Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited OAO Naftan during a working trip to Vitebsk Oblast on 7 June.
The head of state said that Vitebsk Oblast authorities should come up with an efficient strategy of regional development. “You need to address issues, see the strategy. There should be a clear-cut strategy, just like the one we have been trying to build in the agricultural industry. It is when you know where to build a production facility for the entire district or two, where to merge several facilities or to divide them into separate enterprises to ensure good results in production and in the economy. You need such a strategy,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The President remarked that conditions for the development of SMEs have been created in the country, now it is time to think about the development of strategic branches and enterprises. “Some time ago we started to modernize wood processing, we have done a lot,” he said. “If you do not work at modernized enterprises here, it is bad for you, for the minister and the government. This is a strategic industry, but you haven’t devised the strategy. Back then I insisted on the upgrade of the wood processing industry. It was difficult at the beginning, but now this is an efficient branch in the country in general.”
Vitebsk Oblast Governor Nikolai Sherstnev reported on the social and economic development of the region to the head of state. In his words, the state of affairs in Vitebsk Oblast is stable, however, the indicators could have been better with more efficient performance of Naftan. A lot depends on this enterprise in the region. “If any challenges emerge at Naftan, of course, the social and economic indicators look not so bright in the region in general,” Nikolai Sherstnev said.
At the same time, he emphasized that in recent years Vitebsk Oblast has been trying to eradicate direct dependence on strong enterprises and the petrochemical industry on the whole. “It is not right to depend on them all the time,” the governor believes.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko, in turn, said that Vitebsk Oblast has a good industrial basis and structure. However, many enterprises do not work at full capacity and need more raw materials. “Higher production capacity and lower costs are the priorities,” he is convinced.
“Today we’ve precisely calculated and are considering three possible variants: fuel production (actually the same we’ve built already), fuel and petrochemical products, and petrochemical products. We tend to favor the latter. We believe it is the future,” Naftan Director General Aleksandr Demidov said.
During the visit to OAO Naftan the head of state was informed in detail about the social and economic development of the oil refinery and about the implementation of major investment projects. Aleksandr Lukashenko was made familiar with modern methods for managing manufacturing processes. He took a close look at the crude oil distillation plant AT-8, which large-scale reconstruction was finished in 2017. The head of state was told that the plant’s oil processing scheme is unique. It has no analogs not only in Belarus but the ex-USSR. The plant is equipped with all the necessary systems. It allows making high-quality products and boasts the highest level of occupational safety. The crude oil distillation plant AT-8 has suffered no malfunctions or accidents since its launch.
A native of Pakistan, Khan Nasir Mukhtar is one of the specialists in charge of operating the plant. Aleksandr Lukashenko had a few words with him, asked him about his family and life in Belarus. “I’ve come to love [the country], the people are very kind. If it was bad, I would have left long ago. I feel good here,” the Pakistani said. He added that the company had even given him some space to pray just like Islam requires it.
The head of state went on a tour of the oil refinery and examined social facilities. The President was informed about the implementation of the project to build a complex for the delayed coking of oil residues. It will allow increasing the crude oil upgrading index up to 90% while considerably increasing the output of light oil products. It is one of the largest investment projects the Belarusian oil processing industry is implementing now.
During the visit to the enterprise the President said that issues related to the compensation for Belarus due to the situation with poor-quality Russian oil should be addressed exclusively in a business-like manner. Contaminated oil reached the Mozyr Oil Refinery and Naftan. The two companies were forced to reduce their workload. “You are a businessman, a head of the company. You aim for maximum numbers: be it revenue, output, or sales, or damage compensation,” the head of state said addressing Naftan Director General Aleksandr Demidov.
“No need for extreme measures or pressure. The main thing is to look out for the best interest of the company and the state. No need to kneel begging. You just should address such matters in a business-like manner,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that, according to the recent media reports, a number of international companies want up to $800 million in damages from Russia. “We have suffered the worst. But they say that Belarusians have incurred almost no losses. How come? We need to keep an eye on what is going. Why they are paying $800 million in damages, while we, who got hit the worst, are getting only about $20 million. We need to follow this situation closely,” the President said.
After the visit to the enterprise Aleksandr Lukashenko held a session to discuss the modernization of Belarusian enterprises and export of oil products.
The President remarked that oil extraction is one of the development priorities for the Belarusian oil processing industry. “Today we will discuss the state of affairs in the Belarusian oil processing industry and determine further development prospects. Having analyzed all the materials that I was given, I found out we completely forgot that we extract slightly less than 2 million tons of good high-quality oil in Belarus. Don’t forget about it. This is another prospect of development for us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The President recalled that two years passed since the last meeting to discuss upgrade of oil refineries and oil refining industry. “It was initiated by you, specialists and executives of the oil refining industry,” he said. New heads of Naftan and Mozyr Oil Refinery were appointed around that time, too.
“While making these appointments, we carefully and thoroughly studied all the aspects of the industry and determined priorities, tasks and deadlines. The financing of the upgrade program was the most critical issue. These issues have been settled at both companies. All the rest depends on the management of these companies. Everything the government and the heads of the oil refineries asked me for, was 100% upheld. This attests to the importance of the work we are doing,” he said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that one should not say that Belarus’ sovereignty and independence directly hinge on the oil refineries. However, their efficient work plays an important role in maintaining stability of the domestic economy. “There is no state without good economy,” the President underlined.
Speaking about the modernization of Belarusian oil refineries, the head of state asked about the progress in investment projects and construction works. “How will oil refineries perform after upgrade? How will you ensure efficient work in new conditions? What prospects in the oil processing industry do all of us and our government see in the coming decade?” the President wondered. Apart from that, the session focused on the efforts to promote the export of oil products.
The President recalled his visit to Ukraine. When on a visit, he asked how popular Belarusian petroleum products were there. It turned out local drivers were displeased with the absence of Belarusian fuel on the market. “The quality of the product is good, but the marketing effort is inadequate. We need to learn to sell our products. We need to fight for our markets, maintain a foothold there and efficiently sell the products we make, in particular petroleum products. However, the same pertains to other products as well,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.
“I do not need theories because we have already spoken about it so much. The essence of the matter, i.e. the completion of the upgrade, is important,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “Now we get almost 20% of residual oil after oil processing. Therefore, a task was set to minimize the amount of such residues. When the upgrade is over, we will get only 3-4% of oil residues. This is it, as far as fuel is concerned.”
The President said that workers of oil refineries had to do a more difficult job in 1940s. Back then oil was not delivered to enterprises directly, so it was necessary to dismount the equipment and transport it to other regions of the Soviet Union, for example, to the Urals, install it within a few months and make products. “We are way too lazy now. We often complain that there are not enough specialists and other things. If you don’t have enough specialists, train them or look for them in other places,” the head of state added.