Russian polycarbonates expand capacities

The only Russian manufacturer of these polymers managed to perform modernisation even amid the pandemic

The complicated situation in the world and Russian industry didn’t impede Kazanorgsintez from continuing the modernisation of its plants. The first stage of modernisation of Polycarbonates Plant began in 2019. The second one kicked off this autumn. Upgraded equipment will allow increasing the capacity of the plant from 70,000 to 90,000-100,000 tonnes a year.

First in Russia and strategically important

Today thanks to thermal stability, high impact resistance and chemical inertia, polycarbonates became deeply ingrained in our life and are actively used in mechanical engineering, electronic and electrical engineering industry, in household appliances and medical devices, gadgets and aircraft engineering, industrial and civil construction.

However, the construction of a polycarbonates plant in the 2000s became not only a big event for Tatarstan but also for the whole country. There were just a few enterprises in the world that produced polycarbonates meeting all strict environmental and sanitary requirements. Moreover, new industrial plants weren’t almost built in Russia at that moment. While the introduction of completely new technology with billions of investments in the production of a promising chemical in general was a real revolution for post-Perestroika Russia.

But licensors didn’t rush to grant their licence. First Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev’s personal contacts went into action, he had good relations with Japan’s Ambassador to Russia Takehiro Togo. In cooperation with Mitsui, it became possible to establish relationships with Asahi Kasei Corporation and agree with it to purchase the technology and licence on phosgene-free polycarbonate production. There are almost no residues, and components that are harmful to health and nature aren’t used due to such technology.

Ethylene oxide, carbon dioxide, bisphenol A become the feedstock in polycarbonate production. The latter is a key component to manufacture polycarbonate, this is why a bisphenol A plant was built simultaneously to provide the enterprise with the feedstock.

The construction of the new plant and specialists’ training was almost simultaneous. 30 people headed to Taiwan to master the production of the new good. The construction of the polycarbonates plant with a capacity of 65,000 tonnes a year ended in 2008. After reaching the peak capacity, the Kazan enterprise began producing five basic grades of polycarbonates. Precision components, that’s to say, gears, bushings as well as car headlamps, optic lenses, protective sunglasses, filters for blood are made of it. Polycarbonate sheets are used to glaze buildings and sports venues, greenhouses, to make high-impact laminated glass.

The polycarbonate manufactured at Kazanorgsintez is sold in the Russian market and exported, mainly to Asia. The Russian market is specific and differs from the world market. Polycarbonates with Melt Flow Index equal to 6-7g/10 min are in demand here. They are mainly used to produce cellular and sheet polycarbonate, which is needed in construction.

Modernisation without large-scale shutdown

The first ten years of Russian polycarbonate showed that this product would be sought-after in the market, and its demand grew year after year. In these conditions, Kazanorgsintez decided to expand its capacities. Precisely for this reason, the modernisation of the nearly new polycarbonates plant was included in the first years of the enterprise’s Strategic Development Programme. According to Director of Polycarbonates Plant at Kazanorgsintez PJSC Andrey Presnyakov, the main task was to expand the plant’s capacities to 100,000 tonnes a year.

The modernisation was carried out in cooperation with the technology’s licensor — Asahi Kasei Corporation. The design is made by the Russian office of Sulzer Chemtech Ltd, Technochim EC JSC became the subcontractor.

“A prior feasibility study was performed and all the equipment was tested first to determine problems of the unit that impeded the productivity from increasing,” Andrey Presnyakov explains.

The installation of the new equipment was carried out in two stages: in autumn of 2019 and autumn of 2020. Such a decision was made to avoid a long shutdown of the plant. Almost all assembly works and start-up and commissioning took place during scheduled annual maintenance shutdowns. Moreover, such a scheme allowed avoiding a long shutdown of the plant because of the delivery of some high-tech equipment that stretched in time.

A stage in 38 days

So the work on the industrial site during the first stage took just 38 days. Its task was to gradually increase the capacity to 85,000 tonnes a year from September 2019. Heat exchangers, internal contact devices of a part of columns, process control instrumentation were replaced last August and September. The equipment of the granulation unit was completely substituted — new filters, pellet mills with a bigger capacity and Maag’s dryers were installed.

After the first stage, it became possible to achieve steady production of over 88,000 tonnes of polycarbonate a year without losing the quality and preserving operating costs, with no additional environmental impact.

The second stage took place during the scheduled shutdown in the autumn of 2020. It was as fast as the first one.

“During the second stage of the modernisation of the plant, pumps and heat exchangers were replaced. Construction works were done only for the foundations of new pumps,” Director of Polycarbonates Plant Andrey Presnyakov told Realnoe Vremya.

According to Polycarbonates Plant’s chief technologist Renat Zakirov, the environmental impact won’t increase after the scheduled works end and the upgraded plant is launched. The amount of emissions won’t grow as a result of the modernisation because the production technology doesn’t change. The main works on the plant’s modernisation are already over, tests are done. The full capacity is scheduled to be reached in late November.

By Alsu Gusmanova