From export of raw materials to own production: first oil refinery of Tatarstan

TAIF-NK: from the outdated ELOU-AVT-7, straight-run gasoline, and boiler fuel to modern production and Euro 5 in two decades. Part one

For hundreds of years, experts had been sure that there was oil on the territory of Tatarstan. They were looking for it, but they were able to establish production only in the 20th century. Then for many years, Tatarstan, being one of the leaders in oil production in the USSR, remained just a supplier of hydrocarbon raw materials. Only in 1979, as part of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, the primary oil refining plant ELOU AVT-7 was launched, which became the supplier of raw materials of straight-run gasoline to the main production facilities of the petrochemical complex. But this was not enough for the republic. The actual absence of its own refining capacities did not have the best effect on the overall economy of the republic. In 1997, TAIF Group undertook the idea of designing and building its own oil refining complex in Tatarstan. About the search for oil in the times of the Russian Empire and how Tatarstan became “the second Baku” for the USSR, as well as about the reasons and history of the appearance of the first oil refining production facility in the republic, TAIF-NK JSC — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

It was impossible to do otherwise

The need to build a full-fledged oil refining complex on the territory of Tatarstan was discussed back in the 1940s, when substantial reserves of hydrocarbon raw materials were explored on the territory of the republic. However, it did not go beyond the plans either then or during the heyday of the USSR.

The practical implementation of the idea was started by specialists of TAIF Group. Moreover, the work was started almost at the most difficult time for the industry — the laying of the symbolic first stone in the foundation of the oil refining complex took place in the autumn of 1997, when world oil prices collapsed to the level of 16-20 US dollars per barrel of Brent (lower in the recent history of Russia, the price of a barrel of oil fell only in the winter of 1998, when black gold broke the bar of 10 US dollars and fell to $9,8 per barrel, and high-sulphur Tatarstan oil was traded at an even lower price).

It was impossible to do otherwise. The situation itself forced us to act decisively: the reviving petrochemical plants of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC were in desperate need of raw materials — straight-run gasoline.

But the history of the construction and commissioning of the first oil refinery in Tatarstan will be highlighted below. After all, in order to establish processing, raw materials are needed — oil, which had been searched for several centuries on the territory of modern Tatarstan. Therefore, first we will tell you about the times when the first oil was discovered in the Volga Region, when they were able to establish production on an industrial scale and how “the second Baku” helped the Motherland recover after the Great Patriotic War.

From the history of world oil production

The history of oil production itself dates back to the IV-III millennia BC, when the ancient Egyptians learned to collect oil in the places of its natural outlets to the surface from the water. It was most likely used as a therapeutic agent, for embalming, and also as fuel for lamps. In a number of ancient states, oil and bitumen were used as a building material as a binding and insulating component. In the 7th century in Persia, a terrible weapon of that time was created from oil — “Greek fire”, the ancestor of napalm. Somewhere it was used to impregnate firewood, so that they burned better. However, it was still not particularly necessary to talk about the large-scale use of liquid hydrocarbons in the old days. In most cases, the collection of oil in the places of its natural seep was quite sufficient as a method of production. In extreme cases, it was necessary to dig shallow pits, from where the accumulated oil was collected with tissue or skins and squeezed out in a container. This was the case almost until the very end of the Middle Ages, when oil began to be used more widely — in paints, in medicine, for street lamps. To extract it, they began to dig wells in the explored fields, then they learned how to drill wells.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first units for distilling oil into kerosene distillate appeared. In 1849, the first clean kerosene was obtained in Canada, and in 1853, tinker Adam Bratkovsky made the first safe type of kerosene lamp according to the sketch of chemists Ignatiy Lukashevich and Jan Zech. This period is considered to be the beginning of the rapid growth in kerosene consumption, which means both oil production and refining. The same Nobel brothers actively competed with the firm of J. Rockefeller in the development of technologies for continuous distillation of oil. By the way, they actively conducted business in Russia as well. The first oil pipeline in the Russian Empire was laid in 1878 by Ludvig Nobel.

Meanwhile, oil refining was gaining more and more momentum, improving, offering new products to the market: lubricants, kerosene, gasoline. By the way, at first it didn't meet appreciation it deserves, it was considered a by-product of kerosene production, suitable only as a solvent and cleaner for printing offices. Until the first internal combustion engine was created on the border of the 19th and 20th centuries. From that moment, oil refining developed by leaps and bounds. The era of polymers was just around the corner.

Tatarstan — “second Baku”

What about Tatarstan? The official history of oil production on this land has been conducted since the summer of 1943, when for the first time in the republic, the industrial inflow of carbonated oil with a flow rate of 20 tonnes a day was obtained from well No. 1, which was drilled near the village of Shugurovo (today — Leninogorsk district of the Republic of Tatarstan). The formation of oil-producing industry of the republic dates back to this time. The extraction of the black gold so necessary for the country from the depths went at an increasing pace. But more on this a little later, and first a small digression into the depths of centuries.

In fact, the history of Tatarstan oil is much older than it is stated in the official chronicles. In the materials of the Pushkarsky order, documents dated the year 1637, mentioning oil sources, have been preserved. In 1703, the very first issue of the Vedomosti newspaper reported: “They write from Kazan. A lot of oil was found on the Soka River...” Medical doctor Gottlieb Schober made a conclusion for Peter I about the quality of the discovered hydrocarbons in 1718. In 1738, Empress Anna Ioannovna received a message from miner Yakov Shakhanin about a new discovered deposit near the city of Tetyusha. The year 1837 was marked by that mining engineer Alexander Gerngross discovered surface oil seeps in the Volga Region and Zakamye.

