Merger beginning: Tatarstan journalists shown new ZapSibNeftekhim

On the threshold of the merger of TAIF Group and SIBUR-Holding businesses and after obtaining the FAS approval of this deal, the journalists of Tatarstan were introduced to the Siberian petrochemical complex

Merger beginning: Tatarstan journalists shown new ZapSibNeftekhim
Photo: Roman Khasaev

Tatarstan journalists visited Tobolsk, where SIBUR-Holding PJSC in 2019 commissioned the ZapSibNeftekhim complex with a capacity of 8 million tonnes a year of raw materials (wide light hydrocarbon fraction — WLHF) and 2,5 million tonnes of polymer products (1,5 million tonnes of polyethylene and 1 million tonnes of polypropylene). Read more about the trip, as well as about the similarities and differences between the two largest petrochemical holdings in Russia — TAIF and SIBUR — in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

The capital of Siberia

Tobolsk. A city in Tyumen Oblast. The administrative centre of the city district of Tobolsk and the Tobolsk district. It is located in the north of Tyumen Oblast, where the Tobol flows into the Irtysh. The city with a rich history, officially dating back to 1587, when, just a year later than Tyumen, Tobolsk was founded as the centre of the development of Siberia. From 1708, it was the capital of the Siberia Governorate, stretching from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean. However, some historians claim that the Tobolsk Ostrog, built from disassembled Cossack ploughs, grew on the site where the Tatar settlement of Siberia was located, which was the capital of the Siberian Khanate from 1495.

Tobolsk's history dates back to 1587. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Today, the population of Tobolsk, the second largest city in Tyumen Oblast, barely exceeds 100,000 people. It is a major petrochemical industrial centre, as well as one of the tourist pearls of Russia, whose potential, as the local authorities also recognise, has not yet been sufficiently disclosed, including due to its considerable remoteness. It is expected that the accessibility of the city, by the way, the only one in Siberia where the white-stone Kremlin built at the very beginning of the 18th century (very similar to Kazan), ancient cathedrals and churches, historical buildings, many museums, as well as unique nature have been preserved, will seriously increase with the commissioning of the airport. Also in its own way — unique. It has become the first in Russia the construction of which is being carried out by SIBUR on the terms of a public-private partnership. It is planned that the air gates of Tobolsk open already in 2021.

Tobolsk is not only a major petrochemical centre of Russia, but also one of the tourist pearls of the country. Photo: Roman Khasaev

On July 15, SIBUR and the Airports of Russia Management Company signed an agreement on the transfer of the airport infrastructure after commissioning to the operator's trust management. “The city has long been one of the centres of business trips and industrial tourism in our country. The airport is going to breathe new life into the development of these areas," the official portal of the state authorities of Tyumen Oblast quotes the words of member of the board — managing director of SIBUR Marina Medvedeva.

By-products of oil and gas production — for processing

The first day of the press tour of Tatarstan journalists was almost entirely devoted to getting acquainted with the petrochemical production facilities of ZapSibNeftekhim. At the beginning, a short film as an introduction to the topic, then the history of the formation of the processing of West Siberian hydrocarbon raw materials from the director for technological efficiency of the complex, Andrey Kugaevsky.

The director for technological efficiency of the complex told the journalists from Tatarstan about the technologies and scale of ZapSibNeftekhim. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“In 1974, by the decision of the 26th plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, it was decided to build a new enterprise. In 1975, 60 design institutes of the USSR started developing the enterprise, and in 1984, a central gas fractionating plant with a raw material capacity of 3 million tonnes was put into operation," he said.

In 1987, butadiene production plants were launched (180,000 tonnes a year). The plans for further development were big, but the change of state system in the country delayed them for a long time. The production of isobutylene (100,000 tonnes a year) and methyl-butyl ether took place only in 1997. In 1999, the new investor came to the Tobolsk land — SIBUR. From that moment, the new stage in the fate of the Siberian petrochemical industry began. The situation almost completely repeats the one that developed during a difficult period for the Russian industry in Tatarstan at Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC and Kazanorgsintez PJSC, which were saved from bankruptcy and given additional impetus only thanks to the efforts of TAIF.

