During a working visit in Munich the President of the Republic of Tatarstan had a meeting with the management of a company, which had been a partner of TAIF Group for multiple years, and discussed possible joint projects to be implemented in the republic.
The management of TAIF Group introduced its long-term partner in Munich — Linde, a German group - with which a Tatar holding has long-standing strong relationships, to Rustam Minnikhanov, the President of Tatarstan. In the framework of a two-day visit to the capital of Bavaria, the President visited the company's engineering center, learned about new developments and later had a personal discussion with Aldo Bellloni, Linde's CEO. A landmark occasion was also the meeting between the partners and Rustam Minnikhanov, on the one side, and Horst Seehofer, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, on the other side, which was held behind closed doors. A correspondent of Realnoye Vremya observed the development of the relations between the two partners and learned about other projects that can be implemented in the republic by the proposal of the President of Tatarstan.
Rustam Minnikhanov visited the site of TAIF's German partner
On May 4-5, a Tatarstan delegation with Rustam Minnikhanov, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, and the management of TAIF PSC headed by Albert Shigabutdinov, General Director, visited Munich within the framework of a working visit. The visit agenda included a visit to Linde, a German group, a meeting with Professor Dr. Aldo Belloni, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Linde, and also a joint visit to Horst Seehofer, the Prime Minister of Bavaria.
It's no mere coincidence that such a high-level delegation came to Munich. Linde is a long-term partner of TAIF Group and is known in the republic for the construction of a number of large production facilities carried out for the Tatarstan holding. In particular, the solutions supplied by the German group can be found at Kazanorgsintez, where they supplied cracking furnaces processing propane-butane fraction, as well as at Nizhnekamskneftekhim, where the ?-SABLIN process was implemented during modernization of a linear alpha olefins production plant (LAO Plant). The technology allows production of highly sought-after light grades of linear alpha olefins. The LAO Plant built in Nizhnekamsk is the second ?-SABLIN-based production unit in the world. The first one was built in Saudi Arabia in 2006. Today, the work on other ambitious facility continues in cooperation with Linde, too, which is the commissioning of a hydrogen plant for the Heavy Residue Conversion Complex at the site of TAIF-NK.
The meeting of TAIF and Linde in Munich was the second one over a few months. This time a German company invited the delegation from Tatarstan to one of its divisions, namely, the Engineering Center, where its new engineering solutions were presented. A 3D modeling technology was presented to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan and the leadership of TAIF Group through the example of a natural gas separation and treatment unit and a helium liquefier that are under construction at Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant. Rustam Minnikhanov was offered to test the technology; for this purpose he had to wear virtual reality glasses and hold a special remote control device in his hands. This device enabled him to walk through a virtual model of the plant.
This new technology was also tested by Vladimir Busygin, Deputy General Director for Management and Strategic Development of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, TAIF PSC. The three-dimensional model of the plant allows visualizing the final version of the plant, which is currently under construction, enables one to get inside it and see all small technical details. In addition, it allows to simulate possible emergencies and seek the ways to respond them while staying by the monitor. This 3D technology is used in the plant engineering; also it will be applied for further training of operating staff.
Fuel out of the air with an eye to the future
After the presentation of the 3D modeling technology, the delegation was familiarized with another development of the company - hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Rustam Minnikhanov and Albert Shigabutdinov personally sat behind the wheel to test this new product. There are such integral pros of the product as efficiency and environmental friendliness. 1 kg of hydrogen is enough for 100 km, and the new technology allows minimizing mechanical losses and addressing the problem of hazardous emissions. A hydrogen-fueled engine has a 150 horsepower capacity. Hydrogen is stored in a tank under a 700 bar pressure and then is supplied to a chemical reactor, in which, finally, electricity is generated.
The advantages of this car go beyond just efficiency and environmental friendliness - thus, the engine has two power sources: in addition to the hydrogen tank, there is also a battery used in case of a short-distance trip. There are also difficulties arising during the development and implementation, mainly related to the lack of infrastructure and, as a consequence, high cost of fuel. Today, 5 kg of hydrogen cost 75 euros.
‘This is a breakthrough technology, but currently there are problems with infrastructure - the number of gas stations is insufficient,’ said Thomas Schifer, manager of hydrogen technology development at Linde Engineering. The specialist is convinced, however, that the future belongs to this technology.
In order to promote non-hazardous and more cost-effective type of transportation among the local population, Linde Engineering has developed a special application for mobile phone, through which one can rent a hydrogen car and test it. Today, such car manufacturers as Toyota, Honda and Hyundai use this technology.
The third site to visit was a test area with laboratories and a semi-commercial pilot plant for testing of a new catalyst for synthesis gas. Thus, before implementing an engineering solution just at the production facility, Linde Engineering runs tests at a smaller replica of the plant.
Tatarstan as one of the sites for Linde's development
Later, a dialog between the top managers of Linde, the leadership of Tatarstan and TAIF Group took place in the Linde’s headquarters. The team of Linde's top managers receiving the delegation was headed personally by Aldo Belloni, new CEO of the group, who replaced Mr. Wolfgang B?chele.