It is worth noting that the first oil refining on the territory of modern Tatarstan was set up in the middle of the 18th century. To be more precise, in 1753, when foreman Nadyr Urazmetov filed a petition to the Berg Board for permission to build an oil plant on the Sok River for processing the collected oil. The analysis of the samples attached to the application showed that the oil in the field was heavy. But in general, of quite high quality.

Meanwhile, the exploration of new reserves of black gold continued. In 1864, landowner from Bugulma Nikolai Malakienko made the first attempts at drilling. Geologist Laszlo Sandor took up the task on an even larger scale in 1877. At the same time, the Shugurovsky oil bitumen plant began its work, the raw materials for which were supplied from the adits. At the beginning of the 20th century, the search for Tatarstan oil gained a new scope. In 1913, at the expense of British financiers, German geologist engineer and entrepreneur A.F. Frenkel created a joint-stock company Kazan Oilfields LTD, which was looking for oil in the Syukeyevo area.

The young Soviet Republic was also actively looking for oil in Tatarstan. In the 1920s and 1930s, several expeditions were organised, however, they were not crowned with success. Then the work was resumed using the capacities of geological survey and field geophysics. At the end of the 1930s, the first deep oil exploration well was drilled by the Syzranneft Trust at the Buldyr structure. Then the created Tatgeoltrest took over the baton. But there was no result, and the work on the lower and middle carbon fiber was stopped. But not for long.

With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, people and equipment began to be hurriedly transferred to Tatarstan in search of new oil fields. In June 1941, the legendary well No. 1 was laid, and on July 25, 1943, the first Tatarstan oil was obtained.

“The team of scouts will make every effort to turn the Shugurovsky district into a new fishery of the second Baku in the shortest possible time and give high-quality oil products to our native, beloved Red Army from small depths," the report of the Shugurov oil exploration reported. On August 3, the discovery of the first oil field in the republic — Shugurovskoye — was confirmed. In March of the following year, 1944, the USSR Council of People's Commissars adopted a resolution on the development of exploration work and preparation for the construction of an oil field at the field. The country received the oil that was so necessary for victory.

Further — more. On September 17, 1946, the first well of the Devonian sediments, drilled to a depth of 1,770 metres, was drilled near Bavly. The initial flow rate of the well was amazing: more than 500 tonnes a day. In June 1948, a powerful Devonian reservoir was discovered 20 km from Shugurovo. New exploration wells were drilled at a distance of 5-10 km from it. Thus, the multi-layer Romashkinskoye field was discovered, classified as a supergiant according to the international classification and included in the top ten largest deposits of the planet, it played a huge role in the development of the oil production, and subsequently — the oil refining and petrochemical industries of the USSR and Russia.

Already in 1950, 860,000 tonnes of oil were produced in the republic. But for the restoration of the national economy destroyed by the war and the successful development of the economy, the country needed more money, which means more black gold. Oil, including (and perhaps even first of all) the richest proven reserves of the Volga region, was supposed to become the economic basis for the post-war reconstruction of the entire economy of a huge state: putting in order industrial facilities and agriculture affected by the shelling and bombing of the Great Patriotic War, the key to the success of the announced large-scale industrial breakthrough programme. New technologies were needed. They were either purchased for considerable funds abroad or created by research centres of the country. Money was also needed for all this. Oil became the main financial resource in the processes of formation of the world's largest industrially developed state — the USSR.

In March 1952, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted the decision “On accelerating the development of the oil industry in the Tatar and Bashkir ASSR”. Personnel from already operating enterprises of the country were attracted to the republic, specialised technical schools began to open, then institutes that train specialists not only directly for the oil industry, but also for dozens of other industries.

The growth rate of oil extraction in the republic was growing like nowhere else in the world. In the opinion of a person of the 21st century, it was a predatory, excessively and unjustifiably large-scale prey. But it was simply impossible to do otherwise at that time. By 1956, Tatarstan had become the leader in the USSR in terms of oil production. Tatneft was the first in the country for 17 years. In the 1960s, every third tonne of black gold in a huge country was mined in the Tatar ASSR. New technologies and equipment were actively introduced. It was in Tatarstan that the method of intra-circuit flooding was first applied, which later became a classic all over the world. In the South-East of the republic, cities and towns grew one after another: Almetyevsk, Leninogorsk, Nizhnekamsk, Aznakaevo, Bavly, Dzhalil, Aktyuba. Bugulma, Zainsk, Yelabuga, Nurlat, Menzelinsk found a new life.

In 1971, Tatarstan oil producers reported the production of the first billion tonnes of oil. A decade later, the second billion was mined. Thanks to Tatarstan oil, the Soviet Union received huge resources for economic development, support for lagging regions, strengthening military power and support for the countries of the socialist block. In the 1970s, Tatarstan specialists actively participated in the development of oil and gas reserves in Western Siberia. Meanwhile, the republic remained mainly only a supplier of raw materials. But natural reserves are not unlimited, and in the 1980s, from the peak in 1976, when annual production reached 101,5 million tonnes, volumes began to fall. By 1991, Tatarstan could produce only 32,5 million tonnes a year, and the forecast of the USSR State Planning Committee promised that by 2000 production would be reduced by at least half.

With the end of the Soviet Union era and the adoption of the Declaration on State Sovereignty by the Supreme Council of Tatarstan on August 30, 1990, the republic had to independently solve the issues of overcoming the economic crisis associated with the collapsed centralised system of state planning. The regions were left to themselves. Both the republics and the industrial sectors had no choice but to solve numerous economic problems and issues themselves. Regions and companies had the opportunity to develop independently the foreign market with its own products. In the new economic conditions, Tatarstan paid attention to hard-to-recover oil reserves and focused on creating its own oil refining. But about this, as well as about what role TAIF Group played in the formation of Tatarstan oil refining, we will tell you in the next part of the material.

Arseny Favstritsky
Analytics Tatarstan
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