We are talking to Director General Dorin Tudora about the problems of oil transport, new challenges, and technical solutions at global level, plans for the future, and company’s development strategies.
CONPET is a company with a long history and a rich tradition in crude oil transport by pipelines, a strategic company for the national economy and an important player on the Romanian capital market. CONPET operates a pipeline network with a length of over 3800 km across Romania, continuing the activity of the first oil transport operator in the country.
At his second mandate, Dorin Tudora is currently Director General of CONPET, where he has previously held various positions – HSEQ Manager, Head of the Pipeline and Installations Safety Office, Responsible for activities on the security of critical infrastructures of the National Pipeline Transport System, Responsible for environmental protection activities. He was also General Manager of the company during 2010-2012. He graduated in 2003 from the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the Petroleum-Gas University (UPG) of Ploiesti.
Dear Director General, you have worked for over 30 years in the oil and gas industry. How do you see the evolution of this strategic sector for the national economy in the context of the current crisis? What is CONPET’s position on the European energy market?
Dorin Tudora: Indeed, CONPET is a company with a remarkable activity in the oil and gas industry of Romania, which in the 30 years of activity, through modernization projects and large-scale investments, has met all the challenges posed by the dynamics of an essential industry for the energy sector.
Today’s context is however unprecedented, the crisis generated by the COVD-19 pandemic, oil price fluctuations, the current geopolitical, geoeconomic situation and the energy strategy of the European Union as a whole obviously being the factors dictating the evolution of the market in which we carry out our activity.
At European Union level, the energy policy for the years 2020 – 2030 is closely linked to the environment and climate change policies, the key elements being: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, policy on renewable energy resources, energy efficiency, promoting a sustainable, secure, and competitive energy system at affordable prices and security of energy supply.
We, through the financial autonomy of a company that finances its activity from own sources, make investments, in the context of the energy transition process and the company’s policy to align to the new European environmental standards.
Sustainable development, through a modern approach, by adapting to the requirements of a dynamic, ever-changing market, is the major goal of CONPET’s management.
CONPET celebrated at the beginning of this year 31 years of modern existence, which merge with the over 120 years of crude oil transport by pipelines in Romania. 31 years of activity of a company that enjoys both a tradition of particular importance for the Romanian economy and a present characterized by success and performance. What are the outstanding achievements of CONPET, in this period, that are worth mentioning? To which factors do you mainly assign this success?
Dorin Tudora: As you nicely put it, we can speak today about CONPET as a success story. The history of oil transport in Romania has evolved, from the wooden barrels and ox carts to the operation of a national pipeline system with a length of over 3800 km and a capacity of over 18 million tons, which crosses 24 counties. Therefore, continuing a tradition of crude oil transport by pipelines of 121 years, CONPET is today a modern, performing company, adapted to the current realities and which looks confidently towards the future. Undoubtedly, this is due to a consistent set of factors that has ensured continuity, success, and evolution. I can strongly state that today’s success is due to the professionals of CONPET, who, generation after generation, have done their job with responsibility, efficiency, and dedication, which has led to the excellence standards of the services we provide to our clients. From the vision and effort to find the best solutions for our activity, dealt by the members of the Board of Directors and company’s management, to the work of each employee, success has been built through continuous teamwork.
The second aspect that has led, without any doubt, to the strong position we have in both the energy sector and national economy, is that CONPET has grown continuously, permanently adapting to the dynamics of the industry in which it operates, but also the evolution of times, in general. CONPET has permanently invested in modernization, from the pipeline transport network and the entire infrastructure that supported the transport activity, to the implementation of a performing IT system and communication system, with the permanent improvement of the working conditions for the employees, of the endowments and working tools. If we monitor CONPET evolution, we can see that it has always been in line with all market changes and requirements, and we can only be proud of this, as part of our evolution.
