Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, visited Gazprom Neft’s Zifergauz Digital Transformation Centre during a meeting with Alexander Dyukov, CEO and Chairman of the Management Board, Gazprom Neft, in St Petersburg.* The Minister was briefed on Gazprom Neft’s approaches to working with the university “ecosystem”, on the company’s methods and practices in managing technology, and on its projects in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotisation.
Gazprom Neft’s strategy in engaging with the “innovation environment” is directed at developing technologies in high demand by the oil and gas industry, and at training highly qualified specialists. The company’s innovation environment includes more than 40 Russian and international partners, including IBM, Schlumberger, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Skoltech and Innopraktika. Seventeen partner MSc programmes are now in place with leading Russian universities, including MIPT, Lomonosov Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University, ITMO University, Bauman Moscow State Technical University and Tyumen State University. Gazprom Neft is currently collaborating with 24 Russian universities, across 13 of the country’s regions.
The Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre’s engagement with universities in joint research and developments in hydrocarbon exploration and production over the past three years is estimated to be worth around RUB2.75 billion.** Gazprom Neft was also one of the founders of the “Artificial Intelligence in Production” science and educational centre, bringing together developers from Gazprom Neft’s own digital business units and departments, as well as project teams from ITMO University, St Petersburg Electrotechnical University, the Higher School of Economics (HSE), St Petersburg, the State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, St Petersburg State University, and the Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University. The core objective of this centre is developing cognitive information technologies, and supporting professional education in this field.
Another important area in developing and updating university programmes in this field is company specialists’ involvement in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Alliance (a consortium of Russia’s leading tech companies). As part of its activities here, Gazprom Neft — the only Russian industrial company among the Alliance’s founders — together with Sber (Sberbank), Yandex, Mail.ru Group and MTS has undertaken a survey of more than 600 educational programmes at 80 Russian universities, resulting in the drafting of six professional standards to be applied in further professional development in AI in Russia. On that basis, universities will be able to train AI specialists in high demand on the labour market — data analysts and engineers, technical analysts, AI and data architects, and project managers.
Gazprom Neft is now working on developing a system for integrating universities’, research centres’ and the company’s technology strategies into projects being used in working as part of an innovation ecosystem.*** Going forward, supported by the Ministry for Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, this system could be rolled out to facilitate and fine-tune collaboration between major industrial companies and Russia’s scientific community.
“We are collaborating with universities in both St Petersburg and Moscow, as well as in many regions — Tyumen, Tomsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Murmansk and elsewhere. More than 10 universities are currently working with us on joint Masters programmes alone. Higher education provides us with new talent, and is directly involved in finding solutions to the technological challenges facing both the company, and the industry. Gazprom Neft is developing a model for collaborating with universities — moving from a client—contractor relationship to more of a partnership, in which a university has a direct interest in addressing challenges and in being compensated for any new solution developed with their involvement. We are moving towards synchronising universities’ technology strategies with our own, and expect scaling-up this strategy to increase efficiency in collaboration between business and higher education.”Alexander Dyukov Chairman of the Management Board, Gazprom Neft
* The Zifergauz Digital Transformation Centre is Gazprom Neft’s dedicated technology space, located in the historical “House No. 12” on New Holland Island, St Petersburg. The new centre brings together cross-functional teams working on projects in industrial digital transformation, and offices involved in digital transformation programmes on behalf of the company’s various directorates and divisions. Activities at the Zifergauz are directed at finding solutions for changing traditional business processes and improving their efficiency through cutting-edge technologies. The main projects at the centre include digital field-exploration and development solutions, remote-controlled drilling technologies, industrial automation, logistics robotisation, and more. Technological laboratories are also in operation at the centre, covering artificial intelligence (AI), video analytics, robot and drone control, 3D-printing, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), testing of new services, and the development of industrial gadgets and sensors.
** About 1,100 people are employed at the Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre, including four professors, five Higher Doctorate holders, and 82 PhDs. The STC’s key areas of activity are focussed on developing new technologies in oil production and engineering, as well as expertise in hydrocarbon exploration and production projects, analysis and monitoring of oil field development and geological prospecting operations, geological and hydrodynamic modelling, technological support, and operational drilling control. The Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre is the only such centre in Russia to bring together scientific research, the development of oil production technologies, and remote control over high-tech production processes. The STC includes the unique GeoNavigator Drilling Control Centre, through which — using high-tech technologies and equipment — the company is able to manage the drilling of high-tech wells in Russia and abroad remotely, from St Petersburg. Together with Gazprom Neft-Technology Partnerships, the STC is working on commercialising technologies developed by the company.
*** Examples of the company’s work in the “innovation ecosystem” include the Paleozoic and CyberFracking 2.0 simulator projects. The Paleozoic project is directed at developing technologies for finding unconventional hydrocarbon reserves in Western Siberia, including Paleozoic oil —of which oil initially in place (OIIP) is estimated at 26 billion tonnes. The Paleozoic technology project is being implemented by the Gazpromneft-Technology Partnerships’ Industrial Integration Centre together with Mubadala Petroleum as part of the Gazpromneft—Vostok joint venture. Partners on this project include the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, the Tomsk Oblast Administration and Tomsk Polytechnic University. As a result of all parties’ interests being integrated around the coordination centre, Gazprom Neft has been able to make significant headway in investigating Paleozoic oil reserves, the university has gained a new scientific and educational centre, and the Tomsk Oblast has gained new opportunities for developing the regional economy.
A further example of successful cooperation concerns a unique Russian digital tool for working out complex enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations below ground — the CyberFracking 2.0 simulator. The Cyber-Fracking 2.0 simulator has been developed by Gazprom Neft as part of a consortium including the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), Skoltech, St Petersburg Polytechnic University, and the Institute of Hydrodynamics, with the involvement of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. When used in conjunction with the company’s other digital tools this technology can increase effectiveness in oil production at low-permeability reservoirs by up to five percent. The programme has successfully completed comparability testing against international manufacturers’ simulators with similar functionality. Algorithms developed by Gazprom Neft’s Science and Technology Centre have demonstrated better outcomes than currently available alternatives, with tests showing Russian technology to be