In 2013, the first production of polymers was set up at the Tobolsk site. In the period up to 2015, the existing capacities were being developed, and on 17 February, 2015, the first pile was driven into the base of ZapSibNeftekhim. At peak times, up to 28,000 people and over 1,000 units of special equipment worked at the construction site. The supplies of equipment and building materials were carried out from all over the world. In Russia alone, contracts with SIBUR were signed by companies from 35 regions. The construction works on the facility were completed in the spring of 2019. In 2020, the complex reached its design capacity.

In 2020, ZapSibNeftekhim reached its design capacity. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“ZapSibNeftekhim is a significant contribution of SIBUR into the environment: associated petroleum gas is no longer burned, but processed into valuable raw materials. Seven enterprises process associated gas as part of the holding, obtaining wide light hydrocarbon fraction (WLHF) — the raw materials that are supplied to the complex via common product pipeline. ZapSibNeftekhim is capable to accept and process 8 million tonnes of raw materials a year," Andrey Kugaevsky told reporters. He offered to get acquainted with the production facilities personally. But before that — change into special clothes, get personal protective equipment and listen to instructions on the rules of safe behaviour at production site.

The more efficiently you manage the process, the higher your bonus is

To the unenlightened eye, it is uneasy to distinguish one petrochemical production from another. Huge rectification columns, pyrolysis furnaces, tanks. The pipes and cooling towers of the CHP stretch to the sky (like the TAIF energy companies for Kazan and Nizhnekamsk, ZapSibNeftekhim is the main source of heat and electricity for the population of Tobolsk). Here is the central control room — walls of monitors and graphs, diagrams live on each screen, columns of figures replace each other, followed by dozens of attentive eyes.

Central control room of the petrochemical complex resembles a mission control centre. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“We are in the very heart of the complex — in the control panel room. It is divided into several zones: zone of factory units, central zone — production of pyrolysis and polymerisation — production of polyethylene and production of polypropylene," explains Maksim Zakharov, the head of production (pyrolysis).

Factory units are responsible for auxiliary products for the main industries — air, nitrogen, etc. In the pyrolysis zone, data on the operation of nine pyrolysis furnaces is constantly monitored.

“In total, they can reach 1,5 million polyethylene and 500,000 tonnes of polypropylene a year," Maksim Zakharov explained.

Maksim Zakharov, the head of production, told journalists from Tatarstan about the work of the pyrolysis zone. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“In front of each operator, there is a panel that displays the current efficiency of the process and how it conducts its activities (quality control of ethylene extraction from a mixture with ethane). The more efficiently you manage the process, the higher your bonus is It means that you are an effective specialist, you know its facets and subtleties, which means that you should be better paid," Zakharov explained the essence of the process.

The more efficiently the operator works, the higher the company's profit and their own remuneration. Photo: Roman Khasaev

The next stop is the polyethylene production management. Here, Sergey Solotkin, the head of the production of LLDPE and HDPE, gave explanations to journalists:

“One of the main plants is the Polyethylene Plant. The production consists of two technological productions: the production of high-density polyethylene — two technological lines of 350,000 tonnes a year each (total 700,000 tonnes a year) and the production of linear polyethylene with a total capacity of 800,000 tonnes a year. The total amount is 1,5 million tonnes a year. The entire production includes four polymerisation lines, that is, two reactors for each technological production.

Polyethylene Plant consists of five lines: two — LLDPE, two — HDPE and compounding. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Another line is compounding, designed for the production of black polyethylene of pipe grades. In total, the production has mastered the production of 24 grades of polyethylene.

In addition to the main hall of the central operator room, there is a training complex, where operators practice the models of actions in various situations in a training but as close as possible to the real format. Besides, there is a relaxation room, where a special capsule is installed, which helps to quickly recover and return to working capacity in case of fatigue.

