Enache Dina, the electroenergetic engineer under the eyes of which the refinery developed
This year Petromidia has reached 40 years of production, and on this occasion we present you the refinery from the standpoint of its employees. One of those “veterans still in activity” is speaking to us today, who witnessed the start up of the first plant of the largest refinery established in Romania, and who are still working for it. It is about Enache Dina, coordinator Procurement, head of the Utility Department. He is the person who has dealt with everything which means power supply of the huge petrochemical plant located on the Sea Shore, and through its memories, we will see another face of Petromidia.
The profession of refiners is not, as you may think, only made up of specialized people to exclusively work with crude oil. It includes – perhaps - hundreds of jobs, which merge together in a compact and extremely well “paid” team so that the huge plant may operate 24/7 and flawless.
From actual refiners, to mechanics, electricians, workers specialized to operate huge industrial machinery, chemists, petrochemists, other workers specialized in welding, transportation specialists, operators of big switchboards, even divers, you find all jobs in the large family which means Petromidia’s employees today. The peculiarity making the difference, as I told, is that they all work around the same object: crude oil. And they do this under very strict security conditions and according to special rules not applicable in other fields of activity.
There are thousands of people, and through their veins, at a certain moment, the black gold will run, obviously, figuratively. Because being a refiner is, actually, a vocation, it is a job that if you don’t love, you don’t practice it with happily and lovingly, you can’t resist the pace that it involves. And these things are not asserted by me, but by those people who have been working here since the very beginning.
Reopening the memory box
55 people who were hired when the start-up button of the refinery was pressed are still working today in Petromidia. Enache Dina is one of them. As many other employees, he is a local man, born and grown up on the sea shore. And, like the other “seniors", he saw the refinery arising from the marshy sand on the spit of land which kept the Black Sea at a distance from Năvodari lake.
This job kept him somehow young, and if he hadn’t been introduced to me as “a veteran still in service”, I would never have given him the age that we reach when we add his age at the moment of graduation from college to the decades which have elapsed since the commission of the refinery. Since his experience is equal to the years of Petromidia operation. More exactly, 40 years. Somehow, the same profession has given him, over time, some strength which he has been keeping well hidden under a serenity comparable to that of the English noblemen, and also a similar elegance, and a soft voice of a good story reader.
“Looking back, I can’t even believe how long it’s been since then. The refinery was commissioned in 1979, at the end of June. At that time I also came here, directly from college. I am an electroenergetic engineer, I have been an electrician ever since I can remember”, he begins to tell his story, with his soft voice which caresses your ear.
The refinery for which land was pulled out from Sea
His eyes, even on me, are, however, lost in the memory box. Which he thumbs through, one after another, the immortalized moments as some pictures of an old movie, held in a place of honor on the pages of his mind. He tells me that his story with Petromidia actually began a lot of years before his employment.
“After having finished the grammar school, I studied at the Energetical High School and I have remained in the electricity field ever since. Actually, I worked as an electrician during all holidays. And also in high school and in faculty. Back in the early ‘70s when I was in high school, I did not knows that place, Midia. When you look at that big picture, with huge columns and hundreds of plants, in the hall of the administrative pavilion, you see the present refinery. The first image in my head when I talk about Midia is another. It’s the image of those times when nothing was there. Only reed and sand. As in Delta. In 1974, when I was admitted to college, there was absolutely nothing on this spit of land. There was the Sea, much closer, and there was a rush-bed, a sandy swamp. I remember that I did my military service in Midia, at the gun range one month, and I performed marches here, among the sand dunes. I slept two nights in the swamp, and this image has been seared into my memory ever since”, the engineer relates.
Working from college
During the high school and college years, he spent all his holidays working. He was an electrician and, as they used to say in the olden days, “he was lightening villages”. He journeyed far and wide in half county, from Corbu to Istria, and on the other side, far away, to Dropia, towards Feteşti.
