A hero of this interview is Konilkosh Suyessinov, Tengizchevroil LLP Deputy General Director. He spent all his childhood in his native village of Dossor, Makat district – a historical homeland of Kazakhstan’s petroleum industry.
— Konilkosh Amanzholovich, you are from Dossor, was this the reason that you connected your life with oil and gas industry?
— As a child, we did not consider pumpjacks to be something special, they were rather a familiar addition to the steppe landscape. Our dad’s clothes were soaked with the smell of oil. Our whole family is generational oil workers. My great-grandfather Mukan Suyessinov is one of the discoverers of oil deposits of the Emba field, and he was a drilling worker. Grandfather Dyusen Suyessinov is a war hero, all his life he held positions in both the party and economic bodies, and he did a lot for the development of oil industry of Emba district. In recent years, he was deputy director of Dossor oil field. And now I, his grandson, am the TCO Deputy General Director, a company producing oil from the giant Tengiz field. You could say I am a fourth-generation oilman.
But as a child, I did not even think about linking my future profession with the oil and gas industry. I dreamed of theater, and I dreamed of becoming an actor and proving to everyone that guys from Dossor can not only drill wells and produce oil.
My parents invested in my education, and to be honest, I tried to meet their expectations. After school, I went to the University of Boston, USA. I immediately seized opportunity to gain international experience: so, I worked in France, Italy and the Netherlands. Returning to my homeland, at some point, I clearly realized that my life was already connected with the oil and gas industry: I took part in construction and debottlenecking of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), construction of the Second-Generation Plant in Tengiz field and I also worked as a director in contracting organizations. In 2022, I was appointed as TCO Deputy General Director. At TCO, I manage several departments, including Kazakhstani Content development department. This department is engaged in the search and development of domestic companies that could provide their goods and services to TCO as well as to increase their overall capacity and potential – this is TCO’s contribution to development of local companies.
— There is an opinion among the local business and people, that only selected companies that “protected ones” work with TCO. Is it true or does small and medium-sized businesses have chance to become one of the suppliers of goods and services?
— Let me be clear that all companies have a chance to become a supplier of goods and services. The main thing is to meet all the criteria. And at the moment this is most likely the main stumbling block for companies. I have heard more than once that TCO has high expectations from suppliers, but we cannot lower the bar, and I will explain why.
Due to abnormally high reservoir pressure, Tengiz is a technically challenging field. In addition, we operate in harsh climatic conditions. The oil we produce contains sulfur dioxide, which is 14% hydrogen sulfide. We all remember the tragic situation at the T-37 well prior to TCO’s formation (in 1985 there was a huge fire, which could be extinguished only after 400 days – note V) and no one wants a repeat of this story.
That is why the company sets high requirements on suppliers – after all, the lives of thousands of workers at the field will depend on the quality of materials and services provided by these companies. And working safely and smoothly is one of our basic principles. Take, for example, an ordinary pipe for a pipeline. The material and joints must comply with international standards and withstand all technological requirements: high pressure, temperature changes, etc., in order to safely deliver energy to the final destination. That is why we try to cooperate only with companies, and professionals in their field who have proven themselves in the market. I am proud to note that we purchase these pipes from Kazakhstani suppliers.
However, this does not mean that we do not provide growth opportunities to other companies. The department, which I directly manage, is constantly looking for new domestic organizations and training them so that in the future they can cooperate not only with TCO, but also with other international companies. So, we have two types of programs designed to improve capacity of Kazakhstani suppliers: these are our internal trainings, workshops and meetings, as well as an external program conducted jointly with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
But in the early 90s, at the very beginning of TCO operations, toilet paper, paper clips and even dishwashing liquid were delivered by a Scottish supplier. There were practically no production in our region, but there was a high demand for services. And I can say with confidence that Tengizchevroil has created new production opportunities, giving a great impetus to development of small and medium-sized businesses in Atyrau Oblast in the first place, and thereby made a huge contribution to the formation of domestic producers and suppliers of various services. For 30 years in TCO, the number of local suppliers of goods and services has been growing rapidly, their qualifications have grown significantly and they are already competing not only with each other, but also with foreign contractors. Today we can confidently say that we are fulfilling our mission with responsibility, helping and supporting local suppliers.
We have been trying to achieve all this over many years. In the late 90s and early 2000s, TCO developed and implemented a financing program for the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Atyrau Oblast. At that time, it was a good help for many entrepreneurs. As an example, I can give small polygraphy printing equipment in Kulsary. Thanks to its perseverance, Akberen is now a large printing company, known for its products throughout the region. We have calculated that over the 30 years of its activity, the company has allocated over $44.6 billion for development of Kazakhstani content.
