Working in Vyakhirev way – working with love for what you do
August 22, 2014
August 23, 2014 is the 80th anniversary of birth of Rem Vyakhirev, a man who was one of the originators of Gazprom and headed it from 1992 to 2001.
How it all started
Rem Vyakhirev was born on August 23, 1934 in Bolshaya Chernigovka settlement, Kuibyshev Region (currently the Samara Region) in the family of village teachers.
Being the eldest of six children, Rem Vyakhirev has never sat on his hands already in his school days: as a child he grazed cows, as an upper-form pupil he earned money unloading ships on the Volga River. After graduating from school he entered the Oil and Gas Department of Kuibyshev Industrial Institute (presently Samara State Technical University), majoring in Oil and Gas Fields Development. As Rem Vyakhirev recalled later, he had chosen this profession because of the enhanced allowance promised to the students of the profession new to the region. A pragmatic approach to choosing his occupation determined the development vector of his whole life.
Rem Vyakhirev (first from right in front row) with his fellow students, Kuibyshev Industrial Institute, 1950s
After his graduation from the Institute in 1956, Rem Vyakhirev was sent to Kuibyshevneft Association under the USSR Oil Industry Ministry, where he advanced from an assistant oil production foreman to a branch manager. From 1963 to 1965 he worked as Director for Facilities Construction at the Kuleshovskoye field, then up to 1970 – as Director of an oil stabilization plant and Deputy Head of Bogatovskneft Oil and Gas Production Directorate.
Samara State Technical University, reunion of 1956 graduates, Samara, 2002
Higher and higher
When a gas field was discovered in the Orenburg Region, Rem Vyakhirev was appointed Head of the Dedurovka Gas Production Directorate established to develop the field (1970). Since that time all his career was entirely related to the gas industry.
Yury Vysheslavtsev, first Director General of Orenburggazprom recalls, “Upon its discovery, the field was defined as unique in terms of location, reserves and hydrocarbon feedstock structure. Field development and pre-development required huge human resources. Experts from Bashkiria, the Kuibyshev Region, the Krasnodar Territory were invited to Orenburg. They basically had to home in from scratch; in the beginning the pioneers had just a few trailers. Dedurovka Directorate No. 1 was headed by most skilled field men – Director Rem Vyakhirev and Chief Engineer Viktor Shchugorev, pioneers of the new industry in Orenburg.”
But the career of Rem Vyakhirev as a gasman could have finished having hardly started: a separator exploded during its pilot run. A commission was called, and the Minister from Moscow came, but it all ended up well.
It was there that a momentous meeting between Rem Vyakhirev and Viktor Chernomyrdin took place. This acquaintance played an important part in his future career. “He was a good guy and a well-versed one, but there was too much party spirit in his head, though it shook out on the floor,” Rem Vyakhirev said about him later.
In his turn, Viktor Chernomyrdin in his book ‘The Time Has Chosen Us’ wrote the following about Rem Vyakhirev, “I should say that he is a highest-class professional in complex fields development, especially with hydrogen sulfide presence in gas. At that time he had no equals not only in our country, but in the near abroad either. In addition, there are not so many big fields in the world like we have.”
Yury Vysheslavtsev supports Viktor Chernomyrdin’s words, “Rem Vyakhirev was justly awarded the State Prize for his creative contribution to designing the integrated processes of treating gas and condensate bearing hydrogen sulfide and other aggressive components, measures for preventing equipment and pipelines corrosion, environmental protection, establishing the basic operation principles for fields with complex geology. Rem Vyakhirev’s research involved the main problems faced by gas producers and processors. Moreover, Mr. Vyakhirev was the author of rationalization proposals with the formidable economic effect of millions Soviet rubles.”
At gas field construction site with Sabit Orudzhev, USSR Minister of Gas Industry, Orenburg, 1978
In 1983 Rem Vyakhirev was appointed Deputy Minister of the USSR Gas Industry and Head of Tyumengazprom Association.
On way to Gazprom
From 1986 to 1989 Rem Vyakhirev performed the offices of First Deputy Minister of the USSR Gas Industry; in 1985 Viktor Chernomyrdin became the Minister himself. Together they managed to convince the USSR Council of Ministers to establish the Gazprom State Gas Concern on the basis of the Gas Industry Ministry.
Later, Rem Vyakhirev mentioned that the ministerial structure was not to his liking – “they are neither officials, nor manufacturers.” In his interview to Forbes magazine Rem Vyakhirev reminisced, “The ministry was exposed to red-tape complacency; the attitude to production was formal. But the gas industry should be in one hands – the hands of the Government. Production should be arranged; people should be fostered and habituated to work. Today there are endless talks of how to get off the gas needle. That is a nonsense. It is a fosterer, not a needle! Back then, when prices were low and today, when they have grown, the country has lived on this money.”
The idea of setting up a concern had to be submitted four times to Nikolai Ryzhkov, Chairman of the Council of Ministers. The concern was registered only on August 8, 1989.
Viktor Chernomyrdin became Head of Gazprom. Rem Vyakhirev became First Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee. In December 1992 Rem Vyakhirev was appointed Acting Chairman of the Management Committee, and from March 1993 to May 30, 2001 he worked as Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee.
In May 2001 Rem Vyakhirev resigned his office of Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee. Still, he worked as Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors for another year, and later he left the Company for good.
Rem Vyakhirev made an invaluable contribution to Gazprom’s establishment and output. During these years as he occupied senior positions in the Company, the Yamal – Europe gas pipeline was commissioned, the Blue Stream construction was initiated, and South Stream and Nord Stream were put under consideration. He was on duty when Gazprom, having established Wingas, the joint venture with Wintershall, managed to approach European end consumers.
Yamal – Europe gas pipeline commissioning, with Alexander Lukashenko, September, 1999. Photo by Vyacheslav Polunin
Rem Vyakhirev was a man of business. His subordinates and colleagues mention him as an exacting, but a fair and objective person. He always knew what he wanted and strictly followed his way.
He felt no stranger among the ordinary gasmen working at fields. Even being retired, having removed himself from business, Rem Vyakhirev came to see his fellows at production sites. Once he flew all over ‘Gazprom’s North’, where he had been met heartily, as usual.
Rem Vyakhirev passed away on February 11, 2013. He was buried at the Vostryakovskoye graveyard adjacent to his wife.
Rem Vyakhirev’s name is associated with the most brilliant pages of the national gas industry. One can never overestimate his contribution to the gas industry development.
These are two more quotes from Orenburg citizens’ recollections:
Yury Vysheslavtsev: “The Orenburg field development, the establishing and growth of complex gas production facilities, ensuring its reliable and efficient output are his merits. The expression ‘working in the Vyakhirev way’ was about in Orenburggazprom those years, i.e. with love to what you do, putting public interests over your own ones, approaching any matter with the governmental scope”.
William Savelzon, the Orenburzhye newspaper reporter: “Vyakhirev was a chief for gas production not only due to his appointment, but due to his calling as well. And this is recognized by everybody, even by those who used to be displeased with him and his decisions. Everything arranges in a proper way in the long run: Vyakhirev is an outstanding person and manager”.
And there is nothing to add. Just one more thing is that he worked ‘in the Vyakhirev way’ not only in Orenburg, but did it both before and after, i.e. ever.