A Return to Nizhnekamsk?

Most people, even those who follow Russian affairs closely, will have understandably missed this story:

ОАО “Tatneft” has selected a contractor to build the new Nizhnekamsk Refinery worth $5 billion. ОАО “Tatneft” signed the contract with the US company Fluor Daniel Overseas, Inc. Construction of the refinery with crude processing capacity of 7 million tons annually will be completed in 2009.

It came to my attention a week or so back when one of the Fluor directors told me about it.  When an engineering company like Fluor wins a contract like this, many other companies – my own included – take a keen interest in the hope of securing part of the workscope.

Readers who have been following my writings since early 2004 will recall that my first trip to Russia – and the one which started off this entire fascination with the place and its people – was an ill-prepared journey to Moscow and then Nizhnekamsk, which I wrote about extensively at the time.  Now the name Nizhnekamsk is being murmured around the corridors of engineering and service companies, I have found myself in the unique position of being the only person on Sakhalin who has any idea where it is, let alone having been there.  I can therefore advise reasonably well on what to expect should anybody pay a visit to the place, which they surely will.  Or rather, I can advise on what not to expect, stuff like a decent hotel, a working cashpoint, a taxi with working seatbelts, and a straight militiaman.

Furthermore, it is looking increasingly likely that I will have to take a trip there myself in the near future, which if it takes place will surely rank as one of the most bizarre coincidences I will encounter in my life.  If I do go back, I will have a barrel of laughs taking pictures and writing about my second trip there with respect to the first.

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15 thoughts on “A Return to Nizhnekamsk?

  1. If (or when) you go, say “hello” to Nizhnekamsk for me. Or maybe “Suckers!”, either one of two.

    No, really, I think this event (the Fluor’s contract with Tatneft’) isn’t such an surprising thing. For how long, do you think, Russians (I know they are Tartars, but they are still Russians, if you know what I mean) could exploit their aged stock and build things by themselves? The question I have, however, is why any Western Co would want to enter such a high-risk enterprise?

  2. The question I have, however, is why any Western Co would want to enter such a high-risk enterprise?

    For the engineering companies like Fluor, there isn’t all that much risk. The job is probably not lump sum but cost reimbursable: Tatneft stop paying, Fluor pack up and go home leaving the refinery half-built. Also, Fluor have huge experience in dealing with all manner of dodgy nationalities in every continent, they are a wiley outfit and will come away having got the better of Tatneft. This is very different from the western oil companies who have to front huge quantities of cash, only to see their share in the project pinched by the government.

    As for the Russians needing western expertise, you are dead right.

  3. As for the Russians needing western expertise, you are dead right
    I had observed the need in..er.. 1980, when my father struggled with German reading a proposal for a new equipment on a gas line construction of which he managed in -gasp- Nizhnekamsk. Yes, 1980.

  4. 1980? What’s the betting that new pipeline hasn’t seen a rouble of maintenance since then?

    The most reliable pipelines in Sakhalin are the ones which the Japanese put in place before the war.

  5. Im wondering why I dont know where Nizhnekamsk is. I only got offered trips to Nizhnevartovsk with a load of furs in an old Yak40. Now I regret I never went with the Hungarians I was working for at the time. As you have found out, you never know where it will lead in the future.

  6. I have the potential of working on this job for Fluor. Can anyone tell me more about Nizhnekamsk to help me make up my mind about going there. I worked for 1.5 years in Moscow and I know this is much more remote. I would just like to have some feedback.

  7. I understand your envy which bothers you to see any improvements in Russia or when Russian companies like in Tatarstan (where I am from) hire American ones.

  8. Anybody! Hey can anyone send me telephone number of Fluor HR in Nizhnekamsk, and Fluor’s real address in Moscow, coz on Fluor’s website this info is not updated, but anyway I shall seek further.

  9. Ok, I work for Fluor here in Nizhnekamsk. I have to say that the new taxies are fine, my hotel is nice, and the food is good. I have no problems with it. Even better than my 2 years in Sakhalin. No where near as expensive…

  10. Hi Josh, I work for Fluor as well. Looks like I may be in Nizhnekamsk in the not too distant future…can we discuss what it’s like?


  11. Damn…. there are 98% of typists in here (not included Russians or Tatars) dunno where is Nizhnekamsk or Tatarstan at all. What a hell are you learning in your schools. I’m just hear all those complains about places,food on the broad’s projects(where having GOOOOD money)and so on expats do. I’m working with expats for while already and my husband is American, whom turning to be knowing a reality of the life – not from TV. Nizhnekamsk is a good place; project is good so far and the client is not stupid either. So welcome people!
    Fluor just signed contract 2-3 weeks ago, but all people are working much longer before, because been payed. Well, if you got payed, then shut up and work!
    BTW – “suckers” – that is who with a sucks economy, poor brain and clown president – and that is definitely not Russia, where brains are “growing”!

  12. Hey Josh, looks like I’m headed to Nizhnekamsk as well… can you give me any info?

  13. It seems as if I shall also be going to Nizhnekamsk. I would really like some more info about the place. Thanks.

  14. I may be headed to Nizhnekamsk as well. Can someone please contact me and let me know how it is? How long is the project there going to last?

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