TAIF-NK: quarter of century of uninterrupted development
The first, unique, innovative: the history of Tatarstan oil refining
It is the first in Tatarstan, the only in the world to cross the bar of 90% of light oil product recover per tonne of feedstock and actively introduce innovative technologies to enhance this unique result. This week TAIF-NK JSC turns 25 years. Read about the company’s history, its present and big planes for the future in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
Why June 1998?
There might arise a question — why is precisely June 1998, in fact, considered the birthday of TAIF-NK oil refinery? One can find a lot of previous dates that can claim the status of the starting point in the history of creation of Tatarstan oil processing. For instance, 1979: a primary oil processing plant — ELOU-AVT-7 unit with an installed capacity of 6 million tonnes of crude oil a year — was launched at Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Its task was to provide the petrochemical factory with straight-run gasoline. Its byproduct — mazut — used to be fuel for local CHPPS.
In 1997. The country’s economy wasn’t going through the best times, world oil prices were record-low, while a young company in Tatarstan, TAIF, was joining the processes of recovery and restart of petrochemical factories. As one of the key moment of the construction of an efficient production chain on the Nizhnekamsk industrial site, the necessity of creating its own oil refinery became topical. The ELOU-AVT-7 unit with a less than 50% capacity load and about 38% light oil product recovery that was seriously outdated and wornout by that moment was to be its heart. An agreement on long-term leasing was signed between TAIF and Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and the construction began.
“There is a document, a protocol of a board meeting of TAIF JSC shareholders as of June 1998 where it was made a decision to create TAIF-NK. And a month later, TAIF-NK obtained legal registration. We consider that June 1998 is the moment when our company was created on the basis of this document,” Director General of TAIF-NK JSC Maxim Novikov shared his memories in an interview with Realnoe Vremya.
Time chose us
The new company started to modernise equipment almost immediately after the foundation to raise performance efficacy and lower failure risks in operation and at the same time reached agreements on feedstock supply with Tatneft. The money invested in the renovation fully justified itself. Also in 1998, oil processing numbers reached the installed capacity of the unit. Consequently, the production of light petrochemicals increased too.
“‘Time chose us’ is one of our mottoes and slogans. And this is true,” Director General of TAIF-NK JSC Maxim Novikov is sure. He noted:
“TAIF always sets big goals looking far ahead. The latest technologies, the best solutions, the most promising development options are examined, and precisely such practice is used in the plants of the group of companies.”
Today, Maxim Novikov is the director general of one of the most innovative companies in Russia and the world. In 1999, at the very initial stage of the formation of oil refining in Tatarstan, he was a young specialist who had just come to the first production of TAIF-NK — Oil Refinery. All stages of the company's development took place, if not with his direct participation, then in front of his eyes — for sure.
“Then, in the late 1990s, most of today's TAIF-NK territory was a swampy area. The output of light oil products barely reached 38%. It is today that we understand how little it is. The formation of the company, indeed, took place before our eyes," Maxim Novikov noteed. He also added: “As employees of ELOU-AVT-7, we thought that we were the elite of oil refining. Some kind of MDHC was being built nearby — Middle Distillates Hydrotreatment Complex. We, let's say, competed then (smiles). Then other factories appeared... Over time, history put everything in its place, and we became a single team, and production processes became a single whole. Yes, of course, each team is individual, with its own history, with its own existence, but the task that I set for myself and for the entire management of the company is to make sure that there is a spirit of unity, understanding that we are all one team working in a single chain and for a common result.
Vladimir Lakhomov, the current director of TAIF-NK Oil Refinery, who came to the Refinery as the operator of the 5th category of waste heat boilers ELOU-AVT-7 in 2000, recalls how the only unit and the swamps around turned into a modern highly efficient complex of complementary oil refining enterprises:
“The management decided to create a full cycle of oil and gas processing plant. Initially, all these sites and production facilities were not designed for further modernisation, as they were built as part of a single chemical plant complex. The designers had to try to make the unit overgrown with a complex of related, complementary, and high processing industries: hydrotreating of medium distillates, installation of tar visbreaking, a bitumen plant was built in parallel, commodity parks were expanded. A lot of work has been done to make a huge factory with the current assortment from one shop!
