Covid awareness promotion: how healthcare relates to petrochemistry

Oil is not only the most popular commodity, but also its components are used to produce a huge number of consumer goods. Almost everything that you hold in your hands, that surrounds you now — is goods made from petrochemicals. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the editorial board has analyzed what medical materials and products are made from petrochemicals. How closely modern medicine, chemistry and petrochemistry are intertwined — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

More masks and antiseptics

Earlier in the week at the Government House of the Republic of Tatarstan chaired by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov held a regular meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding. In closed session with the widest possible seating of participants, mandatory hand disinfection at the entrance with antiseptics and the use of masks. This is the demand of time and the ongoing pandemic.

“In order to cover the sharply soared demand for antiseptics, masks and other 'goods of coronavirus demand', many companies of the petrochemical complex urgently set up the production of new types of products," Rafinat Yarullin, the director general of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding JSC, said in his report.

He stressed that KAMAZ, Tatelektromash, Tatneft and especially Nizhnekamskneftekhim were taking an active part in this area. The Nizhnekamskneftekhim's subsidiary, Polymatiz, has multiplied its production of non-woven materials for the manufacture of disposable medical coats, protective suits and medical masks. Since April 12, the production of masks and own materials has been established on the automated line purchased by petrochemists.

Production of rubber bands for such masks was launched by KVART enterprise using Tatarstan synthetic rubbers, one of the largest suppliers of which in Russia and the world is also Nizhnekamskneftekhim. By the way, Nizhnekamskneftekhim has developed a technology for producing its own antiseptic based on the WHO recommendation. Currently, all the necessary paperwork is being done for the organization of its industrial production.

The president himself had already mentioned masks and antiseptics more than once, who personally visited the production facilities of Tatarstan back in March. However, the petrochemical industry is not only the materials for masks and antibacterial and antiviral solutions. In the first quarter of 2020, the volume of production of detergents has also increased, and Kazanorgsintez PJSC has increased the production of polycarbonate, ethylene and polyethylene by 3%, and more plastics are now produced. All these products are actively used by enterprises that produce special equipment for the health care system and medical products.

Oil refining and petrochemistry — in everything

According to the dry lines of reference books: petrochemistry is a complex of technological processes for converting oil and natural gas hydrocarbons into useful products and materials. In reality, all other industries are inextricably linked to the efficiency of this huge industry.

You can't do without petrochemical products anywhere: frames and parts of highly sophisticated equipment, spare parts of cars, ships, trains and planes, fuel, due to which transport moves and big energy industry works, and houses, factories and social facilities receive heat, clothing for people and paints for equipment and structures, special mixtures for road construction and building materials, surgical prostheses and special threads for sewing wounds, medicines and antiseptics… That is why it is so important to maintain and ensure the smooth operation of the enterprises such as Kazanorgsintez PJSC and Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC — the flagships of Russian petrochemical and chemical industry, as well as oil refiners such as TAIF-NK JSC, which provides petrochemists with raw materials for production and power engineers of TGC-16, which supply all these capacities with heat and electricity.

Literally in everything that surrounds us, there are results of the work of oil refiners and petrochemists: in metallurgy, automobile and mechanical engineering, road and housing construction, agricultural complex, food industry, science, sports, education, and finally medicine. During the coronavirus pandemic, the world has felt this especially keenly. But even now, many people do not fully understand how important and necessary petrochemistry is for each of us. Every day.

Petrochemistry in medicine and surgery

The prospects for using petrochemical products in medical practice are limitless. This can be seen in a simple and daily example: a surgeon entering the operating room puts on a disposable coat made of non-woven material. It is possible that of those made at Tatarstan's Polymatiz, from polypropylene, produced at the line of Nizhnekamskneftekhim PJSC. His face is covered by a medical mask, also made of non-woven material, tightly fitting, thanks to elastic ties, which are based on synthetic rubber, the largest manufacturer in Russia and the world of which is Nizhnekamskneftekhim. On the hands — surgical gloves made using synthetic silicone, the eyes are protected by glasses made of polycarbonate — another product of petrochemistry, bright, cold light is provided by special lamps, the patient's life during the operation is supported by special equipment, and the other helps to monitor the patient's condition — and in each of these devices — dozens of elements produced from petrochemicals. For faster wound healing, a modern, self-absorbing suture nylon thread is used. This is also a product of companies such as Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Elastic bandages or a special corset made of synthetic material will fix the place of surgery and help you recover faster.

