“We see great potential”: Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Kazan Federal University to discuss new projects
The heads of Nizhnekamskneftekhim and the Kazan Federal University (KFU) held a meeting on cooperation in scientific activities. For many years, chemists of the university and the enterprise have successfully implemented joint projects, for example, in the development of domestic catalysts. This time, representatives of the company presented new promising developments. The guests were shown around the laboratories and experimental industrial shop of the Chemical and Engineering Institutes of the KFU. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.
“Genuine interest” in domestic catalysts
The first point in the route of the delegation of Nizhnekamskneftekhim in Kazan was the experimental industrial workshop of the KFU Engineering Institute on Tinchurina Street. Here the guests were shown the industrial samples of catalysts produced by the university — substances that play a key role in petrochemistry, in particular for the production of synthetic rubbers, the main Russian manufacturer of which is Nizhnekamskneftekhim.
“Almost all catalysts are of genuine interest to Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Moreover, we have worked with them in this direction, they know us well enough, and we have made some progress. Nizhnekamskneftekhim has built two plants for the production of large-capacity catalysts based on our developments. A lot of money has been invested, and these plants are now functioning, performing their tasks," said Alexander Lamberov, the deputy director of the Butlerov Chemical Institute for commercialization of developments.
We are talking about the plants of Nizhnekamskneftekhim for the production of isoprene-monomer and ethylene. These catalysts can also be adapted for Kazanorgsintez, the KFU explained. Thus, the joint work of the university and the enterprise is aimed at import substitution, and the university in this case is still competitive.
“For example, we have replaced the use of Shell and BASF catalysts from the practice of Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Now the company uses our catalysts. The pulverised catalyst we developed for them is one of the best in the world. Haldor Topsoe, which also has an analogue of this catalyst, is inferior to us," Lamberov said.
A unique experimental plant has been created in the workshop, which is completely autonomous and controlled by an operator from a laptop. It was created for the dehydrogenation of isoamylene into isoprene, but it can also be used for the dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene into styrene. There are no more such installations in Russia. In general, the technical resources of the university provided all the necessary conditions for recreating the production cycles of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, as well as any other petrochemical production.
Base for growth opportunities
From the workshop, the representatives of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC followed to the Butlerov Chemical Institute, the new building for which TAIF built a few years ago. Here, the guests visited several laboratories where catalysts are developed.
“We have come to get acquainted with the experience of the KFU in the field of laboratory testing and development of new materials, to understand the hardware and technical equipment of the university. We believe that basic science and research is the basis for the growth of commercial opportunities for the enterprise. We understand that the achievements of the KFU can bring a serious synergistic economic effect, so we cooperate on an ongoing basis. We introduce new catalysts and show interest in new materials that can be implemented at our company. We see great potential in this," said Boris Averyanov, the deputy director general for investment, corporate governance and property management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC.
“We visit here very often, and I am happy to once again get acquainted with the innovations that have been presented to us: both in terms of laboratory equipment and the university's capabilities. It is nice to have the reliable partner such as the KFU. Our cooperation is a bright example of integration of science and the real sector of the economy," said Oleg Nesterov, the deputy director general for production at Nizhnekamskneftekhim.
Nizhnekamskneftekhim is interested in obtaining new materials, for example, composite materials based on copolymers. In the laboratory, the company's managers were shown interesting samples that are comparable in their physical properties to metal products.
“In fact, these are polymer materials with the addition of certain substances that have specified physical and mechanical properties and characteristics. Using these materials, for example, in construction, it will be possible to replace metal products and use polymer fasteners. In the tyre industry, it will be possible to replace the metal cord of the tyre with a polymer one, and these products will be even better in terms of performance," said Boris Averyanov.
Among other new developments of the KFU, Nizhnekamskneftekhim representatives are interested in selective hydrogenation catalysts (within the framework of import substitution, the Houdry method), as well as a number of styrene catalysts, which are already being completed. The university is planning to supply catalysts for styrene production not only to Nizhnekamskneftekhim but also to the foreign market, primarily to the Arab countries. The catalyst has already been tested, and the university has become convinced that its properties are superior to imported analogues.
“The KFU is working on isobutane dehydrogenation catalysts and iron-potassium dehydrogenation catalysts of isoamylenes into isoprene under our order. We can list a lot, there are projects for the future. Currently, the work is being carried out within the framework of the Development Strategy of Nizhnekamskneftekhim until 2030, which provides for the construction of new production facilities where these catalysts can be used. Requirements for rubber manufacturers are constantly growing, and there are requests to change the quality or characteristics of products. We send a technical task to the KFU, scientists come and work together to create a project and conduct laboratory tests. Then the university produces a catalyst," Oleg Nesterov described the process of interaction between the enterprise and the university.
Another area of cooperation is personnel training. Many specialists working at the enterprise defended their PhD and doctoral theses here. Among them is Deputy Director of Nizhnekamskneftekhim Oleg Nesterov.
Examples of successful collaboration
The cooperation between Nizhnekamskneftekhim and the KFU is yielding results. Catalysts in petrochemical processes determine the quality and cost of the final product. At the same time, from 50% to 90% of them are imported products. Not to depend on foreign suppliers, the company together with the Kazan Federal University a few years ago began the development of domestic catalysts.
In the early 2000s, the university created a laboratory for adsorption and catalytic processes, the main customer of which was Nizhnekamskneftekhim. The KFU won two federal grants for 600 million rubles. As part of the first one, the production of a highly efficient iron-potassium catalyst was organized — the same one that replaced the Shell and BASF iron-potassium catalysts.
The university received the second grant for the development of a catalyst used in the production of isobutylene and isoamylene. The KFU and Nizhnekamskneftekhim established the joint venture — Catalysis Prom PLC. Nizhnekamskneftekhim invested about 700 million rubles in this project. The production was launched in 2014.
In 2018, the university won the third grant for 160 million rubles and together with SKTB Katalizator JSC in Novosibirsk developed catalysts for the dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene into styrene for Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Styrene is used for the production of rubbers and polystyrene, which is used to produce a wide range of products, such as disposable dishes, packaging, toys. Polystyrene is also used in construction (sandwich panels, thermal insulation plates, facing materials), tyre industry (rubbers for tyre production), medicine (disposable tools, Petri dishes), and the assembly of household appliances and electronics (housing elements).
TAIF plans to further cooperate with the university to develop catalysts for single-stage vacuum dehydrogenation of n-butane into butadiene, which is used in the production of synthetic rubbers, chloroprene, thermoplastics and latexes. Styrene-butadiene rubbers are widely used in tyre, rubber, cable, footwear, food (chewing gum) and other industries.
“Our cooperation with the KFU is long, has a rich history and great prospects. Most importantly, we see that the work and cooperation of the real sector, production and basic science, including in the framework of import substitution, allow us to develop interesting solutions, create new materials, i.e. use additional opportunities for business development," summed up Deputy Director General of Nizhnekamskneftekhim Boris Averyanov.