TAIF-SM director general: ‘I don’t like the word import substitution, we make our own product and, as a rule, better’
The time for opportunities: Russia’s unique polyalphaolefin oil manufacturer increases activity in the niche of industrial oils and lubricants
The geopolitical situation and the constantly growing pressure of sanctions imposed by the collective West on Russia’s economy threw the country’s industry into a dilemma, including in providing factories with quality lubricants. Not so many options are left with the closure of habitual channels: parallel import without guarantee of delivery and the delivery of a necessary product; loss of time and possible risks related to the search and use of available finished analogues; or the creation of a new product considering the specifics and peculiarity of a specific enterprise and equipment use conditions. Read about the situation in the market of industrial oils and lubricants in Russia and the role TAIF-SM, part of TAIF Group, is ready to play in solving the topical problem in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
On the new track
Lubricants stopped being considered just consumables a long time ago. It was proven that the possibilities of raising production efficacy depend on the quality of oils and the effectiveness of choice of lubricants. Events in the recent years have demonstrated the danger of excessive dependence on imports. No matter what case it is: technologies, equipment, feedstock, durability of equipment in enterprises of different sectors. According to FMI’s research, one of the leading global suppliers of specialised indexed reports on market research and comprehensive consultancy services, the world industrial lubricant market will grow by 4.4% a year on average in the next decades. Next year, according to preliminary calculations, the turnover of the segment will total $22.8 billion in monetary terms. Technavio marketing agency assesses that the world market of industrial transmission oils will grow a bit slower, at around 2.95% a year.
During Industrial Oils and Cooling Fluids in Metallurgy, Metal Processing and Mechanical Engineering 2023 B2B congress, which was in Moscow in May 2023, it was said that in 2022 the Russian market of lubricants in general remained at the previous level: 1.73 million tonnes, consumption of lubricants for the industry didn’t change either. At the same time, there is a significant decline in imports of industrial oils and lubricants — by 39%. Supplies of process oils, lubricants, compressor and gearbox oils as well as cooling fluids from abroad fell the most. Import channels keep operating, but they do not always guarantee stability and quality of supplies, which makes consumers switch to a new track, look for ways of replacing imports more actively in the domestic market. There are proposals that are worthy of the most careful attention.
Alexey Osipov: “To make our own, not replace”
“Today is the time of opportunities for Russian lubricant manufacturers such as TAIF-SM. I will specify from the very beginning that I don’t like the word import substitution. We should we replace something if we make our own — unique in many ways, with better, physical, chemical, quality characteristics. Today is the time when the market is partly free of imports, the products that didn’t always attract because of their quality, rather the famous name and advanced marketing. I will say more: sometimes a product used to be made in Russia, exported, was wrapped into a famous brand and imported to us under another name. We can do a lot ourselves, and now we can provide a very serious result,” Director General of TAIF-SM Alexey Osipov expressed his confidence.
“We, TAIF-SM, replace that market of high-tech oils that isn’t interesting to many companies because of the comparably small volume of production and sophisticated production technology,” Vice Director General in Science TAIF-SM Sergey Agabekov added.
The Tatarstan company’s big capabilities provide a unique combination of modern highly effective production and one of the country’s best research and development centres. Besides the laboratory that is responsible for product quality control in the factory, TAIF-SM created its own R&D Centre where unique formulas are developed for specific parameters set by a client. And samples undergo the full cycle of trials: ageing, oxidisation, interaction with catalysts, operating with high loads, amid high and low temperatures. In other words, before being used in some real equipment for the first time, any product is first tested at the R&D Centre in the conditions that are as real as possible.
Moreover, TAIF-SM’s research and production capabilities allow quickly responding to almost any needs of the market.
“The whole market of industrial oils and lubricants can be relatively divided into two parts: the general industry — products for standard gearboxes, compressors and so on, that’s to say, for most part of industrial equipment that is used. But some oils and lubricants have special requirements. We add them to the second group. In other words, general and targeted orders. In general oils and lubricants with polyalphaolefins, we can replace (and we do replace) almost any top-quality European brands from the premium segments as well as with oils and lubricants from the second group,” Sergey Agabekov told Realnoe Vremya’s journalist in an interview.
According to him, it can take from two months to a year for a client to turn to TAIF-SM and finish industrial trials, depending on the difficulty of the task. An accurate selection of materials for specific requirements can have a significant impact of KPA and efficacy of the equipment used by the client.
“Primarily oils and lubricants that are used in strategically important units and the clients themselves must be a hundred per cent sure of need large-scale industrial trials. But I won’t claim that nobody except us can develop such lubricants, but I am sure that we do it faster and better,” noted Sergey Agabekov.
In contact with the consumer
In the case of TAIF-SM, it often turns out that the product created by the Tatarstan company even surpasses initial requests in its performance characteristics. Completing an order well, as soon as possible with a guarantee are keys to success and constant expansion of the company’s clientele. Another significant factor of success is the effective distribution network whose task is not only sell industrial oils and lubricants but also be a reliable link between the producer and consumer.
