En Route: Letter from Russia
- Alain Labastie (2011 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 12 - 14
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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I write this column from Moscow, where I am attending the 2010 SPE Russian Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technical Conference and Exhibition (ROGC), a very successful event that demonstrates how well SPE activities are developing here. During the last year, I travelled several times to Russia for diverse reasons:
- To attend a large conference (ROGC), with mostly Russian delegates but also a lot of international visitors;
- To make contacts with companies’ headquarters, and their research branches, mostly in Moscow.
- To visit oil-producing provinces—some very remote—and make contacts with local operations and our members there;
- To visit universities in various parts of the country.
These trips gave me a broad set of perspectives. I learned a lot about Russia and the oil and gas industry there.
First, the country has an extremely rich cultural diversity, with a long and complicated history. Russia’s physical environment is beautiful, but difficult. I visited our Tyumen Section in western Siberia last winter, where temperatures were as low as –30°C. I was quite impressed to see how people adapt in such extreme conditions. Even in the coldest extremes, we always had an incredibly warm welcome from the people, who have a special sense of hospitality. SPE members are extremely enthusiastic; they are doing a wonderful job in organizing activities and promoting our Society. The student chapters are very active, and SPE is a really prestigious organization for them.
The Russian oil and gas industry is quite interesting. For historical reasons, Russian companies have developed their activities in the past century while staying widely isolated from the rest of the world, operating with different contexts and different constraints. As a result, many technologies developed in Russia are somewhat different from their counterparts in Western countries, and some simply do not have any counterpart in the Western world.
But do not rely on appearances. I visited a factory that looked very poor and old-fashioned from the outside, but inside there was very modern equipment for manufacturing up-to-date perforating tools. I also remember visiting a university in Siberia and talking with scientists who, despite being so remote, were performing world-class research in geostatistics in collaboration with US counterparts.
All this means that technology transfer and, more generally, dissemination of technical knowledge will be particularly interesting both within and with Russia. This will be a two-way street; Russia will have to learn from the Western world and the Western world has to learn from it. Like almost everywhere, many Russian producing fields, including some giants, are aging and their production is declining. They will have to inject not only gas or water, but also technology in general.
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