23 December 2022

Oleh Nikonorov: war is a test of resilience

At the end of February, we traditionally conducted the annual strategic session with the directors. Numerous figures, graphs, discussions, and plans for the year. We were thinking about how we would develop services, increase production volumes, and consider strategies for reconstructing and modernizing gas distribution networks.

Although the statements of the international partners were becoming increasingly anxious, the business was skeptical about the full-scale invasion. We did not believe as well. On February 23th, we agreed on a joint development of the business.

The approved plans inspired us, and we are confident about the future. And on February 24th at 5 a.m., we woke up in a completely different reality under the sounds of rockets and shells bursting. Horror, hooking, despair: these are the feelings that overwhelm everyone around. In the dispatching reports of emergency services appeared information about the dead, wounded people, and destruction of the infrastructure. Was it possible to be prepared for this? I'm sure it wasn't.


In the first days and weeks, we were immersed in emergency evacuating employee families from under the shellings, built evacuation routes, and determined humanitarian aid supplies to the occupied territories. We turned out in a completely different reality. It was outside our presentations.


As a Ukrainian business, we have identified our primary task to keep the gas distribution system working to prevent it from coming to a complete stop and mobilized all the resources to implement this task. We stood up.


What are the sources of our resilience?


The first is modern technologies, which we have introduced in the industry in the last 3–4 years due to the strong ties with the world's best producers, well-established logistics chains, and building our production cycle.


Localization of production of critical components and equipment for gas distribution allowed us fully and promptly supply it during the war.


So as soon as the occupiers retreated, we were ready to promptly produce gas regulating equipment that needed to be installed instead of ruined ones in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhya oblasts. It made us possible to restore the gas supply to half a million Ukrainian homes.


The second is digitalization. Our investment in IT technology allowed us to combine production processes, equipment, and people into a single ecosystem to get information online and react quickly to it. Our IT products provide an intake and real-time data transfer from thousands of devices. Therefore, we tracked each damage to the gas distribution system online. At that moment, we could determine the damaged area, and our dispatchers — shipped the nearest emergency brigade there. Thus, our repairers acted effectively and equipped with program products containing all the necessary progressive information on damaged objects.


Therefore, they immediately understood what diameter gas pipeline was damaged, where it was located, and where was the nearest valve for an emergency. This allowed us to substantially speed up response and repair terms and act clearly, even in the face of a direct threat to the life of our employees.


So, the third source of our resilience is our people. We have invested in human capital, creating a network of educational centers to educate our staff on new technological and digital solutions in their work. It has increased the efficiency of work, promptness in the execution of tasks and has set high-quality standards for the work of specialists in the industry.


Thankfully to the presence of these three components of our business strategy, rapid restoration of natural gas distribution in the de-occupied territories became possible. And in those territories where there were hostilities, in those cities that the enemy tried to capture, natural gas often remained for Ukrainians, the only available benefit and a sign of civilization.


We have a lot of work ahead of us. We are collecting the data on each destroyed meter of the gas pipeline, each demolished gas distribution point, or household pressure regulator. We know how much it costs to recover them. And the numbers are already impressive.


But along with the destruction and war, we got a chance to build a new gas distribution system for Ukrainians. That will be more resilient due to the latest technologically innovative solutions ready to work with clean energy sources. That will also integrate local energy sources - for example, biomethane plants and hydrogen generation units. And it will become a basic architecture of true energy independence, for which the country pays the highest price daily.