Having said it was a great honor to welcome the guests from Tatarstan, Aldo Belloni opened the meeting with mentioning key performance indicators of the company. Thus, the turnover of Linde Engineering is EUR 2-2.5 billion per year. In turn, the turnover of Linde Gas is EUR 15 billion per year. The headcount of the Engineering Division is between 6 and 7 thousand professionals, and in the Industrial Gases Division - up to 60 thousand people.
'Our centers with engineering specialists are mainly concentrated in Germany, Asia and China. As far as our Industrial Gases Division is concerned — its branches are scattered all over the world, including Russia,' Mr. Belloni said. Totally 75 branches of Linde Gas are located in big countries. Taking into account small states, however, their number reaches 320.
The company places strong focus on its development, that's why, for example, 10-13% of sales revenue is invested in the Industrial Gases Division annually.
'Currently, we invest some EUR 2 billion in the gas business. We own and operate hundreds of air separation units and about a hundred carbon dioxide plants. Here in Munich, we develop the best methods of operation for these units,' the company's CEO told.
Linde has also 9 remote operating centers all around the world, from where the engineers support and operate over a hundred plants. For example, the operating centre located in the Eastern Germany operates over 50 plants located in Holland, Austria, and Italy.
The idea of the operations centres was of interest to the President Rustam Minnikhanov, who got down to business immediately and suggested that the long-standing partner of TAIF Group considers the possibility of establishing such a centre in Tatarstan. The President noted that establishing of an operation center in the republic will be much cheaper than, for example, in the Czech Republic.
In response, Mr. Belloni mentioned that at the moment Linde was just looking for new inexpensive sites for their operation centres. He stated that the best place to establish such a centre would be the areas where Linde's plants are in operation already. In Tatarstan, the plants built by a German company operate already at the sites of Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Kazanorgsintez, and one unit is erected at TAIF-NK.
As a prerequisite for localization of the group, he mentioned its active presence in Tatarstan as a gas company. According to Mr. Belloni, during the previous visit of Albert Shigabutdinov, TAIF PSC's General Director, the idea was announced to create a pipeline network in Tatarstan, which will link all the resources in the republic. The speaker noted that this network could form a "core" for the operation centre.
In its turn, the President of Tatarstan, in addition to localization, suggested establishing of a training centre at the premises of the Kazan University Technological University jointly with Linde to train professional staff and open several joint labs at the premises of this educational institution.
‘Our paths are similar. You run business in the petrochemistry and gas segment, and we see ourselves as the center of the petrochemical industry in Russia in the coming 20-30 years. We have a good industrial base, raw materials, and also an educational base, which must be adapted now to new challenges. And it would be a good idea if you could consider the possibility of creating a joint R&D center on the basis of TAIF. We shall move towards a strategic partnership rather than just one-off transactions,’ said Rustam Minnikhanov.
The President of Tatarstan offered the top managers of Linde to think also about localization of the manufacturing of certain equipment at the enterprises of the republic's machine-building complex.
‘We fully share your vision of a long-term cooperation and, actually, I would like to say that we are already well represented in the Russian market; we own and operate a number of plants located in Togliatti, St. Petersburg and Kaluga,’ Professor Dr. Aldo Belloni responded to the proposal of the President.
In addition, he once again reconfirmed his intention to acquire the hydrogen plant currently being built by Linde at the site of TAIF-NK. According to Mr. Belloni, the discussion of the plant acquisition possibility will continue. However, even during his previous visit to Munich at the beginning of April, TAIF's General Director said the company was willing to sell the hydrogen plant to the licensor after 1-1.5 years of successful operation, and to start using it on the basis of a long-term lease agreement.
With Linde's support to other major partners
TAIF's project of no less scale at the stage of tender, where Linde is also competing for the right to implement the first part thereof, is the construction of an ethylene complex at Nizhnekamskneftekhim. The complex will produce various commodities suitable for further processing. So, after ethylene processing benzene can be produced, which is required for manufacturing of isocyanates. They can be applied further for the production of flexible polyurethane foams and rigid polyurethanes. The former are used for the production of polyurethane foam, seats, mattresses, lacquers, coatings, sealants and adhesives. In turn, the latter are applied for building insulation, refrigeration equipment and pipe insulation.
During the previous meeting in Munich, TAIF approached Linde with a request to mediate in talks with the major players on the idea of launching isocyanates production. At the meeting, Linde's CEO announced that they had discussed the matter with the German Evonik group, whose board he would join in two weeks.
'And we know that you would like in general to increase the number of petrochemical plants in the area of processing. And this has been also discussed with Evonik, a company with a very good reputation,' said the CEO of Linde.
TAIF's interest in further processing is determined by the fact that, in addition to 600 thousand tpa of ethylene at the first stage, the olefin complex will produce also 270 thousand tpa of propylene, 248 thousand tpa of benzene, 89 thousand tpa of butadiene and other intermediate products that must be converted into high value-added products. Linde's CEO noted that he got a positive response from the company and the representatives of Linde will organize a meeting between TAIF and Evonik in order to discuss the technologies this company owns. According to Mr. Belloni, by joining Evonik's Supervisory Board he will be able to support this initiative.
As far as Linde's further participation in construction of the ethylene complex at Nizhnekamskneftekhim is concerned, the parties agreed that a final decision will be made during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which will take place on June 1-3, this year.