Russia’s massive natural oil and gas industry titan, Gazprom, is eyeing ways to pivot its business operations onto blockchain tech.
To do that, the company, which is majority-owned by the Russian government, has devised its own in-house smart contract platform prototype to automate the execution of real-world contracts.
That production was confirmed by the Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, Alexey Miller, when he briefed Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Gazprom’s digitization efforts earlier this week. During the talks, Miller noted that the oil powerhouse was pursuing distributed ledger tech to streamline its industry dealings:
“As for digitalization, we are working towards it, specifically towards the digitalization of the gas supply process and the implementation of the distributed ledger technology in our operations. Together with Gazprombank, we have developed a prototype of a technological platform to automate the process of concluding, monitoring and executing contracts. This system also provides for automated arbitrage and calculation of payments for gas […] It is fully protected from tampering and unauthorized changes.”
For now, there’s no word on if Gazprom’s blockchain platform has been built from the ground up or rather based upon a fork or permissioned version of a popular blockchain like Ethereum.
Gazprom’s Example “Could Be Followed”
During his briefing with Alexey Miller, PM Medvedev notably argued that the embrace of technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain could prove critical for the future of Russia’s major industries. He told the chairman:
“In this case, your example could be followed by other companies that are approaching this technology in one way or another. Especially when it comes to a large pool of consumers and standardized services with quality control, mutual obligations and, if necessary, accountability measures. I believe that this technology has a promising future in our industry and in the activities of companies like Gazprom.”
That quote bears serious political weight, as it comes from someone near the highest levels of the Russian government. To that end, not only does Medvedev and his colleagues at the Kremlin approve of Gazprom’s blockchain embrace, they are actively facilitating it.
That dynamic is yet another example of the Russian government’s increasingly pro-blockchain stance in recent months.
Indeed, Russia Not Slouching on Blockchain
More Russian leaders have turned to blockchain tech as a viable foundation for mainstream innovation over the past year.
Last October, former Russian energy minister Igor Yusufov floated the idea of creating an oil-pegged cryptocurrency via blockchain as part of a campaign to sidestep the biting trade sanctions. One month later, Russian legislator and financial committee chairman Anatoly Aksakov proposed launching a ruble-backed stablecoin in the nation’s Duma, or lower parliamentary chamber.
That December, Russia’s then-Deputy Minister of Finance Alexey Moiseyev revealed that the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) — comprised of four other states in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan — was negotiating on the creation of a joint cryptocurrency for the bloc that could be released as early as 2020.
Major Russian institutions have also been conducting their own on-chain work, as well.
In January 2019, state-owned lending giant VTB announced that it had patented a blockchain system for digital payments, albeit one that didn’t rely on native cryptocurrency. That development marked a bit of an about-face for the bank, considering that its senior vice president said in 2018 that blockchain tech wasn’t commercially viable.
Then in February, another large Russian lender — Alfa Bank — launched its blockchain payments platform designed to streamline customers’ ability to pay their utility bills. The platform leverages R3’s Corda blockchain.
The flurry of recent activity comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russians “need to build our own digital platforms” last spring.