As an example, I will choose two of our latest achievements that prove our interest in technical performance and improving our activity, as well as our current involvement in the context of the energy transition: in 2020, CONPET commissioned, at Calareti Station, the newest and largest crude oil storage tank, with a capacity of 31,500 cubic meters and equipped at the highest technological standards, and at Barbatesti Ramp it inaugurated the first electric locomotive – LEA intended for the shunting service.
The latest achievement, now, in February 2022, CONPET S.A. was included in FTSE Russell indices dedicated to Emerging Markets – i.e., the FTSE Global Micro Cap index -, confirming once again the value of our company on the Romanian capital market and also proving the attractiveness of COTE shares among investors.
Also, starting with 2021, you took over, again, the mandate as Director General of the company, in which you have worked since 1999. What are the priorities on your agenda in the new mandate?
Dorin Tudora: Yes, it is my second mandate as director general of CONPET, a company in which I have developed and of which I am extremely attached emotionally, my mission therefore being even more difficult.
The new mandate came with many changes, with a maturity given by the experience and age, but also in an extremely difficult context, in the middle of a global crisis and an extremely shifting market, with requirements more and more diverse.
The priorities of my agenda are therefore in line with the requirements and challenges of today’s market and primarily aim at increasing efficiency and improving the performance of the activity, the company’s financial stability, business continuity in conditions of safety for all its employees and clients and, last but not least, the sustainable development of the business, by identifying new activities related or not to the core business.
All directions of action are in line with the European energy strategy and with all the responsibility that comes with managing a strategic activity for our country’s energy security.
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected the activity of many companies in various business sectors and has generated changes in the conventional organization of working relationships. How did the impact of the pandemic and the changes that occurred with it feel at the level of CONPET?
Dorin Tudora: At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made sustained efforts for rapid reorganization, both to protect our employees in the context of a health crisis we had never encountered before, and to continue our work with the same efficiency and under the same conditions of safety. Given CONPET’s status, of strategic company for the national energy security, we are always extremely vigilant and trained to deal with unforeseen situations, dynamic and always focused on identifying optimal solutions. In this case, our employees have mobilized quickly, for us having no option than succeeding in making things work at the highest parameters. Looking back, it is impressive to remember how all the employees, at all levels, have made efforts to adapt without delay to what at the time was a new state of affairs, which came with many unknowns and additional rigors.
Specifically, prioritizing the health of employees and ensuring business continuity, all subsequent decisions and actions were somewhat natural. We have relatively easily implemented the teleworking for a large part of the TESA staff, given that we had the technique and IT equipment that allowed this transfer, and its high professional training allowed a facile adaptation to this new system. For the staff in the first line, we ensured the strict observance of health measures, so that we did not meet significant problems, and the activity was carried out without interruption. We accelerated digitization, we used more the remote communication tools and I can say that I have definitely noticed an improvement in remote management and communication, in general.
At the end of these two years, I can state with conviction that the people at CONPET have met this challenge with a commendable responsibility, which ensures the implementation of the plans and reaching the goals we have assumed at the beginning of each year, meeting the commitments to our clients, and obtaining financial results as we had predicted.
In the context of the health crisis caused by the pandemic, have there been at CONPET social responsibility actions?
Dorin Tudora: Of course. First of all, I would like to mention that the most important value of our company is given by its People, and their welfare and the welfare of the community they are part of has been, is and will always be a priority and an important line of action for CONPET.
Compared to our general directions that we carry out on CSR line, during the pandemic we were more attentive to the new needs that appeared in this context and to the most urgent needs that we could respond to.
The actions that CONPET has taken in these two years of pandemic in the field of social responsibility have focused both on the internal dimension, at the company level, focusing on ensuring a safe and healthy working environment, improving the quality of life of employees, and maintaining them connected to the values and mission of society, as well as the external dimension, the relationship with the communities we belong to, with involvement in their development and needs.
Thus, internally, in addition to the prevention and protection measures taken at the level of all working points of the company in order to protect the health of employees, an information and accountability campaign was developed on all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, using both internal communication channels, as well as the social media.