“Understanding that nowadays the Russian Federation doesn’t have an analogue of the product they have (while those coming through parallel import do not always meet the claimed requirements) the management and specialists of an industrial factory contact our distributor and voice their wishes. The distributor will forward the task to us. This is how the process of developing a new product in our company is launched,” Sergey Agabekov explained in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
One of such distributors of TAIF-SM, moreover, a federal one specialising in the supply of lubricants to energy enterprises is S-Technics from Nizhny Novgorod where there was even created a separate area Onshore Gas Turbines for convenience chaired by Ivan Stepankov.
“In the cooperation with TAIF-SM, we were given a special project in replacing imports of the full range of lubricants for gas turbines and compressors. In other words, it is turbine and compressor oils as well as everything related to these subgroups or interacts with them. We do project works: we come to a client, discuss possibilities of replacing a foreign brand, promote TAIF-SM products, including offering possibilities of a test, analysis and oil price evaluation. This work started in August 221. The first project was signed in October with the Glazov CHPP. We provided the supply of SGT-600 gas turbines,” Ivan Stepankov told Realnoe Vremya’s journalist.
By April 2023, 14 energy generating facilities operated in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, Udmurtia and Tatarstan, Krasnodar and Perm regions, Irkutsk Oblast with the total number of some 30 turbines operated with the involvement of S-Technics alone using TAIF-Sm oils. And these are, in fact, only the first steps, Ivan Stepankov believes:
“Our sales in 2022 reached around 170,000 litres in energy and precisely in TAIF-SM oils. The total market is approximately 3 million litres. We are just at the beginning of this journey. Please take into account that it is not the annual amount but the amount of filled equipment. Today 170,000 of 3 million litres are TAIF-SM products.”
The industrial footprint of TAIF-SM lubricants isn’t limited to energy only.
“Now we are suppliers of Kazanorgsintez,” Director General of TAIF-SM Alexey Osipov said and added, “We can say we are co-producers of polyethylene. A compressor is a responsible unit for the enterprise. There is collaboration with TAIF Group’s companies, TAIF-SM itself is a part of it. Such high-tech companies as TAIF and SIBUR are interested in developing such complex production processes like ours.
“There was a very interesting project for NLMK company in Belgorod Oblast. Tears used to appear in gearboxes of throw screens crushing huge stones. The equipment ran on foreign oil. We analysed the situation and found out that the oil they used was good in general but it had poor anti-tear features. We experimented with additives and designed oil for specific units. The problem was solved,” Sergey Agabekov talked about another success.
Now TAIF-SM’s R&D Centre is designing non-combustible oil for turbine control systems of the Ural Turbine Plant. There has already been created a wide line of hydraulic oils. The so-called Arctic Project also demonstrates successes. Active work with foreign consumers is underway too.
These are not only post-Soviet countries but also remote countries.
“We recently producer compressor oil for Indian compressors, those that supply air to a coal mine. Constant contact with oxygen used to quick oxidisation. To prevent this destructive impact, we created a special composition of antioxidant and detergent additives, which isn’t typical for compressor oils. And here there is another peculiarity: any student of a specialised university knows that compressor oils must be ash-free, that’s to say, there can’t be metals in, but in this case we produced ash compressor oil. About a tonne of such oil is today used in one of the enterprises in Arkhangelsk Oblast,” Sergey Agabekov shared some of such bright examples of success.
Plans and prospects
The company has big plans in the foreseeable future. Besides active development of classical mineral and polyalphaolefin oils, a wide line of polyalkylene glycol oils, which have high thermal and oxidisation resistance. In particular, those designed for hypercompressors of gas and petrochemical factories. A group of chain PAGs, gearbox oils, those designed for gas pumping units and equipment where heat conducting features are critically important.
“A big portfolio of lubricants was factored in the business development strategy from the beginning. Thanks to polyalphaolefins, we can produce a rich range of oils to use in different conditions — from critically low to high temperatures. TAIF-SM plans to expand the product portfolio to 3,000 names. Nowadays their number is around 700,” Sergey Agabekov shared their plans.
Bigger ideas are ahead. Director General of the company Sergey Agabekov told Realnoe Vremya’s journalist about these plans:
“There are oils, there is the top level — additives. Few companies make it even on the global scale. Now we are making our first steps in this area. The feedstock for polyalphaolefins and additives is very similar, and here we won’t have difficulties. We have very serious research groundwork and significant practical experience. The most important thing is that we are ready to master new competencies.”
Huge production capacities will be needed for the new tasks. And according to Sergey Agabekov, work in this area is also done:
“Now the company’s production capacities in lubricants amount to 30,000 tonnes a year. This year we plan to start the project designed to raise the capacity to 45,000 tonnes a year.”