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Energy consulting, background information and expert advice in Russia, Ukraine and the FSU

I have recently moved on from PFC Energy and am enrolled at the University of Chicago Booth Business School, where I will be completing a two-year MBA degree.  I am excited to continue in the energy sector and am still following my pet topics including Ukrainian gas politics, Russian oil industry and the geopolitics of energy in the former Soviet Union.

While I will be occupied with full-time studies, I am available for part time consulting or advising work in any of these topics, should my expertise and background overlap with a company’s particular needs.  I have already done some advising concerning a major Ukrainian industrial conglomerate and can offer an outside perspective with extensive qualitative and quantitative experience in oil, gas and economic topics withing Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the CIS.

Please contact me at for more information, including references and citations.



Kremlin Inc back online at a new home

I stopped blogging about a year ago, largely due to time constraints with work (amazing the difference between having a full-time job and being on a Fulbright…).  Not too long after, Dartmouth pulled my hosting and my blog went completely offline as opposed to just dormant.

Various people have prodded me to re-up the content and continue blogging, so this is my attempt to do so.  I was able to restore the bulk of the past posts thanks to backups I made as I went.  However, there is about a month-long gap around June 2008, and the lastest batch (July 2008-January 2009) was copied from a cached version of the site and are thus lacking their associated comments.  Essentially all images have been stripped out as well, unfortunately.  Also, because links were set up to point on an absolute basis rather than relative, addresses pointing to old posts on the Dartmouth server no longer work either.  I will see what I can do to address these issues, but we may have to live with them.

I look forward to jumping back into things (amidst a contentious Ukrainian presidential election, no less), though will likely be more sporadic than in the past again due to time constraints.  I am working at PFC Energy now, and have largely shifted into covering oil, but remain quite interested in the same topics I was writing about previously.

The address should now point to this blog, and can be used for any linking purposes.  Feel free to email me (hstege (at) gmail dotcom) with any comments / questions.

Werewolves and the price of Urals crude

Update (10/5/08): Check out pictures of production underway in Russia on a movie version of “Generation P.”

I first read Victor Pelevin for a modern Russian literature class my senior year of college.  I wrote a paper on his “Homo Zapians” (”Generation P,” for the Russian version), calling the book “a post-modern pastiche of Western consumerism interacting with remnants of the ‘Soviet mentality.’” (Excuse the verbosity–I was stretching my comp-lit synapses after having just finishing my 200-page “Gazprom and the Russian State” thesis.)

Pelevin describes a “phantasmagoric and surreal exposition on the intersection of post-Soviet and Western culture within late 1990s Russia” where the protagonist evolves from a translator to an advertising copywriter and eventually, drawing upon Pelevin’s connection to eastern mysticism, to the figurative husband of the Sumerian goddess Ishtar.

I concentrated on fitting this narrative into “a new iteration of the traditional ‘Russian question,’ which postulates on the location and natural tendencies of the Russian people and their nation.”

Saddled between two continents, Russia is continuously torn between Asian and European influences. Just as a distinctly Russian identity was crystallizing in the form of the Soviet man, the Western ideals of capitalism and commercialism came crashing in, reigniting the debate—if, indeed, it was ever truly silent.

One of the keys to understanding the boundary along this changing world is through embracing the individual evolution within oneself. To explore these transitions, Pelevin utilizes transformative processes on characters to elicit altered states. This metamorphosis is necessary as a “means of survival in a breathtakingly rapid and arbitrary succession of phantom realities.”

Pelevin’s new book, “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf,” is reviewed today in the New York Times by Liesl Schillinger.  While I haven’t yet read the book, it appears to re-visit this theme of transformation, with the heroine being a werefox/prostitute and the hero a werewolf/FSB agent.

