Azat Bikmurzin on methanol production: “We all live in Nizhnekamsk, our children are also here”

The project finalized by Nizhnekamskneftekhim has been countenanced almost unanimously

The second public hearings on the construction of a new methanol production facility of Nizhnekamskneftekhim aroused no less interest among Nizhnekamsk citizens than the previous ones. The citizens bombarded petrochemists with questions on the ecological situation in the city. The answer was given personally by Director General of the enterprise Azat Bikmurzin, who clearly explained the fundamental need for the new plant and its impact on the environment. Read the details are in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Emissions have been halved since 2001

The hall of the College of Petrochemistry and Oil Refining named after N.V. Lemaev had been filled before the start of the public hearing. A total of 308 participants registered. The citizens who learned about the public hearings in social networks, deputies of Nizhnekamsk City Council, representatives of the city administration, veterans and employees of Nizhnekamskneftekhim came to listen to the speakers. Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Tatarstan Ayrat Shigapov took part in the hearings.

The traditional moderator of the public hearings, as he called himself, Deputy Head of the Executive Committee of the Nizhnekamsk Municipal District Lenar Akhmetov reminded the audience why the hearings were held, where they could get acquainted with the materials on the project and leave their wishes and comments. According to him, they received three proposals from the Nizhnekamsk citizens, which he promised to announce later in the section “question-answer”.

Lenar Akhmetov introduced the customer of the public hearings — Director General of Nizhnekamskneftekhim Azat Bikmurzin and handed him the microphone.

In his speech, Azat Bikmurzin noted that he is the same resident of Nizhnekamsk and he is not indifferent to the fate of the city.

“I have been working at the company for 29 years. I know the problems and tasks that are urgent for the residents of Nizhnekamsk. For the sixth year I have been CEO, and all this time we have been working very systematically on environmental safety issues. Now the fourth environmental programme is in effect. Since 2001, we have reduced emissions from Nizhnekamskneftekhim by half. We have done a lot on the reconstruction of biological treatment facilities, using the most modern technologies there, the next step is the completion of the construction of a new collector. We are sure it will have a good effect,” he said, also focusing on that the company will continue to work on the development of new environmental programmes.

“We will try to tell you in detail about the new project. My colleagues and I will answer all your questions. Nizhnekamskneftekhim is an open, socially-oriented company. We all live in Nizhnekamsk, our children are also here, our families, we all breathe the same air. It is very important for us that our projects that we do were primarily aimed at improving the environmental situation,” said Azat Bikmurzin.

The composition of emissions is identical to those substances that are generated in the kitchen

Elena Afanasyeva, the deputy director for design of the Research and Design Institute of Urea and Organic Synthesis Products (NIIK JSC), told about the updated project for the production of methanol, as well as the results of the study of environmental impact assessment.

“Our institute has conducted a risk assessment of public health. The project approval has been received from the ministry of ecology and natural resources and the Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology. One can find out more about these documents here and now,” said Elena Afanasyeva. “We also provide additional measures to minimize the negative impact on the environment.”

According to the deputy director of the NIIK, the updated project for the production of methanol, compared with the previous one, is to reduce emissions to the atmosphere by 43,8% and to reduce the water consumption by 34,4%.

“The composition of emissions into the atmosphere from the projected object is identical to the substances that are generated in your kitchen when you light the burner of the gas stove, that is, when natural gas burns. Nitrogen, carbon and sulphur oxides, as well as micro-residues of unburned methane, are present as harmful components in the waste gases. Emissions of the projected methanol production will be less than 1% of the total number of all existing emissions at Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC,” Elena Afanasyeva assessed.

According to her, when calculating the dispersion of pollutants in the atmosphere, the existing sources of the enterprise and the existing background in the city have been taken into account. All analyses indicate compliance with the TLV for populated areas at all control points. For all substances, emissions meet the norms. It has been established that the air pollution by the projected production facility taken with the emissions of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC will not create a health risk, as evidenced by the conclusion of the Centre of Hygiene and Epidemiology in the Republic of Tatarstan, issued on 27 September 2019.

At the end of her speech, she called on Nizhnekamsk residents to support the intention of Nizhnekamskneftekhim to build the new plant. The audience accompanied the Moscow guest from the stage with loud applause.