As Albert Shigabutdinov, the director general of TAIF JSC, repeatedly emphasised in his interviews, multibillion-dollar investments in the development of Tatarstan's oil refining pursued not only the commercial interest of the company itself but were also designed to give a new impetus to the economy of Tatarstan as a whole.
TAIF-NK in 1998 and the company today — apples anf oranges
Unlike most refineries in Russia and the world, which are focused on the production of either only motor fuels or exclusively raw materials for petrochemical production, TAIF Group oil refining company has combined these areas since its foundation.
From the very first days, TAIF-NK set a course to expand the product line, increase the volume and the convertion rate of processing of raw materials, increase the share of light oil products output. The company is constantly on the move: existing production facilities are being improved, new ones are being built. Probably, in the entire quarter-century history of the company, there has not been a single year when these processes have stopped.
In 1999, the visbreaking unit was put into operation, which allowed to start the processing of tar, a co-product of ELOU-AVT-7. In 2002, the kerosene and diesel fuel production plant was put into operation.
In January 2003, the sulphur extraction unit produced the first products using the Claus Process method with a granulation unit. Ramil Valeev, shift supervisor of the refinery shop No. 03, remembers this moment with special warmth:
“I remember how we got the first sulphur. They made a medal — pressed liquid sulphur and established the day — Sulphur Day. Every year, they gathered on this day. In autumn, in September. On a picnic in nature. We played football, volleyball," said the veteran of production, who has been working at his favourite enterprise for 22 years.
In 2003, the construction of the gasoline production plant began, with the only catalytic cracking plant in Russia and the world, built using domestic — Russian technology. The project was led by Vladimir Presnyakov, the deputy director general of TAIF JSC for petrochemistry and oil refining. In 2005, the Gasoline Plant produced its first products.
As Albert Shigabutdinov, the director general of TAIF JSC, noted in an interview: “Presnyakov is 90% responsible for such successful and effective implementation of such large-scale tasks. These were their ideas and developments. The project manager, thanks to his experience and knowledge, managed to find and implement such an effective solution that no one believed and still does not believe that such a thing is possible, but we did it.”
In May 2005, the construction of the second production of the Gasoline Plant began — the gas condensate processing plant with a raw material capacity of 1 million tonnes a year. The development of project documentation was also carried out by domestic specialists — employees of the Samaraneftekhimproekt Institute. A little more than a year after the start of the project, in July 2006, the first products were produced.
By 2007, the product line, in addition to straight-run gasoline and boiler fuel, also included aviation kerosene, diesel fuel, Euro 2 and Euro 4 motor gasolines. However, Euro 2 already went down in history in 2008, and TAIF-NK completed the reconstruction of the hydrotreating plant for medium distillates, which made it possible to produce Euro 4 diesel fuel in the amount of 1,65 million tonnes a year. The production capacity of motor gasoline amounted to 600 thousand tonnes a year.
In January 2009, another important event took place at the first production of the Gasoline Plant: the commissioning of the esterification unit. TAIF-NK established its own production of high-octane components of commercial gasoline — up to 24,8 thousand tonnes a year of MTBE from isobutylene and up to 152,8 thousand tonnes a year of TAME from isoamylenes.
In 2010, the company upgraded the medium distillate hydrotreating plant again, connecting an additional reactor and a number of new units to it, increasing its capacity by almost a third of the design one. It was brought to full capacity in 2012 and became capable of producing 2,3 million tonnes of Euro 5 diesel fuel a year (the first in Russia fully switching to its production), and the depth of processing of raw materials exceeded 74%.