In the relaxation room, the operator's staff can quickly get rid of fatigue. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“Twenty minutes in a capsule replaces, conditionally, 6 hours of sleep. This experience, successfully tested here, will be relayed to all other plants and complexes of SIBUR. For ZapSibNeftekhim, this was more relevant at the start-up stage, when the workload of specialists of the start-up staff was especially high," Zakharov noted.

Polypropylene Plant was built first

When the construction of ZapSibNeftekhim was started, the first polypropylene plant was built and put into operation. The second in a row. The first one, also with a capacity of 500,000 tonnes of products a year, was already operating as part of the Tobolsk Petrochemical Complex (which later became part of ZapSibNeftekhim).

Andrey Burmistrov: “The brand range of ZapSibNeftekhim for polypropylene is 16 brands.” Photo: Roman Khasaev

“The production was launched in 2014. At the moment, we are working to maximum capacity. The production capacity is 500,000 tonnes a year. This production consists of a polymerization line, we have the only one, and two extrusion lines. The efficiency of each is 40 tonnes a hour," Andrey Burmistrov, the head of polypropylene production, met the Tatarstan journalists.

At the moment, the brand range of ZapSibNeftekhim for polypropylene is 16 brands. The second site, which has operated since 2013, produces the same range, but with a slightly different technology.

The furthest delivery — Latin America

The logistics complex here occupies 12 hectares and is ready not only to provide shipment to both road and rail transport, but also carries out storage (up to 42,000 tonnes of finished products), packaging (eight packaging machines fill 2,200 25-kilogramme bags every hour) and palletisation.

Logistics centre of the complex can serve as a temporary warehouse and holds 42,000 tonnes of finished products. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“All processes are integrated into a common system. Tasks for packing are given from the central operator room. The minimum number of people is involved in the centre itself: there are two people on the packaging itself: they change the film and monitor the fine tuning of the equipment," explained Aleksey Krupin, the head of the logistics operations department.

All packaging and shipping processes are automated and integrated into a common system. Photo: Roman Khasaev

The farthest point of product delivery is Latin America. This is 15,000 kilometres from Tobolsk. The closest one is right outside the perimeter of the complex. One of the partners of ZapSibNeftekhim has established the production of packaging pallets from the company's products right next door. Granules are delivered there, and pallets — from there.

Main task is to make sure that there are fewer accidents and shutdowns

The SIBURINTECH centre, which opened its doors in early 2020, is engaged in training personnel to work on new equipment and improving their skills.

SIBURINTECH Centre is engaged in the training and retraining of ZapSibNeftekhim specialists. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“We are preparing our specialists to work with new types of equipment and new processes. The main task is to make sure that there are fewer accidents and shutdowns. We do not prepare for the profession. We prepare for a specialisation," Vitaly Kirilin, the chief expert of the educational and methodological direction of ZapSibNeftekhim, immediately sorted things out.

Five floors, dozens of lecture rooms and classrooms, modern equipment and simulators. As the expert joked: “Our building can be divided into two components: one is everything related to the torsion of iron, the second is digital technologies.”

SIBUR gives its specialists the opportunity to master new competencies necessary for effective work. Photo: Roman Khasaev

They work here with both Tobolsk high school students and students of the local multidisciplinary technical school, but the main emphasis is on the current specialists of the complex. As Vitaly Kirilin emphasised, this is not about retraining in the usual sense of the word, but about the opportunity for employees of ZapSibNeftekhim and SIBUR as a whole to get new competencies necessary for work. Methodological programmes are developed jointly with the world's leading suppliers of equipment and technologies, such as Siemens, Yokogawa, etc.

Vitaly Kirilin: “The exchange of experience between TAIF and SIBUR training centres can give a lot to the companies.” Photo: Roman Khasaev

“After the completion of the deal between TAIF and SIBUR, there will certainly be some synergy. TAIF also has an excellent training centre in Nizhnekamsk, but it has a slightly different orientation. They teach people professions from the ground up. We have to understand what we can give and what the TAIF training centre can give. The experience of both of them is enormous and the exchange of this experience can give a lot. We can give how to apply digital technologies. This is our strong side — learning with the help of digital technologies. TAIF has a very strong training of technological personnel. TAIF can share this," Vitaly Kirilin said.