And this is only what is visible and ostensibly. Polymers are used in the production of thousands of different types of medical devices. For example, the production of disposable syringes has long been established around the world from high-temperature resistant polymers — propylene, which is also produced at Nizhnekamskneftekhim.

Modern people even forgot that two or three decades ago, to make an injection, they had to heat reusable glass syringes, which not only lengthened the procedure time but also did not always guarantee safety. Polymers are the basis of modern systems for blood transfusion, they are used in artificial blood circulation and artificial kidney devices, spatulas and applicators are made from them. A wide range of work is being carried out on the synthesis of physiologically active polymer drugs, semi-synthetic hormones and enzymes, and synthetic genes. The creation of copolymer substitutes for human blood plasma allows, if necessary, up to a third of the blood transfused to the patient to be filled with solutions of medical copolymers.

Synthetic substitutes for various human tissues and organs — bones, joints, teeth — have been synthesized and used in clinical practice with good results. Polymers made on the basis of acrylic and methacrylic acids and used to replace the hip joint and skull bone defects have proved to be the best in the field of prosthetics.

Prosthetic blood vessels, artificial valves and ventricles of the heart have been created. The development, manufacture and application of elastic tubes made of synthetic fibers marked a new stage in vascular surgery. Prosthetics has become one of the most common types of reconstructive operations on the vascular, mainly arterial system.

The synthesis of semi-permeable polymer membranes led to the creation of devices “artificial heart-lung” and “artificial kidney”, which allow temporarily replacing human organs, for example, during complex surgical procedures on the heart and lungs. Polymers and copolymers are used for the cultivation of cells and tissues necessary for operations, for the storage and preservation of blood, bone marrow, and skin. The polyethylene produced by Kazanorgsintez is becoming more and more widely used in medicine. It has a high strength, flexibility and elasticity and is completely non-toxic.

Petrochemicals are the main material for healthcare system

The use of polymers for the manufacture of medical devices and instruments, items for the prevention of diseases and patient care, special dishes, containers and sterile packaging for medicines, has significantly improved the efficiency of the health system as a whole. It opened up new opportunities in surgery and medical treatment, increased the speed of rehabilitation of patients after complex surgical interventions, and brought transplantology and orthopedics to a completely new level. Using specific examples of the application of TAIF Group's petrochemicals, we will tell you how and how much petrochemicals are necessary for modern medicine.

Acetone is known to everyone. It is produced by both the largest chemical enterprises of the group — Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim. In addition to its usual role as a solvent for lacquers and paints, it is also actively used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. And medicinal films produced using this volatile compound are an effective alternative to medical bandage and stickers (patches) designed to protect surgical wounds and sutures.

Isopropanol, another petrochemical product, is used in the production of acetone. And it itself, being absolutised, found use in the manufacture of medical alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and in the production of pharmaceuticals. It is also one of the key components of antiseptics that have been developed and are now being certified at Nizhnekamskneftekhim.

Synthetic phenol is another product of TAIF petrochemical enterprises. It takes a place of honour among the antiseptics used by modern medicine that destroy bacteria, protozoa and viruses, and is excellent for surface disinfection. In the form of soap-carbolic solution, it disinfects large areas: premises, transport. But this is not the only thing it is known for. Phenol and its derivatives are an important component in the production of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antipyretic, laxative, adrenolytic, astringent and other drugs. Phenol also helps to preserve vaccines, serums, and injectables for longer.

Diethanolamine. This substance is produced both at Kazanorgsintez (used in organic synthesis technology) and at Nizhnekamskneftekhim, where it is in high demand in the production of synthetic rubber. But in addition, diethanolamine is the basis of the strongest bacteriostatic antibiotic, literally saving people from severe bacterial infections, sepsis, osteomyelitis, pneumonia, lung abscess, otitis, skin and soft tissue infections, infected wounds and burns. It is the last resort for infections caused by strains of staphylococcus resistant even to penicillin and other known antibiotics.

Few people know that even the raw material for the production of well-known iodine is obtained through chemical reaction during the production of ethylene carbonate at Kazanorgsintez PJSC. No hospital or clinic can do without a by-product of the interaction of ethylene oxide with carbon dioxide, where potassium iodide acts as a catalyst. It is present in the medical rooms of kindergartens and schools, in every apartment or house, and necessarily in the first-aid kit.

