Upgrade at full speed: Kazanorgsintez completing modernisation of isopropylbenzene production without shutdown

The only polycarbonate plant in Russia, Kazanorgsintez, is becoming even more environmentally friendly

Exclusion from acid production, reduction of energy intensity, and minus 100 tonnes of waste a year: Kazanorgsinteze has completed the first and 70% of the second stage of modernisation of isopropylbenzene production. The monomer is needed as a raw material for the country's only polycarbonate plant. And the company fully provides itself with them. The renovation of the IPB production is carried out without stopping the capacity — with the engine running. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Using new technology and Russian equipment

SIBUR's production facilities in Tatarstan continue the adopted development programmes. The modernisation of isopropylbenzene (IPB) production is nearing completion at the Kazanorgsintez site. Not only the equipment is being updated, but also the technology. The old one, introduced back in 1964, is seriously outdated.

“In the proposed technology, isopropylbenzene is obtained not in the medium of liquid catalyst: alumochloride-containing complex, but on the surface of solid zeolite catalyst. That can work without replacement for several years, but even after this period it does not become a waste but returns to the manufacturer for regeneration," Arkady Yaroshevsky, expert, director of Ekada-T, commented on the innovation.

So, thanks to the change of technology:

  • hydrochloric acid is not produced;
  • need for catalyst washing is eliminated, no waste water is formed;
  • conversion rate increases, more of the target product, IPB, and less of the by-product, resins, will be obtained from the same volume of raw materials;
  • mulma — catalyst waste is not produced; minus 100 tonnes of waste a year.

And the second stage of modernisation has already been implemented by 70%.

“We are removing the old reaction block and putting in its place three columns that will replace the eight previous ones. In the near future, without stopping production, we plan to complete the project," said Vladislav Frolov, chief engineer at Bisphenol-A Plant.

The project has only a part of the control and measuring devices and a catalyst that are imported. There are already agreements on their purchase. All the main equipment is made in Russia. After the modernisation is completed, both the energy intensity of production and the environmental burden will decrease.

Sufficient volumes for import substitution

The only manufacturer of polycarbonates in Russia, Kazanorgsintez, provides itself with most of the necessary raw materials, including isopropylbenzene.

The processing chain looks like this: “Benzene is supplied to us, propylene is our own. From them, we produce IPB, and then from it — phenol and acetone. Next, we produce bisphenol-A, which is used for the manufacture of polycarbonates," explained Vladislav Frolov, the plant's chief engineer.

Polycarbonates production at Kazanorgsintez has also been upgraded recently. The plant's capacity has grown from the previous 77,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes a year. The assortment has been expanded. By the way, in 2020, the total demand of Russian production in polycarbonate was about 100,000 tonnes. Kazanorgsintez can fully provide these volumes, which meets the tasks of import substitution.

Polycarbonate is not only transparent flexible sheets from which greenhouses are assembled. You can't do without it in construction (sound insulation, protective and enclosing structures). Aboveground pedestrian crossings in cities and on interregional highways, equipment and devices in medicine, in automotive industry, the creation of gadgets, household and special appliances — polycarbonate is used everywhere. Not inferior in transparency to glass but 2,5 times lighter and 250 times more durable, the polymer can be safely attributed to the products of strategic importance: it is necessary in space, aviation, shipbuilding and other industries.

“Before the advent of polycarbonate, plexiglass (polymethylmethacrylate) was used for portholes, lantern caps of combat aircraft, and other machines. The materials are approximately similar in their characteristics. But I think polycarbonate is more suitable for these purposes. In cooperation with our client SafPlast, Kazanorgsintez's polycarbonate has been tested for use in space technology. In particular, for the manufacture of helmets," Farid Minigulov, the director general of Kazanorgsintez, told Realnoe Vremya in an interview.

In September 2021, at the Tatarstan Petrochemical Forum, one of the brands of Kazan polycarbonate acted as bulletproof glass. It didn't go unnoticed. The ability to withstand a bullet proved the readiness of the material for use in the areas where mechanical strength is needed. And the representatives of Gazprom became interested in this. The company needs deep-sea vehicles with high-strength optical systems.

Investments in modernisation will pay off in 5 years

The total amount of investments in the modernisation of isopropylbenzene production will be about 2,5 billion rubles. The design capacity, despite that production will become twice as compact, will remain at the same level — 110,000 tonnes a year, with the possibility of increasing to 120,000 tonnes.

The company expects to fully recoup its investment in 5 years. According to preliminary calculations, the level of energy consumption at the new production will be reduced threefold, the consumption of raw materials will decrease by 2,5%, and the yield of the target product — isopropylbenzene — will be higher.

Arseny Favstritsky