In November 2015, TAIF-NK, ahead of federal requirements, completely switched for the production and automotive fuel of the Euro 5 standard.
The Gasoline Plant continues its development today as well. The director of the company, Ilsur Samigullin, told Realnoe Vremya about this:
“In 2020, we upgraded the single-stage burners at the gas condensate processing unit into two-stage ones. This allowed us to completely get away from burning mazut as fuel. Mazut itself in the amount of 6 thousand tonnes a year became an additional raw material for the catalytic cracking unit. This significantly increased the environmental friendliness of production processes, reducing emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides, and additional volumes of raw materials led to an increase in economic effect. In 2022, we transferred all the effluents of purified condensate from the catalytic cracking unit for processing and purification to the Refinery unit. Accordingly, discharges into the drains of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC are reduced to zero.
Just recently, the new product has entered the automotive fuel market of Tatarstan: branded gasoline AI-92-K5 ECO. As they in the production note, in the foreseeable future there will also be something to please the adherents of the products of the Gasoline Plant of TAIF-NK JSC.
The 2011 year can be called the starting year in the implementation of another project — Heavy Residue Conversion Complex. In February 2012, the construction began, and in November 2021, a permit for commissioning was received. The project, which some called unrealisable from the start of construction, if only simply because no one had ever used this technology on such a scale before TAIF: 3,6 million tonnes a year for raw materials — tar and vacuum gas oil.
However, if TAIF and TAIF-NK listened to skeptics, then half of the units of the entire oil refining company could not even begin to be built. But here they are used to acting differently: a thoughtful full-scale study of the issue, an analysis of all possibilities, the exclusion of risks, and only after that — making a decision. The approach that has fully justified itself over the years.
“Yes, we had to refine a lot from the original technology. At each stage of production, we faced various issues, but we coped with them thanks to the well-coordinated work of the team. An integrated and systematic approach to solving emerging issues, the initiative of the staff, the interaction of all services of TAIF-NK JSC and TAIF JSC — these are the key elements that contributed to the success of the commissioning of the HRCC," the director of the HRCC, Andrey Konovnin, noted in an interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“This is a completely new direction in oil refining, a new technology. A lot of things were unknown to us who came here during the construction and commissioning of equipment. What is it? How? The equipment used here is not the most unique. But its combination with the process modes and with the environment in which the process takes place is unique. Very often, the solutions that were originally intended were not suitable, and they had to be improved, we had to solve the tasks assigned to us step by step. Everything worked out, it works out, and it will work out because there is a strong, united team here, confident in success. To keep this confidence and sense of unity — the main wish for the anniversary of TAIF-NK, and for many years to come!” stressed the chief engineer of the HRCC, Artur Urazaykin.
Today, the complex of TAIF-NK JSC consists of three interconnected, complementary plants that allow to achieve the maximum depth of processing of raw materials and extraction of high-quality and high-margin petroleum products from it:
- Oil Refinery with a design capacity for raw materials of 7 million tonnes a year;
- Gasoline Plant consisting of the gasoline production unit based on catalytic cracking and the gas condensate processing unit with a design capacity of 1 million tonnes a year each for raw materials;
- HRCC (Heavy Residue Convertion Complex) with a design capacity of 3,6 million tonnes for processing tar and vacuum gas oil.
The company produces about 50 types of products, including raw materials for chemistry and petrochemistry, automotive fuel of Euro 5 international environmental standard, diesel fuel, jet fuel, bitumen, polymer-bitumen binders, kerosenes, etc.
As noted by the director general of TAIF-NK JSC, Maxim Novikov:
“TAIF-NK in 1998 and the one that is now — these are two completely different enterprises. Moreover, he adds, even the usual productions that formed the basis of the complex being created at the time are not the same today as they were before: “Let's take at least our ELOU AVT-7: visually it remained almost the same, but inside… Burner devices are already different, internal flows have been redistributed for maximum effect. Work regulations are different. ELOU, when I came, was working on pneumatic control devices, then switched to automated process control system. The very principle of the unit management is completely different today.