Propylene glycol. In pharmaceutics, this product is actively used as a filler and carrier of the active substance in medicines and a moisturizer for external medicines, including creams.

Carboxymethyl cellulose. This product is actively used in the food, perfume and medical industries. Pharmaceutical substances are manufactured using it: in the production of tablets, it is used for encapsulation and tableting of active substances. When making ointments, the substance gives the mixture the necessary consistency.

Ethanol is one of the most effective antiseptics. Besides, the product has high disinfecting and drying properties. It can be used as a solvent for medicinal products in the preparation of tinctures and extracts, as well as as a preservative for extracts. When oxygen is supplied during artificial ventilation, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is used as a defoamer.

Polymethylmethacrylate is a material from which not only transparent plastic film is made, including for aircraft windows, but also transparent doors for furniture and shower cabins, pipes and bottles. The uniqueness of polymethylmethacrylate is that it is compatible with bone tissues and serves as a material for making endoprostheses of femoral head, humerus and femur.

Polypropylene. In addition to the well-known disposable syringes, for medicine, this material supplies biologically inert suture thread used in surgery. But this is not all. It is actively used in the production of equipment for droppers (tube, liquid bag, dosing device), it is also used to produce medical film. The ability to withstand high temperatures for a long time, resistance to corrosion and resistance to deformation under load make polypropylene an ideal material, for example, for the manufacture of inhaler bodies and other medical equipment. What is also important, it is necessary in the manufacture of parts of artificial heart valves and vascular prostheses.

Polyurethanes help save those who have complex cardiovascular diseases. This material is used to create artificial heart chambers, as well as intravascular cylinders. And from polycarbonate, the only manufacturer of which in Russia is Kazanorgsintez PJSC — the body parts of artificial heart ventricles. Besides, due to its properties such as relatively small specific gravity, heat resistance, impact resistance and elasticity, as well as the ability to transmit light and x-rays, polycarbonate is one of the most popular plastics in the manufacture of parts and components, as well as frames for medical equipment.

ABS plastic produced by both Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim is one of the most commonly used materials in the manufacture of medical equipment parts and medical suitcase cases.

Butyl rubber. Corks made of it provide reliable protection of medicines in vials and bottles. Besides, along with other synthetic rubbers produced TAIF Group, it has proven its effectiveness in the production of rubber products and parts for medical equipment.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is widely used in the production of packaging for medicines and medical devices. It is used for catheters, feeding tubes, surgical masks, surgical fixing splints, gloves, pressure measuring devices, as well as bags and containers for storing and transporting blood and internal organs, medical solutions and dialysis.

Butyl acetate — the product of conversion of butyl alcohol, in turn, obtained from propylene — is actively used in the pharmaceutical industry as a solvent for medicines.

It is impossible to make an x-ray image without polyester resins, which are used in the manufacture of the special film.

Silicones and silicone compounds are actively used in surgery — for contour plastic surgery and artificial organ devices. Polyacrylates are used in vascular surgery. Polyamides are used in the manufacture of prosthetics and special surgical threads.

It is difficult to describe the entire breadth of use in medicine of polyethylene, the largest producer of which in Russia is Kazanorgsintez PJSC. For example, high-pressure polyethylene is extremely necessary when creating the devices “artificial kidney”, “artificial heart-lungs”. Another type of polyethylene — Lavsan, has become an unsurpassed material in terms of characteristics when creating special tapes for plasticizing tendons and ligaments. High-density polyethylene is widely used in the manufacture of parts of medical devices and instruments, laboratory equipment and cases-sterilizers, in the creation of patient care items. Low-density polyethylene has proven itself as a material for the manufacture of soft containers for various purposes, connecting tubes for medical equipment, prosthetic and orthopedic products. Disposable syringes made of such polyethylene are in high demand by emergency medical teams, as well as law enforcement, military and rescue workers, which make it possible to quickly give, for example, a seriously injured person an injection of painkillers and thus save him from pain shock.

Almost all types of products produced by oil refining, petrochemical and chemical enterprises of TAIF Group, in one way or another, either directly themselves, or their derivatives and products of further processing, are useful to medicine or related industries. That is why, observing the maximum protection regime, transferring part of the team to remote work, the group's enterprises continue to work, doing everything to maintain the pace and volume of petrochemical production in the whole country and the world.

By Arseny Favstritsky