The company has been buying methanol from third party manufacturers for 40 years

The immediate manager of the methanol project, Anton Tokinov, explained the need for methanol in the petrochemical industry.

“Methanol is one of the most important links in the technological chain of the production of synthetic rubbers of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, the main raw material in the production of tires, medical devices, products of the military-industrial complex. Methanol has been used for the production needs of the Nizhnekamsk petrochemical giant since 1980,” Anton Tokinov said.

The enterprise has been purchasing methanol for 40 years, and it is delivered by rail. Having decided to build its own methanol production facility, Nizhnekamskneftekhim signed a contract with the world's leading producer in this area — the Danish company Haldor Torsoe.

The new plant, according to Anton Tokinov, is to be located next to the main consumer — the production facility of formaldehyde. This will reduce pollutant emissions by three times compared to the old isopentane and isoprene plants, the calculations showed.

Emission reduction will be achieved through Haldor Topsoe's licensed technology. This is the the unit for neutralization of nitrogen dioxides to the level of hydrogen, oxygen and water vapor; the use of carbon dioxide as an additional source of raw materials which is a by-product of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC and is currently produced in the amount of 70,000 tonnes a year.

What is important, the project manager noted, the absence of contaminated effluents is provided, which will be achieved by multiple purification and return to the technological cycle of all flows. Besides, emissions from diesel locomotives involved in the transportation of methanol will be reduced by 100 tonnes a year — this is about 7,000 tanks a year. The future productions facility will occupy a compact area. The methanol unit will not require changing the size and boundaries of the sanitary protection zone.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim plans to build a centre for high-tech medicine

No less convincing was the speech of Deputy Director General for Personnel and Social Affairs of Nizhnekamskneftekhim Rodion Bulashov, who spoke in detail about the social role of Nizhnekamskneftekhim. In the last 5 years alone, the company has allocated 522 million rubles for the improvement of the city and district. On this money, the municipal, intra-district and industrial roads were repaired, petrochemicals took a financial part in the reconstruction of the Kama River embankment and the improvement of Nikolay Lemayev Square. At the expense of the company, the pedestrian zone of the ice palace Neftekhim Arena has been improved, the House of Folk Art has been repaired and gratuitously transferred to the city. More than 110 million rubles have been allocated for the creation of the burn department on the basis of the Nizhnekamsk Central Regional Hospital, the polyclinic in the industrial zone has been reconstructed. The plans for the future include the reconstruction of children's health camps, the development of sports infrastructure of the city.

“One of the most serious projects that we are going to implement,” Rodion Bulashov said with pride, “is the opening of a high-tech medicine centre in the city, designed for 360 visits per shift and an inpatient department with 120 beds. In it, all Nizhnekamsk residents will have the opportunity to receive qualified medical care.”

Rodion Bulashov also reminded the audience that Nizhnekamskneftekhim is the largest taxpayer. In 2018, more than 800 million rubles were paid to the city and district budget. In the first half of this year — more than 483 million rubles.

Next, the head of the Public Council of the Nizhnekamsk Municipal District, Khamza Bagmanov took the floor, who, in turn, noted that in three months Nizhnekamskneftekhim has finalized and improved the project for the production of methanol. However, in his speech, he focused not on the construction of the new plant but on the measures that will be taken to improve the environmental situation in Nizhnekamsk.

“The Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare has approved the Unified sanitary protection zone of the Nizhnekamsk industrial hub. I believe that now, with the receipt of this document, all discussions and disputes about whether we need a sanitary protection zone or not, will end. We will be guided by those legal acts, the documents which have been adopted,” he declared.

Immediately after Khamza Bagmanov's speech, the moderator invited the participants of the hearings to ask questions.

One of the first to address Azat Bikmurzin was pensioner Rimma Zagidullina. According to her, at the previous hearings she expressed her categorical opinion about the construction of the new production facility.

“Our CEO has it all sorted out. We have learned about methanol and how much it is needed by the synthetic rubber plant. I worked there myself before retirement. I vote for the plant! I take my ‘no’ back,” said Rimma Zagidullina.