“We will not stop until we get 100% of light products”
Today's TAIF-NK is unique in many ways. It is the second in Russia in terms of the indicator such as the Nelson index, that is, the complexity of production. The company notes that they could be the first if they completely processed the obtained intermediates — the same straight-run gasoline, at their own facilities. Turning it, for example, into automobile fuel. But this would mean leaving a long-time partner, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, without raw materials.
Already today, TAIF-NK is the undisputed leader in Russia in extracting light oil products from every tonne of raw materials. According to the results of 2022, the output of light products was 88%. The beginning of 2023 — already over 92%. The target setting is to step over the 98% mark. But this is also not the limit.
“We will not stop until we get 100% of light oil products. Even the small amount that remains now, we bring to mind and turn into a product that is in demand by the market. Perhaps, over time, technologies will appear that will allow us to achieve even better results," Maxim Novikov emphasised in an interview with Realnoe Vremya. Watching the evolution of the company, it becomes clear: this is not a joke. Especially when you realise that thousands of people who work daily at the company's production facilities share this opinion and truly support the common cause.
Not just a date on the calendar
At TAIF-NK, people are not a “human resource”, but a team of like-minded people united by common aspirations, ideas, and goals. And 25 years of the company is not just a date on the calendar, but their personal holiday, too.
“Why do I want to work here, at TAIF-NK? It's prestigious. I am proud to study at the College of Petrochemistry and Oil Refining. This year, we are starting a production practice, I will do everything possible to be noticed and invited to work here," Danil Salakhov, a student of the College of Petrochemistry and Oil Refining named after N.V. Lemaev, told the journalist of Realnoe Vremya during an introductory tour of the enterprise.
“The company is 25, and our workshop is going to be 44 years soon. The most important thing I want to wish for is development. I am sure that we always have something to strive for and where to grow," said Pavel Gavrilov, the head of Shop No. 01 of the ELOU-AVT-7 refinery unit.
“The plant is my life! I myself come from Almetyevsk. I came to Nizhnekamsk to conquer petrochemistry. But I didn't work at Nizhnekamskneftekhim for long. He was told that a new plant was being built. We went there for an interview. I was told that I was well suited by the level of experience and knowledge. I came here as a senior operator, then I became a shift supervisor," said Ramil Valeev, a veteran of production, shift supervisor of refinery shop No. 03.
“My father works here. I had an internship here and everything was already familiar for me. And I didn't have a problem of where to find a job. What is good here is that regardless of age, everyone supports each other at TAIF-NK. The company provides social guarantees, a decent salary, stability. And, of course, if you have ambitions, you have a desire, then you can make a career in TAIF-NK. Our road is open for young people. If you're not lazy. It's like this here: if you meet halfway, then do teh same for you," shared Artur Sharifullin, a young operator of technological units of the Refinery.
“I was one of the first to come to this production — in June, 2005. I came as an operator of the 5th category. I worked on the reactor block at the main unit, then moved to the gas separation unit as a 6th-class operator," Dmitry Dedushkin, one of the veterans of the Gasoline Plant, told the journalist of Realnoe Vremya. “I decided to go here because the first catalytic cracking plant in Tatarstan was being built then. Everything was new, modern equipment was high-tech, it was interesting. I decided to try myself in a new direction. I won't say it was easy. But I like this job. I have a heart for it. I come to work with joy and pleasure, it allows me to look confidently into the future not only for me, but also for everyone who works here at TAIF-NK. On the anniversary of the company, I wish only one thing: to remain young and striving for development. Well, we will help in any way we can.
