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Iran. How much is in that word…

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The delegation of the Empress Catherine II Saint Petersburg Mining University, as part of its visit to the Islamic Republic of course, could not help but visit Tehran. Naturally, this was not about tourism, but about getting acquainted with the largest research institute. This item of the program was separately prescribed in the “road map” of interuniversity cooperation with Shiraz University.

Taking into account the contribution of the oil and gas sector to Iran's economy, the state pays special attention to new technologies used in the development of deposits. First of all, those aimed at improving oil recovery. As it is known, the critical point for the functioning of fields is the recovery factor of raw materials below eight percent. If it is less, the process of subsoil use simply becomes unprofitable.

Extending the life of wells is one of the tasks facing the Research Institute of Petroleum Industry of Iran (RIPI), which was organized in 1959. It is one of the largest such organizations in its region and a pioneer in developing a range of innovations in hydrocarbon production and processing.

One of the prerequisites for RIPI's work is fundamental and applied scientific research with their subsequent commercialization, i.e. introduction into industrial production. Ensuring the full cycle of technology creation is a highly non-trivial task, which is why the company employs more than 150 PhDs.

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The challenges facing the oil and gas industry in Russia and Iran are in many ways identical, so there are many areas for joint work. But improvement of the reservoir pressure maintenance system to maximize oil recovery factor is, of course, among the priorities. Currently in the Islamic Republic a pro-European approach based on “no need for water injection at the early stages of field development” is widespread.

This methodology often leads to a sharp and irreversible increase in water cut and, as a consequence, reduced oil recovery. The point is that Iranian companies, unlike Western companies, simply do not have technologies for effective isolation of watered intervals. Therefore, studying the Russian experience, which allows avoiding such problems, is of great interest for the host country.

Another promising vector of cooperation is the use of specialized software for geological and hydrodynamic modeling. Its application allows us to increase the efficiency of field development, and here we also have something to offer our partners.

Until recently, most of the software used in Russia was foreign-made. However, sanctions sharply increased the demand for domestic products, and today they are superior in their capabilities to the analogs implemented in the Islamic Republic.

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We have institutes like RIPI established on the basis of many companies. For example, Rosneft has 12 such organizations, and RN-BashNIPIneft alone employs more than 3,000 people. A significant part of them are graduates of Mining University, and this is not accidental. The St. Petersburg university, in addition to its educational function, also performs scientific research. It has six research centers, which makes the prospects of joint work with partners from Iran even more promising.

RIPI President Dr. Azim Kalantariasl expressed confidence that “this visit will be the beginning of mutually beneficial cooperation”. In particular, on such topics as reservoir pressure maintenance systems, use of specialized software for geological and hydrodynamic modeling, deep processing of hydrocarbons and others.

“To solve the outlined scientific problems we need, first of all, qualified employees. But the requirements for graduates in the Islamic Republic are much inferior to those in Russia. Therefore, one of the areas of cooperation could be the implementation of the “Shiraz PhD student” program, under which young scientists from Shiraz University will be assigned two scientific supervisors - from Russia and Iran - in order to improve the quality of training,” Dmitry Tananykhin, Dean of the Oil and Gas Faculty of Mining University, told Forpost.

Amir Hussein Khoram Abadi, who is carrying out a scientific work on “Designing systems and methods of sand erosion control”, has been identified by the parties as a “pilot” postgraduate student. His thesis will have two supervisors. From the Iranian side - Dr. Mukhamad Zadeh, Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering, and from the Russian side - Dmitry Tananykhin. The project should result in the development of solutions for oil and gas companies with justification of the optimal technology in specific geological and physical conditions.

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During their research work in Shiraz, the Russian specialists also attended a course of lectures in English on industrial cyber security, which in our country is more commonly referred to as information security. It was prefaced by this speech by one of the educators, Mohan Hashemi

“For you, this whole situation is still new to you. But we have been living under sanctions for more than 40 years, we have already raised several generations who have no idea what it is like to live without external pressure and without the restrictive measures of the West. But there is an upside to this: we clearly recognize who our enemy is and are not ashamed to call him that. However, watching you, we see that there is still hope in you to re-establish relations with today's opponents, many do not perceive them as an insidious strategic adversary. But this naivety will pass. God willing, not at the cost of serious hardship...”

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Iran takes industrial espionage more than seriously, and there are objective reasons for that. Everyone here remembers well the situation with the attack on the mining and processing plant in Netenz province, where Siemens industrial equipment was used and where a specialist recruited by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services was able to conduct one of the first operations in history using cyber weapons - the StuxNet virus. The Iranians could not foresee and prevent it - the Dutch specialist had previously serviced imported equipment, had a business in the Islamic Republic and was married to a local woman.