The audience again met these words with loud applause. A number of other issues related to the social and medical spheres. Some residents, taking advantage of the moment, asked the director general of Nizhnekamskneftekhim how to get hired at the new plant. To which Azat Bikmurzin replied that it is necessary to get a professional education. By the way, thanks to the new production facility, more than 200 jobs will be created, there will also be the opportunity to employ graduates of local universities and colleges, and with the increase in the production of rubbers, tax deductions to the budgets of the republic and the city will increase. The salary of employees of Nizhnekamskneftekhim will also grow — the director general was asked about this during the hearings. He assured that this topic will be considered at the meeting of the board of directors of the company in December.

In total, Nizhnekamsk residents asked the management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC more than a dozen questions that related to the problems of healthcare, assistance to the disabled, but most of them were related to the environmental situation in the city. In the end, there were calls to stop the construction of new production facilities until the city solves the problems with the environment. The director general of Nizhnekamskneftekhim explained to the audience that for its part the company makes every effort to minimize the impact on the environment. By 2022, the company plans to reduce emissions of 26 pollutants by 1,755 tonnes.

“This will be achieved through the upgrade and modernization of technological equipment, the use of modern technologies and preservation of obsolete production, optimization of technological regimes, improvement of the automated monitoring system. Do not think that we want to deceive anyone by presenting here a new project for the production of methanol! We live in this city and are interested in solving urgent problems,” Azat Bikmurzin assured.

At the end of the hearing, 218 people voted for the construction of the new methanol plant, 21 — against, 3 — abstained. The remaining registered participants left the hall of the College of Petrochemistry and Oil Refining named after N.V. Lemaev without waiting for the end of the public hearings.

The methanol plant is no more dangerous than the whole gas processing

By the way, many independent experts believe that if the project for the production of methanol is developed according to all European and Russian standards, the negative impact on the environment will be minimal. In particular, Dmitry Spiridonov, the coordinator of the World Cleaning in the Republic of Tatarstan Let's Do It!, stressed in the interview with the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya that there is no need to escalate the situation around the future plant.

“It is important that the public does not just say that it is wrong. It is necessary to study this project, to understand the details. Nizhnekamskneftekhim needs to approach the dialogue as openly as possible and disclose all technological solutions of the project. This is the key to the well-being of the enterprise and the population. It is necessary to create a public council, supervisory one, which would join the process at all stages of construction,” Dmitry Spiridonov suggested.

It should be noted that in Nizhnekamsk such public council already exists. Its leaders are the first director general of TANECO, Khamza Bagmanov. The management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim has repeatedly stressed that it does not conceal anything from the public. So, in early October, the company's employees organized a tour around the project site for methanol production. The city administration, leaders of the Public Council, veterans of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, the deputy corps got acquainted with the developed project.

In an interview, Associate Professor of the Department of High Molecular and Organoelement Compounds at the Institute of Chemistry at the Kazan Federal University Arkady Kuramshin said that the transportation of methanol is more dangerous than its production.

“If they [Nizhnekamskneftekhim] deliver methanol, then obtaining it immediately on the territory of the plant will eliminate physiological risks,” Arkady Kuramshin believes.

Well-known in Tatarstan “green” scientist, public figure, Candidate of Technical Sciences, head of the laboratory Engineering Problems of Biotechnology, Associate Professor of Chemical Cybernetics at the Kazan State Technological University Sergey Mukhachev noted that the production of methanol does not belong to the category of highly hazardous.

“The methanol plant is no more dangerous than the whole gas industry. I wouldn't say methanol is volatile. It is forbidden to drink it, unambiguously. Carbon dioxide will also be used as an additional raw material. This means that the plant was designed within the framework of the existing Russian programme to reduce greenhouse emissions. Judging by the technological process, I do not see any problems. No benzene, toluene and blood poisons there should be,” concluded scientist Sergey Mukhachev.

When participants of public hearings dispersed, Azat Bikmurzin told Realnoe Vremya that employees of the enterprise had prepared thoroughly for this meeting, all comments received from Nizhnekamsk residents were taken into account.

“All questions and suggestions embodied in a new improved project. We tried to make this project even better by applying the most modern trends. As for the hearings themselves, we learn from everything. We learn to communicate with people and, what is very important, to hear them and be able to bring to them the proposals that we have prepared. We are only on the initial path, the work with the team and design organizations in this direction still awaits us,” concluded Azat Bikmurzin.

By Lilia Egorova. Photo: Alexander Ilyin