423 patents on inventions: Nizhnekamskneftekhim’s R&D Centre celebrates its 55th jubilee
Employees of the R&D Centre are valuable staff for the biggest petrochemical mogul. They participate in promising developments, modernise the production, perform tasks that are not standard for the sector and master new areas of knowledge. And they do this all at the same time and promptly. Today the R&D Centre has 259 workers who are fanatically devoted to their work. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent went backstage in the scientific centre and found out who creates innovative products thanks to which Nizhnekamskneftekhim remains a competitive company of international renown.
First staff and patent on invention
The history of the R&D Centre began in the 1960s. The petrochemical giant was actively developing then, new plants were launched. It was necessary to do a lot of research, create methods, launch them in the enterprise.
“11 March 1966 can be considered the official birthday of our staff. The order of the Nizhnekamsk Petrochemical Factory on ‘training 119 staff members within the upcoming manufacturing of products in the Central Gas Fractionating Unit’. But it is well known that the construction of our laboratory building was already underway in 1963 where the first eight workers of the Central Factory Laboratory (CFL) worked in 1964 under Ksenia Oreshkina,” R&D Centre Director Rinat Gilmullina remembers.
The preparation room began to operate at the same time. In 1970, this personnel was called general test group, in 1974, it became a chemical test laboratory. A sewage laboratory opened in 1975. Research was born in the process of performance of technological tasks in the CFL. In the 1970s, its specialists began to submit applications for inventions.
“Perhaps, the work of a group of specialists chaired by Alexander Orekhov named Way of Protection of Black Metals from Corrosion in Neutral Water Environment can be considered chronologically the first invention of our specialists,” the director of the R&D Centre says.
In the following years, laboratories and groups of the CFL changed their names, were united, disbanded and were created again, became members of the Engineering Supervision Office. Despite this, the employees unchangeably stayed interested in their activity and fanatically devoted to the work. Researchers annually developed novelties and patented their inventions. The laboratory gradually turned into the Research Development and Application Office, which obtained status as research and development centre in 1998.
Unique equipment and innovative products
The R&D Centre employees have always been a development driver of Nizhnekamskneftekhim. They research all manufacturing processes of the enterprises, detect problems in the workplace, troubled units and equipment. They help to resolve non-standard issues arising during major repairs or tests and trials.
“We can’t forget that the low-priority task is to improve the operating technologies and engineering support for production. The top priority task set by the management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC and TAIF GC is to develop or master technologies enabling to launch a truly innovative product in the world market. It isn’t easy. Firstly, well-oiled cooperation with all services of TAIF GC without exception is necessary. Secondly, our rivals are on the alert and also put as much effort as possible to strengthen research,” the director of the R&D Centre stresses.
The R&D Centre employees’ research is dedicated mainly to the technology of monomers and related polymers. Some laboratories deal with the environment and corrosion of the manufacturing equipment. State-of-the-art equipment helps do scientific research.
“The laboratory units made by our specialists previously from materials at hand and components can probably be considered truly unique. But modern strict process safety requirements put paid to the art of handmade laboratories. At the same time, we constantly have to perform non-standard technological tasks. This is why when purchasing equipment we bewilder suppliers because of additional and complex requirements for configuration, quality and guarantees. There is no other way: in the modern market racing, one can win only by riding a good horse,” notes the director of the R&D Centre.
The laboratories’ equipment allows conducting any synthesis of modern petrochemistry, while units of the industrial testing shop enable to expand this laboratory groundwork in pilot mode.
“We use almost the full set of possible polymer research methods. And if in some cases our own engineering capabilities aren’t enough, the management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC helps us to do research in laboratories in Kazan, Moscow, Petersburg and Novosibirsk,” R&D Centre Director Rinat Gilmullin adds.
12 research laboratories and 259 employees
Today the R&D Centre includes 12 research laboratories, an industrial testing shop, different departments and auxiliary services. 259 people work in the centre, 17 employees have an academic degree. The employees of the NKNK centre work proactively. They literally look into the future developing technologies for the future.
“Engineers are the skeleton staff of the R&D Centre. It is mainly graduates of chemical and technological faculties of universities, many of whom were just students during industrial or pre-thesis practice. Very responsible work falls on the fragile shoulders of our female laboratory assistants. They have to demonstrate patience, insistence and sagacity in the tough conditions of urgent works in non-standard situations that arise in the workplace or in laboratory research,” says the director of the R&D Centre.
According to him, young laboratory assistants, as a rule, pursue a degree in universities and simultaneously join the engineering staff. The company tries to support the youth as much as possible, especially those who upgrade their qualification.
Nowadays eight young specialists of various laboratories are doing research. In 2019, three R&D Centre employees got a degree of a candidate for sciences.
The R&D Centre closely cooperates with higher educational establishments as well as sectoral and academic research and development institutions. The petrochemists’ works are published in Russian and international scientific journals.
Moreover, the R&D Centre participates almost in all joint projects of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC with Russian and foreign companies — consumers and partners.
“This work is inconceivable without the staff of the industrial testing shop No. 1122 and auxiliary services. They are professionals who are really on duty day and night. Ultimately, we should talk about the heads of our laboratories and those specialists who are research leaders in their spheres. They have an important task of leading the creative youth amid stiff competition in the factory’s science,” notes R&D Centre Director Rinat Gilmullin.
120 patents in 20 years
120 patents on inventions have been obtained by the R&D Centre with Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC factory workers as co-authors in the last 20 years.
“At first sight, it doesn’t seem to be much compared to, for instance, the number of Tatneft’s patents. But we should consider that all applications for an invention are very strictly inspected at Nizhnekamskneftekhim. And if authors can’t prove the reality of an economic effect, they, of course, receive a denial to submit the application. All our developments, moreover, patents, are used in related plants and with a perceptible economic effect,” Rinat Gilmullin said and added that workers of the R&D Centre had obtained 423 patents on inventions and 65 patents on useful models over these years.
2020 became tough for the R&D Centre’s workers. They were one of the first to join the battle against the coronavirus infection and developed a formula of a disinfectant as soon as possible for the needs of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC.
“We managed to quickly set up the production of such a disinfectant in the industrial testing shop of the R&D Centre. Now we produce it as much as Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC needs. In addition, the workers of the R&D Centre started to develop an isopropyl alcohol technology, which is the foundation of the antiseptic. We will try to provide technologists with necessary data to mass-produce such a product in the company,” Rinat Gilmullin notes.
Last year, the R&D Centre hosted the 5th Innovations and the Youth — Two Vectors of Development of Russian Petrochemistry scientific conference among young scientists as well as contests of young innovators and professional mastery in Laboratory Chemical Analysis. By the way, workers of the R&D Centre have been participating in WorldSkills since 2016.
Many of the R&D Centre employees bear honorary titles, have received awards, medals and different rewards.
“On the threshold of the 55th jubilee of the R&D Centre, I want to single out such an accompanying effect of our staff’s long-term work as professional. Tens of specialists who once studied in the creative school of the R&D Centre keep working in TAIF GC companies and other large enterprises of our republic very productively. I believe that a lot of innovative successes await us in the future. Luckily, we have everything for it: support of the management, the latest equipment and the talented staff,” Director of the R&D Centre Rinat Gilmullin claimed proudly.