As a result, just one flash drive with a tiny virus inserted into a node of the industrial control system was able to disable several uranium enrichment centrifuges, thereby causing enormous damage to the country's nuclear program. It then took several months just to understand in detail the causes of the equipment failure, detect the malware's interference, and figure out how to fix the malfunction

The most interesting thing is that all this time the Western “partners” and the manufacturer played a real show, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the circumstances that led to such a serious malfunction. Although the investigation showed that years of preparation and testing were needed to create such a cyberweapon, as well as the involvement of designers of this equipment.

Once confronted with such acts of aggression, a rethinking of fundamental approaches to security is almost inevitable. As Iranian colleagues described in a training course, “slackness and negligence have become unacceptable in the Islamic Republic, and thorough searches at checkpoints have become the absolute norm with no complaints.” In addition, the possibility of remote connections, use of unauthorized mobile devices, sending data from strategically important businesses externally - all of which were strictly taboo - disappeared.

“The content of the course can be taken as a basis for lectures for our students as well as faculty. In general, the reading cycle showed us how high the importance of this topic is for Iranian society and, in particular, for Shiraz University, where it is given a great deal of attention. This importance is also expressed at the national level. For example, the country has created two national programs-applications for communication on the Internet", - noted Sergey Serdyukov, the representative of the Rector of Mining University for the provision of special programs.

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In recent years, Iran has issued fairly strict laws aimed at enforcing cybersecurity measures and requirements. They imply very strict penalties in case of their violation, but the main goal is, first and foremost, to prevent emergencies. For this purpose, citizens of the country, including students of Shiraz University, are obligatorily familiarized with all the rules and regulations of working in the digital space. The host country does not rule out the transfer of Iranian experience to Russia.

“It is expected that students of the St. Petersburg Mining University, as part of their visit to Iran to participate in our ‘winter schools’, will obtain the opportunity to attend a week-long course on this topic. In addition, we have reached preliminary agreements on the creation in your university of a laboratory for teaching the principles of industrial cybersecurity. On this platform, specialists from your university, with the support of their colleagues from Iran, will be able to teach classes and talk about modern approaches to solving this problem. Practicing engineers can also participate in the courses, which will raise the level of awareness of cyber threats among both specialists and students,” said Dr. Ali Hafizi, Vice Rector for Science at Shiraz University.

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The program of the Mining University delegation's visit also included official meetings with representatives of the Islamic Republic's government authorities. Dr. Vahidreza Zeidifard, Deputy Minister of Petroleum for Engineering, Research and Technology, expressed full support for the intentions of Mining University and RIPI to develop scientific cooperation. Among the interesting initiatives is the creation of a kind of “hub” of oil and gas companies of the two countries on the basis of Mining University, within the framework of which mutually beneficial contracts can be concluded.

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The talks with Dr. Nasser Farrokhi, Deputy Director of the Center for International Scientific Research and Cooperation (CISSC) of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology of Iran, were extremely specific. In particular, he expressed his readiness to provide “methodological, informational and financial support for joint activities of Mining University and Shiraz University” within the framework of the state program. The priority is given to “pilot” scientific research conducted by bilateral research groups, exchange of students through their participation in short-term educational programs, organization of scientific forums.

All the agreements reached will be reflected in the Cooperation Agreement between the Ministry and Mining University, which is currently being finalized and prepared for signing.

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“It is quite obvious for us and our Iranian colleagues that we need to establish concrete and practical cooperation in a wide range of scientific and educational areas. I hope that this agreement will be signed in the near future, during the next visit of Iranian representatives to Mining University", emphasized Marat Rudakov, Director of the Institute of Targeted Educational Programs of the St. Petersburg university.

Practical steps taken by Mining University to develop cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran have a significant resonance in Iranian society. Thus, on the initiative of the Rector of Imam Hossein University of Tehran, Dr. Mohammadreza Hasani Ahangar, an online lecture was held by Rector Vladimir Litvinenko on “Approaches to Change in Higher Engineering Education”. It was attended by more than 500 scientists and specialists representing Iranian higher technical education institutions.

“Both Iran and we today clearly understand the scale of changes taking place in the geopolitical arena. Our common goal is to demonstrate to the world that sovereignty is at the heart of the progress of any state, from small to great. In particular, the right to independently dispose of its raw material resources and to decide at its own discretion which countries to build friendly and mutually beneficial relations with. Obviously, the actions that Iran and Russia are taking today differ significantly from those of other countries. The emphasis on the need for sovereign development is the basis of the ideology that brings us closer together,” the Rector of the Mining University prefaced his speech.

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During the lecture and answers to questions, which took about three hours, Vladimir Litvinenko emphasized that “the state strategy in the field of higher education should be based on its accessibility for all members of society." And the academic environment, which is based on the principles of competition, should be aimed not only at the professional formation of young people, but also at their moral education.

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The students were particularly interested in the practical steps taken by Mining University as part of a “pilot project” to improve the process of personnel training for the Russian economy. Iranian universities, according to their heads, intend not only to study this experience carefully, but also to implement Mining University's approaches to developing curricula for basic higher education and postgraduate programs. This work will be a separate area of cooperation between Russia and Iran.

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