“I used to travel to one locality every day. And stopping here, one day, we saw some mounds of earth and tools and machinery. This happened in 1975. No one knew exactly what was going on. We saw workers performing some work here, that they were enlarging somehow this spit of land, taking land from the lake and from the sea. In the summer of 1976, I also came by. However, I asked workers at that time, as there was a real site on that place. They told me that no chemical plant as USAS would be built there, as rumored, instead, refinery was going to be built there. And I thought to myself that it was a possible workplace for me, since I was close to graduate from college. And my generation was also earthbound. We wished to return home", the man remembers.
He refused the job offered to him in the Capital
As he graduated from Bucharest faculty with high distinction, he was offered a job even in the Capital. However, he refused it, as the voice of the earth, which seemed to have been so strong during his generation, made him return to the places where he had been born and had grown up.
“In 1979 a took over my assignment. I wished to be at home and I came here. There was still the stage of barracks here, however, many people were working in the refinery. Most of them were still builders, but massive hiring began there. Dozens of people were hired every day", he explains.
When he was given the badge, it was number 2.362. This is his own and personal number and, as in the case of great athletes, when he retires from activity, this number shall not be assigned to anyone else. It’s like a unwritten law, which applies to all people working or having worked in the refinery, and which shall not be amended.
The refinery, built in a fast-forward pace
About the first moments, those related to the commissioning of the refinery, he says that things were happening in an alert manner and under pressure, so they were not executed “by the book”, as they say.
“Now I realize better than then which was the actual situation, that they were working under a lot of pressure. There were orders issued “by the party” and by the State, the refinery had to be put into operation. As I was an electrician, I only did this job. And now it’s the same job for me, even if I am working at office, I only deal with electricity, I don’t want anything else. Imagine yourself, this plant owns 8 electricity power lines of 110. At that time it was started up a single power line, the rest... only provisionally. Luckily, there was a power station close to the military unit, and we could supply power from it and of which there is nothing left now. We only find some cables into the ground from time to time", Enache Dina remembers.
After 1979, when the first installation had been put into operation, all the other installations were started up one by one. Because Petromidia had to be productive as quickly as possible and production had to grow each year. However, for the refinery employees this meant a huge volume of work in a short period of time and with the simple tools of that time.
“When I say plant, I refer to the electrical work, as in every part of the plant we had power stations, transformer substations and we had to go here and there, walk a lot. We had to walk, as there was no other possibility".
With the tool belt, walking across the refinery
It didn’t matter what management position he was holding, he was wearing the tool belt around his waist, many of them being actually personal things.
“Tools were a big problem. However, all electricians manufactured them or used to bring them from home. We, the engineers, were also carrying a tool belt, we were using the screwdriver. We had an agenda and we had to perform fieldwork 24/7”, my interlocutor relates in detail.
Over time, he moved up the hierarchy of Petromidia step by step.
“After a couple of months of fieldwork, they appointed me dispatcher. (...) When I proceeded to the petrochemistry field, I was also a site manager. We had to do our utmost until the installation was put into operation. Later, I worked as shop foreman, then I have worked as head of section for so many years. Many people have passed through my hands, especially after 1985-1986, we were numerous. And we worked hard as we did not benefit from the current tools. We worked with the then equipment, that was the problem, that we had to push every day. But we had manpower, a lot of laborers”, the engineer relates apparently proudly.
Day and night, present in the refinery
However, that meant that he had not done only his job. The then employees were skilled at everything and, in those cases where they did not have any possibility and resources, they used to improvise. As for each task they had time limits to comply with – today we would call them deadlines -, and because they were strictly supervised, “by the party’s representatives", it’s not surprising that the notion of working hours had been completely strange to him for years.