As Artur Shvetsov, a young specialist of the Gasoline Plant, an operator of technological units of the 5th category, admitted in an interview, he chose his profession consciously and forever 4 years ago:
“I like everything related to oil refining and technology. I chose the Gasoline Plant because it is where deep oil refining takes place. We make good gasoline, and when I see cars refuelling at TAIF Group's branded gas stations, I feel proud of the work honestly done. Joining congratulations on the occasion of the anniversary, to our entire team, to the entire TAIF-NK company, I wish not only not to lower the bar set by the management, but also to strive for new heights in quality, in development, in achievements.
Shamil Zaynagutdinov, the head of the catalytic cracking workshop, is also sure that everyone has the opportunity to prove themselves at TAIF-NK as a whole and the Gasoline Plant in particular. He has worked at the company since 2001 — from the very moment of the construction beginning.
“I came as an operator of the 4th category. Gradually I became a shift supervisor, then I was a unit chief, then a deputy head of the workshop, and now I am a workshop chief. The main thing is people. Not just professionals in their field work here, but those who are really passionate about the common cause and joint victories, no matter what it is about: production successes or sports competitions, which are organised here a lot, and which also unite the team spirit. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of TAIF-NK, I would like to wish all of us success. First of all, of course, in our common cause.
“Always — developing, always — in pursuit of new achievements! I wish TAIF-NK to remain as young and purposeful. 25 years is the age of development," Dmitry Kleshnin, the machinist of technological pumps of shop 03 of conversion of natural gas of the Gasoline Plant is sure.
“The HRCC is our common brainchild! Of our entire team! The brainchild to which you hurry, take care, and watch it grows. And also this is our second home, as well as the whole TAIF-NK. On behalf of the HRCC team and on my own behalf, I congratulate the Society on the 25th anniversary of its foundation! Over the years, a long way has been passed: from the foundation of the enterprise, its development and modernisation, the introduction of innovative technologies in the oil refining industry to the realities of today — one of the largest and steadily developing enterprises of the oil refining industry of the Republic of Tatarstan and Russia. Let the accumulated professional experience continue to contribute to the implementation of new projects and the implementation of plans!” Andrey Konovnin, the director of the HRCC, shared in a conversation with the journalist of Realnoe Vremya.
"25 years is a serious date. I would like to wish health and happiness to all the staff who work here now, and to say a big thank you to our veterans, those who are now on a well-deserved pension, to our leadership both here and in Kazan. And, of course, to wish prosperity to our company, to continue working, to produce the products our country needs," Vladimir Lakhomov, the director of the Refinery, joined in the congratulations.
“We appreciate everything that our veterans have created and handed over to us. And these are not only the productions that surround us, but also our traditions, our common spirit, our commitment only to the best results and the solution of any, the most difficult tasks. We are all a team, and we will definitely succeed," said Ilsur Samigullin, the director of the Gasoline Plant.
“On our common holiday, I wish myself and my colleagues to continue to move forward, develop and grow, maintain and multiply leadership positions in the innovation of our productions. I wish that we never leave the familiar and appreciated by every professional feeling of satisfaction with honestly and efficiently performed work. And, of course, prosperity to the families of TAIF-NK employees and our company as a whole," Aleksey Khramov, the chief engineer of TAIF-NK JSC, said in his congratulation
“This year we decided not to hold large-scale celebrations. We will celebrate the anniversary with what we know how to do best: honest work, technology improvement, and the search for new production solutions. Of course, our veterans and honoured workers will not be left without attention. We will definitely meet with them and congratulate them. We will distinguish particularly distinguished specialists with memorable gifts and diplomas," Maxim Novikov shared in an interview. He also added: “Taking this opportunity, from the pages of Realnoe Vremya, I would like to sincerely congratulate all employees of TAIF-NK JSC on the birthday of our company. We are 25 years. Over this period, we have achieved high indicators. We are really an enterprise that you can be proud of. Thank you for your honest work and for your contribution to the great and important business of oil refining. Thank you to our shareholder for that there is the enterprise such as TAIF-NK in Russia. I sincerely wish you and your families well-being. Power for good! We have everything ahead.
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