''There are regions that have lagged behind the digital economy, but it is definitely not Urals and Tatarstan''

Head of the Ural branch of Rostelecom PJSC Sergey Gusev about his Tatarstan past, digitalization of fuel and energy complex and the first ‘’smart’’ oil well in Russia

''There are regions that have lagged behind the digital economy, but it is definitely not Urals and Tatarstan'' Photo: nag.ru

Last week, Rostelecom and Lukoil launched Russia's first ''smart'' oil well at one of the fields in Perm Krai. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya talked at the presentation of the ''digital twin'' of the well with the head of the Ural branch of Rostelecom PJSC Sergey Gusev, asking him about the launch of this project, the digitalization of the fuel and energy complex, as well as how the Tatarstan citizen, behind whom there is the work in large companies of the Republic of Tatarstan, has found himself in the Urals and what the similarities and differences between these regions.

''Tatarstan is something very similar to the Urals''

Mr. Gusev, an impressive part of your career is connected with Tatarstan, where were you born — you have worked in TAIF, Tatmedia, Tatinvest. What has brought you to the Urals, where you have settled, if I'm not mistaken, for almost 10 years?

Tatarstan is my homeland, I often come here and even now I miss it. I think this is one of the best schools of life in Russia in terms of the dynamics of any industry — oil, telecommunications and media. And the fact that Tatarstan is now really one of the most prosperous and attracting investment regions confirms this.

I really worked most of my life in Tatarstan, but I have been working in the Urals for the last 10 years. There are really big projects here, and I was invited to lead several of them, respectively, by the will of fate, I was here.

''If we talk about the digital economy, it consists of many elements: housing, roads, security, smart cities, platform solutions, tax management and so on. Tatarstan has implemented its own smart projects, and the Urals and Perm Krai have their own.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

The image of the region as an advanced in terms of digitalization of it projects has been firmly established in Tatarstan in recent years. At the same time, a number of experts point out that after Moscow and St. Petersburg, Perm Krai is the most active IT startup region. And who would you give a leading position in this matter?

Tatarstan is somewhat similar to the Urals (or the Urals is very similar to Tatarstan), because the dynamics of the development of advanced solutions is very high. It would be wrong if I said that somewhere it is better or worse. If we talk about the digital economy, it consists of many elements: housing, roads, security, smart cities, platform solutions, tax management and so on. Tatarstan has implemented its own smart projects, and the Urals and Perm Krai have their own.

The most important thing is that they are implemented on the basis of common sense, that is, what is needed here. Perhaps, Tatarstan does not need any aspects that are implemented in Perm Krai, just as there is no sense in Salekhard, for example, to promote parking spaces (accordingly, there are implemented solutions related to safety and environment — they are more relevant).

I think that what distinguishes Tatarstan and the Urals from other regions (by the way, maybe that's why I ended up in the Urals) is common sense. What is being done is what is necessary and important for people at the moment, and all this is easily scaled to the whole region.

Tatarstan is now really in the forefront in terms of road safety or a platform for housing and communal services, and many of the solutions we take from there. By the way, just a week later in the Urals there takes place a very large conference on energy efficiency and energy saving — there will be a very well presented Kazan plant that produces cost-effective light fixtures, although in the Urals there are also their own manufacturers. And, again, each region is suitable for something different: the same Yamal with its climate and hourly days — this is one topic, the south, Chelyabinsk — another.

Yes, there are regions that really, for various reasons, in some sense, lagged behind the digital economy, smart decisions, but this is definitely not the Urals and not Tatarstan.

''I believe that what distinguishes Tatarstan and the Urals from other regions is common sense. What is being done is what is necessary and important for people at the moment, and all this is easily scaled to the entire region.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

''Guys, if you want to keep jobs, then let's retrain''

Last week, Rostelecom and Lukoil launched a digital twin of an oil well in Perm Krai. This is quite an interesting cooperation — oil and telecom operators. From the outside, it may seem that these are two disjoint worlds. But, if you think about it, now almost all spheres have fallen into dependence on the Telecom…

What we most often touch in life? Mobile phone. It's definitely telecom. What do we most often see in any room? As a rule, some screens. It is also telecom. It is possible to grieve about it, it is possible to laugh, irony, but it is the fact that we live in such world. The best thing we can do is accept and learn how to manage it. If the revolution cannot be stopped, then it must be led.