“It was the period when they used to wake you up in the night and you worked almost nonstop here. Ministers used to come here very often for “working visits”, they got regular tours, being sent from Bucharest to check the work in progress. They had a rule to come in the evening and to arrange meetings at 6:00 p.m. We remained there, as we had no other choice, no matter that we came at four o’clock in the morning and ran across all this plant on our own feet. Because there were only two cars at that time, two Dacia model cars. The general manager and the deputy general manager drove them. There were some minivans, trucks. And that’s all. The rest of the people were walking. (...) It is exciting to see how things were happening in the past and how much we worked then. (...) There was this local political class representing the decision-making factor, however, below this class there were people who knew their job and who made efforts so that the refinery went well”.
I have it on the tip of my tongue to tell him that, certainly, he was one of the latter, as I notices how much respect the younger co-workers showed him. But I realize that he is aware of that, and that personally, he doesn’t expect to receive any praise and recognition. When a person does his or her best, his or her success is not validated by “Congratulations” just uttered in the discussion. For this reason I hold back, but also since I know that a surprise is going to be prepared to him. To him and to the other 54 “active veterans”, and therefore, I return to our story.
Specialists and their wives
In order to build Petromidia and to operate subsequently, people from all over the country were brought there to work. Simple workers or specialists, and many of these people came accompanied by their families. If they came alone, they received a studio flat and when they got married, they passed to a flat. If they came with their family from the beginning, they received a flat, that being an advantage of the times. And for those specialized in many different jobs, which were needed in the refinery, other concessions were made. For example, their wives were hired as well, just to determine them to remain and work within Petromidia. However, their wives were made perform other works, if they were not specialized. “I had (as subordinates, n.r.) around one hundred of wives. What should I do with them? Because I couldn’t send them to the station. We had also activities such as painting, grass cutting, we had a mess hall, all these works. There were also women working as electricians, but only a few. The other women, coming from the tailor’s shop, which was the style at the time, could not be assigned to work to plants", the engineer details.
The refinery had hired, at a certain time, more than six thousand employees, spread all over the platform.
In 1989, I was holding the position of head of the electrical section, which was the largest section. I had 462 subordinate employees. Do you realize what that meant? It was the section which supplied power for the entire platform. Now, it’s the same situation, except that some services have been outsourced. At that time, all departments were comprised by a single department. However, if we count today how many people are working, their number is somehow identical, since we had then as well, measuring devices, construction-assembly, we also had telephony".
The most difficult thing
When he is asked which was the most difficult thing which he had done within Petromidia - thinking, perhaps, that he will tell you that the most difficult thing had been to contribute to the construction of the huge petrochemical works - Enache Dina explains to you without any hesitation.
“You know what the old saying is: you work with iron, you work with the plant, with anything. The human being is something different, it’s the biggest challenge to work with people. And I think it’s the same situation at present. People are of all categories and I have worked with all these categories, except one. Just if we make a diagram of what working with people means, depending on two characteristics, we have good and bad people. Therefore, good and bad on the one hand, and clever and less clever, on the other hand, to be polite. And we make the diagram. He is good and clever, then he is perfect. You work best with such people. But how many people are like this?! Not so many. He is good, but rather foolish. I also work with such person, since he or she can learn. The third type, is clever, but bad. Sir, I also work with such a person. But Heaven help you if he is stupid and bad at the same time! You cannot work with such category of people”, the engineer explains.
His words become important due to the fact that he has seen so many generations. “Dozens, maybe more”, he simply points out, with the same soft voice.
Periods of the refinery
If Enache Dina is required to make a classification of the periods which Petromidia has passed through, he says that he sees three whopping stages.
“If we carry out a brief analysis of the activity, not only as regards the electrical field, but all fields, you must know that three periods were rather long. The period until 1990, when we had to do anything to keep the refinery into operation and to accomplish the plan. There were orders, there was the trade union of the party and the ministers who were sticking to people and were yelling at them, and so on. After 1990, it was a good relaxing period, when Americans came together with French and English investors. They spent a lot of money for modernizations. That’s when we first left the country, when we visited the refineries abroad and brought equipment”, the specialist emphasizes.