What caught my attention from the review, and why I’m posting about it in this energy-themed blog, is a description of a meeting between FSB werewolves on the Siberian tundra:

He likes to rally with other F.S.B. werewolves in the frozen north, howling at a cow skull on a stake in hopes of necromantically summoning oil from the substrate into Mother Russia’s waiting pipelines. Watching this scene, seeing the cow’s skull, A Hu-Li [the heroine] is reminded of a grim Russian fairy tale about a slaughtered cow who takes pity on an orphan and sends the girl gold from the grave. Touched, A Hu-Li adds her own soulful lament to the cacophony: “We were all howling, with our faces turned to the moon, howling and weeping for ourselves and for our impossible country, for our pitiful life, stupid death and sacred $100 a barrel.” In response to her emotion (she thinks), oil comes burbling up the stake. Shurik laughs at her sentimentality. “It’s my job to get the oil flowing,” he scoffs. “And for that, the skull has to cry.”

Anyway, a bit of a break from the usual themes. I recently finished reading “Watchmen,” (also off-topic) and am also currently reading Steve Levine’s “The Oil and the Glory” — which is very much on topic.  I recommend both.

Georgia, Crimea…

I’m leaving for Crimea later today, and have been busy packing up (leaving Ukraine soon too…), so excuse the lack of posting.

Like many others,  I’m following the events in Georgia with great interest.

From the energy side of things, it looks like the BTC pipeline is relatively unaffected.  And anyway, it was already shut down because of the blast in Turkey last week.

Azerbaijan stopped sending oil through Georgia, but the amount is relatively small anyway.  However, this was going to be one of the routes for getting oil to Odessa-Brody, so it will be interesting to see if prolonged conflice emerges and if it will hamper that route further…

Back next week, hopefully will update again with more interesting things…

Gazprom’s board candidates announced, and more computer problems

Update: Computer problems are temporarily fixed it seems, but still a rather touch-and-go situation which may cut out again soon. Also, the EDM has a piece about Kremlin-connected holdovers in the boards of state corporation. It notes Zubkov’s nomination (see below), and adds that Igor Sechin is up for chairman of Rosneft again, as well as other high-placed officials:

According to Vedomosti, presidential aide Viktor Ivanov, who chairs both Aeroflot and the Almaz-Antei arms manufacturer, will run again for the boards of those state companies; another presidential aide, Igor Shuvalov, who is chairman of Sovkomflot, Russia’s largest sea shipping company, will run again for its board; First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is chairman of the United Aircraft Building Corporation, will run for its board (as will Rostekhnologii general director Sergei Chemizov and Vneshekonombank chairman Vladimir Dmitriev); and presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko will run again for the boards of the Technical Military Armaments corporation and the Sukhoi military aircraft manufacturer.

This despite calls by Putin and Medvedev on the necessity of opening the business sector and keeping from excessive state involvement — except, of course, “strategic” sectors and firms (and profitable ones…)


I had thought I fixed the problem with my laptop by switching out some potentially bad RAM, but the issues have resurfaced and are severely hampering the use of my computer. Until I can figure out a fix–or I buy a new computer–I likely won’t be able to post anything.

Gazprom names board candidatesJust a quick note, Viktor Zubkov (Russia’s current PM) is included in the list of candidates for Gazprom’s board, with elections set to choose a new director (should Dimitry Medvedev ascend to the presidency, as expected) scheduled for June. While Putin had been rumored as a possible candidate, I doubted he would take the position; Zubkov seems to be a relatively safe bet though. The relationship between Zubkov and Medvedev, however, isn’t exactly clear.

Alexei Miller, current Gazprom president, has also been rumored to be preparing to step down due to health issues. While he’s likely to remain involved in the Gazprom Group (possibly at Gazprom Bank), his presence atop the company and at the negotiating table will likely be missed. Nailing down recent South Stream partnerships is a good beginning to a potential final act of key moves undertaken by Miller (with the help of Medvedev). Now that Zubkov is the favorite for chairman, my pick to replace Miller when the time comes is Alexander Medvedev, head of Gazprom Export.


I am leaving for Ukraine today, where I will begin my Fulbright studies.  I am hoping to concentrate on the relationship between the natural gas industry and Ukraine’s domestic political situation, a theme that ties into some of the subjects that I’ve written about here.  I will continue to update this blog, though the emphasis may shift southwest a bit, onto Ukraine.  It may take me a bit to get my feet on the ground in Kyiv, however.  On that note, if anyone has an apartment they’d like to rent out, let me know…


Hello from Sedimentary Petrology class