell us what the tasks the STC is facing today are?
— The main task of the STC is to create, test and implement technologies. It is no secret that our fields in traditional regions are being depleted, and all new ones are much more difficult to develop than before. So today, when the share of
— No doubts, the STC has already had such solutions in place?
— If we talk about those projects that were developed in the Science & Technology Center, it is, first of all, about 40 software solutions within the ERA (Electronic Asset Development) strategy which is one of the key areas of GPN’s Technology Strategy. All of these software products are aimed at improving efficiency of exploration, geology, field development, drilling, construction of infrastructure facilities, production. We pay great attention to oil production modeling: 3D digital models of reservoirs and basin models. We were the first in the industry to create a digital model of the Achimov formation whose petroleum initially
— And do you know how similar research centers are structured in other major international companies?
— In the West, the structure and purpose of science and technology centers is almost completely identical to what we do, with only one exception: we have engineering calculations performed completely by the STC personnel. In Western companies, such calculations for each field are performed by project teams which, among other people, include specialists from science and technology centers. Both these approaches have the right to exist. During the times when we were just beginning to apply the modern oil engineering methods, gaining competence, it was more reasonable to do it all on a single basis of the STC. Today we are ready for engineering personnel to be distributed among different projects. Our goal is to achieve a uniform level of competence in the company: avoid situations when the best specialists are concentrated in the corporate head office while the oil production subsidiaries are stretched thin.
— You mentioned the Technology Strategy adopted by Gazprom Neft in 2014. What is the role of the STC in this Strategy?
— Our main task is to ensure radical improvement in efficiency. Usually, when people talk about efficiency they mean an improvement of performance indicators by 10–15%. However, when working with
— How do the digitization tasks faced by the company change the work done by the STC?
— Many of these tasks are not new for the STC. This is due to the high complexity of the projects we are engaged in. The reservoir is a huge accumulation of formation fluids. We can measure something directly only in a well which is, roughly speaking, a hole in the earth with a radius of 10 centimeters. For everything outside the well, we can only make our best estimates on the basis of indirect data, with a certain probability. In order to come to making such a decision, we have to perform a huge scope of engineering calculations, and we use any additional information to clarify our vision. Besides, the main competence of any oil company is not drilling wells or building infrastructure facilities but working with information, formulating strategies, making decisions. Therefore, we have been engaged in information technology and digital projects for a long time.
— Can you give any examples of such projects?
— The first work area is the traditional,
— Are you not pursuing the goal of recruiting all of the most talented people?
— Let’s assume we gather 2000 people. But to achieve
— And where are the best «brains» found, those whom you seek to cooperate with first of all?
— If we talk about new technologies, new software products, digitalization — we need people with good physical and mathematical background. These people graduate from the classical universities, or engineering universities with strong physical and mathematical schools. Some of the examples include the Theoretical Mechanics Department of the
— In addition to a good fundamental education, what other qualities make up the ideal image of a person employed by the STC?
— In addition to a good education, there needs to be another mandatory requirement: the passion for work, the desire to do something, realize your potential. And it is very important not only to be active personally but also to involve and motivate others. Besides, I think, being a patriot is also important, which means understanding of what your country needs today. Maybe it is just blind luck, but there are a lot of such guys here, at our Science & Technology Center. The average age of the STC employee is 32 years. This is a new generation of motivated people who come here and find a place where they can realize their professional aspirations.
— How can this attitude be maintained so that it does not disappear with time?
— The influence of the environment and, first of all, senior and more experienced colleagues and managers who are creative and passionate people too is very important. In addition, we tend to recognize and encourage the achievements of our young employees. And it is very important that our employees have a large degree of independence: we give people projects and opportunities to implement them. Of course, this implies a high degree of responsibility on their part. But feeling independence, they are always ready to be responsible for the result. With each new achievement, with each new project, I am more and more convinced that our STC is home for personally involved, passionate professionals. Almost 10% of our employees are candidates of sciences which means that the future of our oil industry is in safe hands.
— At the STC, you use such an approach as the systems engineering. Could you tell us about what it is, and what tasks it is intended to solve?
— Systems engineering is an approach to design work which assumes that the entire system as a whole is first analyzed, all necessary calculations are made, all possible solutions are examined, and only then the project is implemented in practice. As a scientific discipline, it took shape around the 1930s in the United States. Then, many universities established engineering departments with different specialization. In the USSR, the founder of the systems engineering in the oil industry, I think, was my teacher Azat Mirzanzhadzade whose ideas we still continue to develop at our Science & Technology Center. But in fact, in Russia there is still not a single university department which would really teach systems (or integrated) engineering. In the West, the systems engineering approach today is most developed in the nuclear and chemical industries. We believe that we can develop oil engineering in Russia to this advanced level. However, this is difficult to implement in a single R&D center, like our STC. We need that new professionals are graduated, new R&D centers are established, certification courses are opened across the whole country so that the level of our petroleum engineering could be increased.
— You said that the systems engineering is not taught in Russia. How come that the universities do not have training programs to graduate
— They just never had this task. Our training is based on centralized programs. Students are given knowledge of individual subjects but they do not have enough practical skills to combine this knowledge into a single whole and start applying it. For example, how can a person apply their knowledge of higher mathematics in practice when developing design of any technology process? Perhaps the only example of a new approach to training of engineers is the Polytechnic School which we set up at the Tyumen State University and where they teach the basics of system engineering with the help of our specialists.
— And what are the advantages of those who came to engineering from the fundamental sciences? They were not taught this way too, were they?
— It is easier for them to work with formulas, equations, mathematical apparatus, and you cannot do anything without these things today. When you work in a region which is familiar for you, for example in the Western Siberia with its conventional fields and