If we are talking about oil fields, wells, factories, it is obvious that the introduction of smart solutions can significantly — not by percent — increase production efficiency. Let me stress: not only save something, reduce the number of accidents, increase production, but also increase efficiency. The automation process is closely related to telecom, because it is a certain data collection, their analysis on some platform, plus, on what platform you have chosen, depends on how effectively you work.

Ural in Rostelecom is a centre of competence for cooperation with the fuel and energy complex. In this region, we are working with Lukoil and Gazpromneft, that is, with everyone who produces oil and gas. We cooperate in terms of infrastructure and platform solutions (actually, this is what is implemented in Perm Krai).

Platform solutions are ''turnkey''. If we take as an example the ''smart'' well that we have just launched, the task at the entrance, a year and a half ago, was to make a very cost-effective solution, because these are low-cost wells, and there is no money at all, as well as communication, plus, we needed Russian solutions. We undertook, collected everything in one and a half years and showed how it works. This is the first case in Russia when the data are not just supplied — they are included in the standard (and the oil industry is very closed and standardized). Probably, it is easier for Rostelecom to do this, because it is a state corporation that has certain tolerances, understands standards and knows how to work with all this.

I note that a year and a half is a very short time for such platform solutions. Over this period of time, we have collected everything from hardware and installation to the platform, which is included in all information systems of Lukoil. In Russia, people like to install equipment, and then to recruit people to serve it, but the situation is different: the equipment is included in the whole chain, and it allows — without additional costs and without additional people — to save on data transmission and downtime, as well as to earn money on additional oil production.

''Ural in Rostelecom is a centre of competence for cooperation with the fuel and energy complex. In this region, we are working with Lukoil, Gazpromneft, that is, with all those who produce oil and gas.'' Photo tdaily.ru

Speaking of hiring employees: is your ''smart'' well is one of the examples when technologies take away work and wages from people?

Let's take the big cities: it would seem that there are a lot of people, but in fact we need even more. There are no problems with unemployment — neither in Moscow, nor in St. Petersburg, nor in Yekaterinburg, although the issue of automation or smart platform solutions there is much more extensive than, for example, in Kurgan. Another thing is that the pace of life is higher. The requirements for people in terms of culture and development are higher. All these decisions, in fact, push people to the following idea: ''Guys, if you want to keep jobs, then let's retrain, undergo additional training to master some related things.'' Since you came to the well, it is probably not just to remove the data, but also to perform a number of other tasks. The requirements to people have clearly increased.

As for whether there will be any cuts or not: to be honest, I do not think so, because without this sensible people are not qualified very much.

Now about what does telecom have to do with this: some telecommunications companies already have specific cases, when in fact a team is taken, which used to be engaged in the maintenance of some object, and everything related to information support, information technology and communication facilities, the operator takes away, and thus the entire non-core load is removed from the plant. That is, the specialists of the enterprise are engaged in what they know well: production, extraction, sales, and telecom takes care of everything related to infrastructure, platform and data security. This is not the future, but the realities of today.

''There are enough smart heads in Russia that can make firmware, code and build the entire platform''

What investments did your project require in Perm Krai? And does the high cost of digital counterparts really inhibit the digitalization of the industry?

The only thing I can say is that it is very affordable. At the presentation, Oleg (Tretyakov, CEO of Lukoil-Perm — editor's note) called the payback period of 5 years, and I believe that it will take even less time, because we really picked up a very optimal solution for this company.

As for the second part of the question, we have gathered here partly to show that this can be done very economically, it will work and, moreover, it will not require additional money in terms of hiring people.

''Specialists of the enterprise are engaged in what they know well: production, extraction, sales, and telecom takes care of everything related to infrastructure, platform and data security. This is not the future, but the realities of today.'' Photo: yamobi.ru

Is it possible to say that the key to this ''cheapening'' is, in particular, in the use of domestic developments — software, hardware and other elements? At the presentation, you said that 90 percent of the components are from Russia.

The key is to use the best solutions. In this project, 10 percent of foreign developments, but this is what was selected ''turnkey''. Of course, in terms of platform and chipset programming, we want to live in peace and manage it. But it is clear that it is easier to produce chipsets in China, India or somewhere else.

At the same time, there are enough smart heads in Russia that can make firmware, code, dock all this into the correct systems and assemble the platform as a whole. Therefore, when we talk about 90 per cent of the project budget, it is really the contribution of the Russian manufacturer, and a big plus is that we can reconfigure all this ourselves for very clear, transparent money.

By Lina Sarimova
Tatarstan