ASTANA – Two German and Kazakh businessmen have teamed up to bring a cutting-edge pipe-rehabilitation process to Central Asia in a venture that they consider as much a transfer of knowledge as an upgrading of construction practices.
Christopher Moritz of Germany and Yermek Beisembayev of Kazakhstan met in Berlin about five years ago. Beisembayev, director for marketing of San Mir Astana, had realised the construction industry in Kazakhstan was in crisis and was seeking European partners. KMG LinerTec, of which Moritz is managing director, was the best choice, Beisembayev said. The two companies and their joint team are now bringing LinerTec’s pipe-rehabilitation technologies to Kazakhstan.
The pipe-rehabilitation process they have introduced here is gaining popularity, but the real success story is not about installing new equipment, but about a process of transferring knowledge, capability and ultimately a complete value chain in a way the two say should be repeated.
“In the past five years, we initiated the transfer of technology and know-how from Germany to Kazakhstan,” Moritz said. “We have now completed the first phase, which is bringing the technology into the country and executing our first projects—successfully.”
The first phase included installing five kilometres of spiral-wound pipes in Astana using a no-dig or trenchless method of creating a new pipe inside an old one. Another highlight was installing more than 4.5 kilometres of pipelines at a Tengizchevroil plant at the Tengiz oil field, which was completed under extremely dangerous conditions. Over the next three years, the company will create more than 40 kilometres of pipelines in Kazakhstan.
“I think the spiral, trenchless technology is very appropriate in Kazakhstan … We anticipate great interest in this technology next year,” said Beisembayev.
He said their technology is 20 percent cheaper than other processes, is less ecologically destructive and avoids lengthy utilities disruptions. Despite some resistance from the pipe-making industry, which favours new products over repairs, and the typical worries about new technology, he expects the process to take off.
But it’s not just the technology that is creating their success, Beisembayev and Moritz say. It’s the way they work together to not only complete projects but to share knowledge.
Moritz has been working in the field of pipe renovation for many years in Asia, the Middle East, India and now Russia and Kazakhstan. “If you want to bring technology into another country, it is not shifting equipment from A to B and making a lot of promises,” he said. “For me, it is very important not only to bring the technology into the country, but also to transfer the knowledge, so the people know, the people learn and feel comfortable with the technology.”
This is achieved through training, but also through a particular joint corporate culture. “We don’t consider ourselves a company, we consider ourselves a team. There’s a big difference, at least to me. Teams cooperate and work together.” Moritz said the synergy between the two leaders, which they discovered at their first meeting, supports their cooperation. “We send people over here together (as a team) … to execute projects under very difficult conditions, day and night in oil fields, sharing life in a way. This is very important to us. It’s much more than a partnership.”
A sense of teamwork is necessary for this work, both leaders say. “I was pleasantly surprised when our German colleagues, for the first projects, employed our local people, not because of diplomacy or requirements, but because of their heart, because of their skills, because of their personal qualities,” said Beisembayev.
For workers from Kazakhstan, the opportunity to learn to use cutting-edge technology is a huge bonus. “Today, we have about 100 employees who are certified and have qualifications for work in this sphere. We have had the experience of having ordinary workers become deputy manager or assistant to the project manager,” said Beisembayev. “Workers who come to our company are delighted and excited by the idea that this is a new technology that they get to learn and become specialists in—and then they can earn money for the rest of their lives.”
Moritz said he’s found Kazakhstan in general to be receptive to new technology. “I must say that here in Kazakhstan, I have found a place where people are so interested and so willing to learn and to accept the technology and to want to have it here. In many, many other countries, it is not like that. And this makes life much easier, if both sides are willing. This a very important part of our successful cooperation.”
Of course, the communication must go both ways. “You must understand how life here is and make adjustments,” said Moritz, particularly to Kazakhstan’s harsh climate. “If you’re willing to adjust and willing to listen to what your Kazakh partner is telling you … this is part of the recipe (for success).”
The collaboration is now moving into its second phase, which Moritz estimates will take about 10 years to complete. “The second phase … is the production and the products. At the end of the day, it does not make sense, if we’re talking about technology and know-how transfer, (not to have) the facilities here as well. So this is the final stage. Once we achieve that, we’ll have the whole product chain here in Kazakhstan. And this is what counts, the product chain from A to Z. Production, engineering and implementation; the full range,” Moritz said.
Beisembayev wants to replicate their success in transferring knowledge and technology to Kazakhstan. “My dream is to establish a very highly qualified staff … who can train people in other countries, as our German partners do. When we finish repairs in Kazakhstan, our specialists will have an opportunity to work abroad. That’s why everyone is studying English.” His vision is to have a centre that will include training facilities, equipment sales, technical support, and more.
For now, San Mir Astana, with KMG LinerTec’s technology, plans to tackle Kazakhstan’s deteriorating Soviet-era pipe network. Beisembayev and Moritz say that the loss of water through faulty pipelines in Kazakhstan is 20-30 percent (it’s less than 5 percent in Europe). “Today in Kazakhstan, water is very cheap, but I think this is only for now,” Beisembayev said. “Once the government stops subsidizing the supply of water, it will become very expensive. In this case, our technology will become even more relevant, because it eliminates any loss of water.”
The government of Kazakhstan recently approved an extensive rehabilitation programme through which they hope to repair about 80 percent of all of the networks in Kazakhstan by 2020, Beisembayev said.
San Mir Astana is also expanding into other spheres. It’s building a plant to produce its new, patent-pending deep-well pumps and it will be implementing new jet-cutting technology for cutting metal, in addition to the plans to create a technology transfer center. “I think this process of growing is like evolution,” Beisembayev said. “It’s very interesting. It’s not just development, it’s evolution. That’s why we’re excited.”