Course on environmental friendliness: reducing emissions and getting rid of runoff generation

SIBUR's companies, like TAIF Group, support the trend towards achieving maximum environmental friendliness. A special emphasis was placed on this during the communication with Tatarstan journalists. Even during the construction process, the most stringent global environmental parameters were laid down in the ZapSibNeftekhim project. Now they are working on further improvement.

SIBUR, like TAIF, supports the trend towards environmental friendliness of production facilities. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Monitoring of the state of atmospheric air, according to the director for technological efficiency of the complex — Andrey Kugaevsky, demonstrates that in Tobolsk the citywide indicators of air pollution are twice lower than in other cities, where there is much less industry and there are no petrochemical industries at all. By 2025, it is planned to reduce emissions by another 17-20%.

Active work is underway to reduce the volume of water consumption. The complex requires at least 3,000 cubic metres per hour to work — both for the processes themselves and for cooling the equipment. In the petrochemical circle, the system is completely closed-loop. In the energy sector, it has not yet been possible to achieve such an effect, but it has already been possible to remove two out of three drains from the system. By 2025, it is planned to completely eliminate the runoff generation.

Over seven years of the company's activity, employees of ZapSibNeftekhim have planted more than 615 hectares of forest. For comparison, the entire complex covers an area of 3,000 hectares. More than 160,000 Siberian sturgeon juvenile fish and more than 30,000 sterlet fry were released into rivers and reservoirs.

Tanks at ZapSibNeftekhim site are decorated with street art depicting the flora and fauna of Tyumen Oblast. Photo: Roman Khasaev

Much attention is paid to reducing the level of waste generation with the return of most of it to production and the maximum neutralisation of those that are not recyclable. The indicator of this work effectiveness is a unique ecological trail that begins just one and a half kilometers from the walls of the petrochemical production facility and allows everyone to get acquainted with representatives of the unique Red List flora and fauna of Tyumen Oblast, who are sensitive to environmental pollution, but feel great in this territory. This is a clear example of the effectiveness of the company's environmental policy.

It is interesting that images of rare birds, animals, fish and plants of these regions adorn the reservoirs on the territory of the complex itself. Street art is a result of the company's active interaction with the creative youth of Tobolsk. However, this is not the only social activity of ZapSibNeftekhim.

First school in Tobolsk in a quarter of a century

It was built by the city when SIBUR came to the city. In the midst of construction and the influx of future employees of ZapSibNeftekhim, the construction of an entire microdistrict began in Tobolsk — here it is known under the number 15. Together with the microdistrict, the infrastructure was also created: a school for 2,200 students, a kindergarten for 840 kids, a sports complex, a swimming pool.

With the beginning of the construction of ZapSibNeftekhim, the whole new microdistrict with all the infrastructure grew in Tobolsk. Photo: Roman Khasaev

The joint programme “Tobolsk 2020" adopted in 2015 by the government of Tyumen Oblast, the administration of Tobolsk and SIBUR, covers 46 projects in various directions. Under this programme, the construction and reconstruction of sports facilities, participation in infrastructure development, and interaction with educational institutions and cultural facilities are carried out on the proceeds from one of the largest taxpayers of Tobolsk (TAIF actively supports all these areas in Tatarstan). In 2020, active assistance was provided to medical institutions not only in Tobolsk, but also throughout Tyumen Oblast.

In 2015, the first joint programme with SIBUR for the development of Tobolsk was adopted. Photo: Roman Khasaev

As soon as the Tobolsk 2020 programme is completed, the next stage — Tobolsk 2025 — starts. The implemented programmes, both ZapSibNeftekhim and SIBUR are confident, will generally improve the comfort of Tobolsk for local residents and will make the city even more attractive for tourists and investors.

Arseny Favstritsky