This second stage opened their eyes and made them understand that the petrochemical industry of Romania, which was the world leader formerly, had lost much ground.
“In the years 94-95, when we began to leave abroad, we visited Total refineries and we were taken to their headquarters located in Paris, in a beautiful meeting room where they had invited an old man who was more than 80 years, who had held an important title within Total company. They asked him to discuss with us. When he arrived at our table, he asked us where we were from. When he was told, he exclaimed surprised: “You are from Romania and you came to us so that we learn you about oil? In 1933 I learned the oil industry at Ploieşti! We learned lessons from you and now, are you coming to learn lessons from us? Why have you been left behind so much?” We didn’t know what to answer him, as he told us that in ancient times, the people willing to learn about oil went to Ploieşti, in Romania".
The third period, which lasted as the other two periods, actually represented the replacement of Petromidia Refinery where it had been intended to stay from the very beginning: at the top of the Romanian petrochemistry. However, this involved changes, meant a real privatization and huge investments made by the new owners, first Rompetrol, and then KazMunayGas International, the international company established in Kazakhstan.
“It has only been since 2000, after the modernization period, that they focused on quality and they have been continuing in such manner ever since. Namely, to obtain high quality, but also efficiency. Because there had been an overall heave-ho during Ceauşescu’s era. (...) There’s nothing quite like that era. Nowadays, it is a habit to make people responsible, at all levels, not only at the production and installations levels. We are talking about efficiency nowadays. We had nothing to do with costs, we were not interested in such issue. The only thing which was of interest for us, was the operation of the installation and we were not concerned with how much that cost. We were not good at making counts regarding energy, at making counts for materials. This is what we have learned since 2000, to work efficiently and develop ourselves”, my interlocutor relates.
And results are obvious, however, the engineer is not ready to assert “all right, it’s enough". Even if he is coming up pretty fast to his retirement, he would want to see what the future will offer and be here when things go further. “Let’s not overlook the fact that this refinery has surpassed the other refineries. All the other refineries are behind us. (...). Each of us in his field of activity, must compare himself to what is above him, and we’re going this way, Enache Dina says proudly.
Immediately as he has finished the sentence, a fist of nostalgia suddenly overwhelms him. He knows that, probably, soon, he won’t take this way to the refinery and from here back, at home, daily. With an hesitating voice and manifestly regretting, he tells me. “I think that I will retire this autumn. Because this is the wish of my family, of my nephews, as well”.
However, somehow it’s difficult for me to believe him. As there are people who seem to be an integral part of certain places. You look at them and think that they are not meant to stay in another place. This is the case of Enache Dina.
“Veterans in service", publicly recognized merits
On the day of the festivities marking the celebration of 40 years of operation of the refinery, there were many surprises waiting for Enache Dina and those 54 “veteran” co-workers. Since their work, and that of all their co-workers, is perceived in the results.
In order for you to realize their size, we tell you that the increasing operational results of Petromidia, are actually the proof that the development strategies were successfully implemented by its employees. Last year, the refinery reached 11 historical records, with historical levels attained for the processed raw materials (5.92 million tons), obtained petroleum products (5.78 million tons), production of gasolines (1.36 million tons) or diesel fuels (2.75 million tons), aviation fuel (317 thousand tons) or the degree of use of the refining capacity (91.98%). The refinery has the highest yield of white products in the region - (86.2%), and ranks 9th among the 250 refineries in Europe and Africa, according to a study prepared in 2018 by Wood MacKenzie.
As a recognition of their merits in this huge success, those 55 veterans were called on the scene in the festivity room at the celebration of 40 years of operation of Petromidia, and awarded by the top executives of the company. They received, one after another, diplomas, medals and prizes from Zhanat Tussupbekov, CEO of KMGI, Meraliyev Saduokhas, Chief Operations Officer & Production and Industrial Services Officer of KMGI and from the other KMG International and Rompetrol Rafinare representatives.