How Rosprirodnadzor assesses the 'next-generation petrochemical complex'

Experts and environmental inspectors have compared the new ethylene plant of Nizhnekamskneftekhim with European analogues

Nizhnekamskneftekhim is an object of increased attention of residents of Nizhnekamsk, the authorities and all environmentalists of the republic. Therefore, SIBUR's decision to invest more than 6 billion rubles in the development of environmental infrastructure was warmly welcomed by all parties. The EP-600 under construction should be a confirmation of such intentions — the project of the complex has incorporated all the best eco-technologies, including a smokeless flare, zero discharge system, and automated emission monitoring systems. Environmental experts compare it with the best examples of new industries in Europe. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya found out what impressed Svetlana Radionova at the EP-600 and how to reduce emissions by increasing production.

“Development of next-generation petrochemical complexes”

One of the main items in the visit schedule of the head of Rosprirodnadzor, Svetlana Radionova, to Tatarstan was the EP-600 under construction. It is no coincidence that the Tatarstan authorities chose the ethylene plant being built for demonstration to the chief environmental inspector of the Russian Federation. On the one hand, the object is important for the industry, and for the economy of the country as a whole. On the other hand, you will not meet such a concentration of environmental innovations at one industrial facility every day.

Nizhnekamsk residents are seriously concerned about the increase in production capacity — how it will affect the environment. Nizhnekamskneftekhim gives the figures in response: if in 2001 specific emissions into the atmosphere amounted to 32 kg per 1000 kg of manufactured products, then in 2021, only 9,4 kg accounted for the same tonne of products. That is, the company has managed to reduce specific emissions by 3,4 times in 20 years.

On the day of Radionova's visit, the management of Nizhnekamskneftekhim signed an agreement on cooperation with Rosprirodnadzor, confirming SIBUR's intentions to invest more than 6 billion rubles in environmental measures at the enterprise. The EP-600 was to demonstate the seriousness of these intentions. And it seems that the effect has been achieved. Svetlana Radionova was satisfied with the results of her inspection at the complex.

“I've inspected the site and I can note that SIBUR has declared its readiness to invest money, experience and expertise in the further development of next-generation petrochemical complexes. We see the willingness to build new facilities that will give economic development to the region and provide new jobs for residents of the city. The company is ready to take into account the most stringent environmental and climatic requirements, and we have heard this today," she said after the visit to the EP-600.

Smokeless flare system and hundredfold reduction of saturated hydrocarbons

What impressed the chief inspector accustomed to all different kinds of industrial objects? The large-scale construction of the new EP-600 olefin complex of Nizhnekamskneftekhim started in May 2020. But even at the design stage, the most stringent requirements for environmental parameters were established.

The licensor of the project was the German company Linde, in partnership with which the task was solved to reduce emissions into the atmosphere to levels below acceptable even by the most stringent European standards. Special attention is paid to those substances that get into the air most often. For example, according to the Ministry of Ecology an Natural Resources of the Republic of Tatarstan, in our republic the most harmful substances are soot (27%), nitrogen oxide (25%), carbon monoxide (16%).

As Arkady Yaroshevsky, Associate Professor, Candidate of Technical Sciences, Director of Ekada-T PLC, told Realnoe Vremya, almost at every stage of the technological process of the new EP-600, starting with pyrolysis furnaces and ending with flares, where a smokeless combustion system is implemented, modern technological solutions are used to reduce the environmental impact.

“Environmental solutions provide for new burners, modern contact devices in the processes of separation and purification of pyrolysis products. All tanks will be under nitrogen pressure, which eliminates emissions into the atmosphere, tandem mechanical seals will be installed on pumps, modern high-performance catalysts and adsorbents, and much more," the expert said.

In total, these solutions allowed to reduce the specific emission indicators for the EP-600 compared to those recommended in the reference books, Arkady Yaroshevsky noted: for nitrogen oxides — by six times, and for marginal hydrocarbons — by 114 times!

“Now the whole world is striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2. At the EP-600, these emissions will be 1,6 times lower than the figure set in European countries," Yaroshevsky emphasises.

Operators will have the opportunity to monitor the indicators online — the complex will be equipped with a continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS). Ecologists of state agencies will receive the same data. Let us remind that Nizhnekamskneftekhim agreed six months ago with the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic of Tatarstan on the exchange of indicators of the state of the atmosphere online.

"4 times less waste than in the EU countries”

There will be no waste water at all at the new plant, after cleaning they will completely return to the production cycle. And as a result of the application of this solution, the external water intake is minimised. In fact, water will get into the production loop only to replenish the volume of natural evaporation. This approach in design is considered the most advanced in terms of the impact on the environment and biodiversity.

“Firstly, the projected technologies involve the formation of less waste, for example, coke. Secondly, modern catalysts and adsorbents have a much longer service life, which also reduces the amount of waste. Finally, thirdly, the system of thermal neutralisation of liquid waste is provided, which will allow the disposal of about 5 thousand tonnes of liquid waste. In general, 4 times less waste will be generated per tonne of ethylene than in the EU countries. This, of course, allows us to characterise the proposed solutions as the most advanced," Arkady Yaroshevsky noted the importance of environmental solutions on the EP-600.

“EP-600 is the case when the balance between economy and ecology is observed”

Not only the strategy of sustainable development of Nizhnekamskneftekhim but also business logic dictate strict requirements and low emission standards for the EP-600. SIBUR, which includes Nizhnekamskneftekhim, strives to take the leading position in the global petrochemical market, in the horizon of 3-4 years it can claim a place in the top 5 of the global industry. For its products to be competitive in the conditions of tightening environmental standards, they must meet new requirements.

“Businesses, the state, and society today are more likely to focus on the environment, and not just the economics of projects. There is a logic here: for a long time it was the economy that dominated, enterprises were built, which, frankly speaking, could not be perfectly clean. It is clear that a complex industry cannot be with “zero” emissions. But there are technologies to minimise damage to the environment. And from the point of view of long-term prospects, these investments are justified. The more environmentally friendly the production is, the higher its competitiveness and the opportunity to earn are," says Vladislav Kochetkov, the president and chairman of the management board of Finam Investment Holding.

The more environmentally friendly the production is, the higher its competitiveness and the opportunity to earn are, says Vladislav Kochetkov. Photo:

According to him, Europe does everything today to make it unprofitable for enterprises to work with damage to the environment and climate. On July 14, 2021, the European Commission announced a package of proposals to reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

At the same time, the EU will impose a special cross-border carbon tax on importers of “dirty” goods. It is noteworthy that not only the harm from the production of the goods themselves, but also from the production of their semi-finished products, components or electricity will be assessed. Polymers were not included in the priority list of “dirty” goods, but in the future this possibility cannot be excluded.

As Arkady Yaroshevsky, the director of Ekada-T PLC, noted in an interview with Realnoe Vremya, Nizhnekamskneftekhim's ethylene plant is just the case when the balance between economy and ecology is observed. And the environmental solutions implemented at the EP-600 can be called unique.

“The olefin complex is created based on the modern ecological worldview. And I hope that as a project it will become a reference point for the industry, an example of the right approach to environmental impact issues," he concluded.

Lilia Yegorova