Initial Impressions of Tengiz (email sent to Family on 3 July 2011)

Good Morning (though it is soon to be Good Night here).

It’s now about 8:45 pm here on Sunday July 3rd – have been in Tengiz 3 days, arriving on Friday July 1st.  Have had three days of turnover with my back-to-back Labeeb and I’m tired.  I ran into someone and mentioned I was a bit tired and he said “drinking out of a firehose will do that to you” implying that all the talking and reviewing documents as part of the turnover process was like that – I guess I agree.

My initial impressions of Tengiz are it is big, and I have not even visited the plant yet.  Some work friends I know told me I would do a lot of walking but I did not quite understand – now I do.  Here in Tengiz, we live in Sanyrak Village (SV) and work at TCO (Tengizchevroil) offices.  It takes about 15 – 20 minutes to walk between my room in SV to my office in TCO (my office is at the far end of the TCO complex).  Takes me 5+ minutes to get from my room to the SV gate, another 5 minutes to go from SV to TCO, and another 5+ minutes to get from the TCO gate to my office.  I think I go a little faster in the morning – walking back tonight was slower as the temperature was still over 100 F (At 7:30 pm it is 104 F, believe the high today was 109 F).  The days seem longer here – It was still light at 9 pm yesterday.

SV is a large complex that houses about 3000 people.  I believe everyone who works here in Tengiz is on a rotation schedule and therefore live on-site in SV during their rotation or hitch.  There are five dome complexes – believe dome 1 is slightly smaller than domes 2 through 5.  In each dome complex there is a large central building (the dome) with 15 buildings connected in a spoke pattern (except dome 1 which has 13 spoke buildings).  Each of the spoke buildings has two floors, with about 20 rooms per floor.  Each room has its’ own bathroom, a pair of closets/cabinets, a mini-fridge, a small TV (17”?) that sits on the fridge, a small work desk with chair, a bed, a night stand, and another chair.   Each room also has an individual AC/heating unit.  My guess is the room is about 150 square feet, including the bathroom.

The dome of each complex has a large cafeteria – the one I live in has two buffet lines; one for people who eat in the cafeteria and another for people who want to get their food to go, to eat in their rooms or their offices.  There is also a recreation area with pool tables, ping pong tables, and chairs for hanging out / socializing.  There is a small bar, and a work out room – looked like about 20 people could work out at one time.  I believe each dome is pretty similar but have not checked them all out.

In addition to the five dome complexes there is a big administration building, for the organization that runs the village, a movie theater (I went there for training, it holds about 250 people), a large swimming pool (6 – 8 lanes, guessing 25 meters long), several tennis courts and BBQ areas scattered around.  I’m sure it is at least a one mile perimeter around SV, maybe larger.  They finished building SV in 2009.

Previous to 2009 people lived and worked in the TCO office complex.  We still use the office buildings but all the living quarter buildings have been closed and are no longer in use.  Apparently these living quarter buildings had shared bathrooms and were not in good shape – people complained about the heat and cold during the various seasons.  TCO also has a cafeteria that is well attended at lunch (I do not think it is open for breakfast or dinner).  Not sure yet what the people who work at the plant do for lunch, possibly bring a prepared box lunch.  There is also a swimming pool at TCO office area – have not yet checked it out but it looks smaller.  My guess is < 1000 people work at TCO offices; the others work in the plants (24/7 operation so there are two shifts every day), plus all the maintenance and field contractors we use to run the place.

My group, Designs Engineering, works in building B6.  We have the top floor where about 60 people work.  We also have a group of about 10 – 15 that is involved in a big turnaround next year and they are located in another building – have not yet visited this building.  Designs Engineering currently has 117 people, but only half of them are on-site at any one-time.  Almost everyone has a back-to-back or partner, though a couple back-to-back positions are vacant.  The group is made up of Chevron employees, TCO (Kazak national employees) and contractors.  All the Chevron people are what is called Expats, short for Expatriates, meaning they live in another country, primarily US or England (though we do have one from Vancouver Canada).  All the TCO employees are Kazak citizens, and the contractors are a mix of Kazak citizens, Russians, and Expats.

The jobs here at Tengizchevroil are very good for Kazak citizens; they pay well and are good working conditions.  The Kazak government, which is 25% partner in TCO (Chevron is 50% and ExxonMobil is 25%) requires a high percentage of Kazak citizens to be employed by TCO.  I thought I heard someone say that for all employees 80% are Kazak, with 70% of the supervisors Kazak citizens.  In Designs Engineering we have a goal of increasing the number of TCO or Kazak employees in supervisor positions.   My group has 5 supervisor positions, the Designs Engineering Supervisor (my position) and the four Lead Engineer positions that report to my position.  Each position has two people so there are a total of 10 supervisor employees in the group.  This is currently made up of 9 Expats (8 Chevron and 1 contractor) and 1 TCO.  The goal over the next two years is to change this to 5 Expats (all Chevron) and 5 TCO.

Additionally, we currently have 18 Expats working in the group, which is a combination of Chevron and contractor employees.  We have a goal of reducing the Expat count by 2 each year; we have not yet reduced our count of Expats in 2011.  At 2 per year it will take until 2020 until the entire group is Kazaks (I will definately be home by then).

Last night we had a group BBQ.  The Designs Supervisor typically hosts this get-together once each rotation to thank people for their efforts, recognize people, and give a chance for folks to socialize as a large group.  In addition to food there is some beer but my back-to-back only buys 60 beers because he does not want anyone to get drunk and belligerent, at least not via a company sponsored event.  It seemed to go well – it started around 6:30 pm and I left at 9 pm.  We found out this morning that everyone left by 9:30 pm as the mosquitoes were out with a vengeance.  In the middle of the BBQ my back-to-back Labeeb and I spoke a few words.  Most of the Kazak employees speak Russian so we have a staff translator in Designs Engineering.  It was very interesting to speak with a group and have it translated.  I did OK but I have to make sure I only say two or three sentences at a time or the translator cannot keep up.  I gave them a little background about me, told them I was married with 4 children (shared your names and ages) and closed with I looked forward to working with them.  It is a bit unsettling to look out at this group of ~50 people (not everyone attends) and realize over half of them do not understand what I am saying, need it translated.  I also struggle with their names and accents, so mostly I said Hi, my name is Marc and shook their hands (I didn’t get to all 50 but definitely over half).  With regards to names, our Admin Assistant’s name is Gaukhar Urazbekova – her first name is pronounced GowHar; believe her surname sounds like it is spelled but have been afraid to try it.  Here are some other interesting names of people in my group: Saltanat Umbitallna, Yerbol Bekey, Dossan Adilov, Bakhyt Kurmanov and Sabyrzhan Menlibekov.  I am going to have to get a cheat sheet from Gaukhar (who speaks Russian and English) on how to pronounce everyone’s names.

I am going to close with I miss you all very much; I have 4 days down (including the lost travel day on Tuesday) and 31 to go (though I will spend almost all of the 32nd day on August 4th getting home).

Love Dad