The welfare of our employees continued to be at the heart of our concerns, so in 2021 we managed to maintain and even increase the benefits provided, with a focus on professional development and training, maintaining health, increasing pay, supporting rest and leisure.
Regarding the external dimension of social responsibility, we noticed that the pressure on the medical system and the urgent needs of medical institutions increased significantly in the context of the pandemic, so we increased and redirected a large part of the funds for sponsorships to this segment, thus supporting public health units in Prahova, as well as other organizations directly involved in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we continued to support all other areas in which we have been involved before and which, perhaps even more so in the pandemic, needed continuity, such as sport – for its extraordinary contribution to maintaining physical and mental health – and culture – for its role as a key resource in post-crisis recovery.
The impact, the results of our actions and our involvement can be seen, they are palpable, and we can only rejoice when our employees are satisfied and have a good performance at work, and the external beneficiaries can successfully carry out their projects with our help.
Do you consider expanding the company’s activity? What are the priority directions you are taking into account in the investment program for this year?
Dorin Tudora: We consider diversifying the company’s activity, the current context imposes it, and it is somewhat a condition for ensuring the future of this company.
In this respect, together with my colleagues from the management team and with the support of the Board of Directors, we prepare scenarios that focus on the development of storage/transport of crude oil and petroleum products for third parties, streamlining railway transport activities, the development of transport of atypical products, development of consultancy, engineering, operation, and maintenance for hydrocarbon pipeline systems.
We have the logistics, the infrastructure and especially the expertise of a qualified staff, with professionals at the highest level.
As far as the investment program is concerned, it includes rehabilitation works of the main transport pipelines and modernization works of the installations and equipment related to the National Petroleum Transport System, for a safe and clean transport.
Of course, we will continue the major projects, and here I am referring to the implementation of the pipeline leak detection and location system, optimization of SCADA system, modernization and monitoring of the Cathodic Pipeline Protection System.
CONPET investment projects aim to increase the efficiency of the transport business, the safe operation of the National Transport System and minimize the impact on the environment, in the context of the energy transition process and the company’s policy of alignment with the new European environmental standards.
Speaking of energy security, as an expert in risk management, what are the most important issues you face in the company’s business and what measures can be taken?
Dorin Tudora: At national level, CONPET is a solid company, with stable financial results, a reputable player on the Romanian capital market.
The company carries out a business of strategic importance, operating a network declared as critical infrastructure; therefore, delivering domestic and imported crude oil to the refineries in the country, in conditions of maximum safety, is a matter of national security.
The main risks we face are those related to the low degree of use of the pipeline network, dependence on domestic players in the crude oil production and processing sectors and, last but not least, the decrease in global oil demand, with the shift to green energy.
The solutions identified by us are the ones we have presented above, namely the development of activities related and not related to the core business, transports of atypical products, but also the increase in imports, both by rail transport and by pipelines.
In the current context, what results do you estimate for this year?
Dorin Tudora: The financial stability of the company, through good results year after year, is the main concern of CONPET management. The balance of recent years has shown that, despite the unprecedented crisis, we have managed to maintain our position as a solid, financially strong company, attractive to investors and secure for employees, shareholders, and clients.
We will continue in the same direction, we will constantly look for solutions that will bring profit to the company, that will keep us competitive, attractive on the capital market, as before.
That is why, for the next period, we consider stimulating revenues by developing new business areas related and not related to the core business, initiating new income-generating activities, streamlining the core business, and implementing the major investment projects mentioned above.
What prospects are there within the company for the future? What does the development strategy of CONPET include for a short/medium/long term?
Dorin Tudora: As it results from everything I have said so far, CONPET is a company oriented towards the continuous improvement of the activity, towards development and efficiency, towards the future.
In the short and medium term, the activity of the company will focus, as before, on three main lines of action: keeping stable financial results through powerful partnerships with our clients, keeping standards of excellence in transport operations and management of risk situations, while protecting the environment and the community.
Looking forward, sustainable development, through a modern approach, by adapting to the requirements of a dynamic, ever-changing market, is the major goal of CONPET’s management.