— But how can small and medium-sized businesses prove themselves to TCO? It's probably very difficult to get on the radar of such a giant. And, accordingly, there is lobbying of interests of certain companies?
— Of course, I hear about such information. Why are we always looking for acquaintances, we want to get acquainted in order to “be successful”? As if we cannot survive without a connection. TCO has developed a whole procedure for messages to the hotline. If a company wants to work with TCO and be a potential supplier, get the first trial order, it must prove itself. We often conduct forums, round tables and workshops on subjects related to Kazakhstani content. Recently, a round table was held for more than 50 Kazakhstani companies providing services in area of maintenance, repair and operation and supply of protective materials. There are important forums like the Atyrau Oil and Gas exhibition and the forum of the International Center for Development of Oil and Gas Engineering. Future suppliers should participate in such forums, to learn something from us, be active, and show their interest.
When I worked as a director of a contracting organization, I tried not to miss a single forum. Networking is important in business, not sitting in an office and signing papers, dreaming of becoming a TCO supplier. When you go to restaurant, are reviews of visitors important to you? How they cook there, what kind of administrator is there, is there live music etc. So, supplier must prove and show its competitiveness, its level. It should be based on three pillars: trust, quality and safety.
— Given your extensive working experience in Kazakhstani companies, what can you say about TCO activities on development of Kazakhstani content? Are there any specifications and what experience can other companies adopt?
— If we talk separately about a tender process of companies, then in general they are all similar to each other, except for some points. Thus, large contracts of NCOC and KPO must be approved by the authorized body from the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In TCO, there is another, but no less transparent system for conducting a tender. To ensure transparency, TCO publishes an annual contract and procurement plan on our website to inform the market about all potential cooperation opportunities. The company has also implemented a transparent process for concluding contracts using a portal called “Supplier Expression of Interest” (SEOI) to determine potential business partners. It is important to understand that all TCO tenders are conducted exclusively through an internal electronic system without the participation of third parties or third-party systems.
In addition, TCO values, first of all, human resources and safe operations. If the company has a large number of Kazakhstani employees and they have proven themselves as qualified personnel, then we strive to preserve these resources as much as possible.
— The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted the importance of FGP-WPMP (Future Growth Project – note V) in the development of Kazakhstani content. And how would you assess the global-scale project?
— FGP-WPMP construction is almost complete, and we have started commissioning all systems. I am pleased with the results of the work of Kazakhstani companies on the project. Of course, since such a large-scale project was being developed for the first time, some issues on development of Kazakhstani content could not be considered. However, this will serve as a lesson for us in the future when forming up large contracts. Nevertheless, I would like to note that in 2022, TCO reached the highest rate of Kazakhstani content in the last 6 years – more than 70%. This is the largest indicator in the country.
2 276 Kazakhstani companies were pre-qualified to provide engineering, logistics and production services for FGP-WPMP, 1 588 of which successfully passed the pre-qualification. As a result, more than 630 contracts were concluded with Kazakhstani companies. One of the goals of the project is to engage the maximum number of Kazakhstani citizens.
Yes, now quality of goods, services and works of Kazakhstani suppliers is in many cases as good as other foreign companies. And it is very profitable for us to work with local suppliers. For example, we will urgently need a high-tech devices for safe and reliable production. Now we can order such devices and deliver them to Tengiz in a short time period, rather than waiting for several months from foreign suppliers. And there are big companies in Atyrau Oblast that replace imports. Therefore, our local partners not only deliver high-quality goods and services, but also help to work smoothly and safely.
— The President noted that in west of Kazakhstan, many young people want to work only in oil sector. What advice would you give to young people who want to work for TCO?
— If I was not working at TCO right now, you probably would have seen me on TV. Or in the film about Tengiz, which was set by Kanat Beisekeyev. Joking, of course. My daughter is studying at University to become an IT engineer. IT has become so firmly embedded in our lives that this is the future. That is why she chose IT. My sons are in school, so they are not particularly interested in anything yet. If they want to go to oil industry in the future, I do not mind, since it is their choice. Besides, our family is a dynasty of oil workers. But people should understand that there are thousands of occupations in the world besides those related to oil and gas industry. Therefore, a choice must be conscious. It is important to take your place as a professional, to find yourself. It is no secret that the petroleum industry attracts many with a good salary and a social package. However, it is important not only to have a good income. First of all, should enjoy what you do and benefit the country. That is when you will be able to take your place as a professional in your field. Look at me – I did not think at the time that I would continue the work of our dynasty of oil workers, but life has put everything in its place. Now I do not doubt my choice at all, and I sincerely hope, in my current position, to bring as much benefit as possible to the development of potential of our Kazakhstani companies.