Investment in Harmful Emissions

One of the largest chemical enterprises in Russia, Togliattiazot, has reduced emissions by three times, and is not going to stop at it. Best available technology facilitate both the “greening” of production and production efficiency improvement.

Togliattiazot (TOAZ) is working hard on the construction of a new urea unit with a capacity of 2,200 tons per day (800,000 tons a year) at its plant in Togliatti. The application of advanced technology at the new production facilities will allow for a significant decline in the level of air emissions. TOAZ invests RUB 25 billion in its construction project, while production capacity for urea are expected to grow by 70 %.

Based in Togliatti, the world’s largest ammonia plant continues to ramp up its output, the latter being significant enough already. Constructed in the late 1970s, from the very beginning the plant, a state-of-the-art facility at the time, has operated to stringent environmental standards, and today it keeps investing in most efficient and safe industrial technology as well.

At the moment TOAZ is about to finalise its strategic program for the modernisation of production facilities until 2022. Within this program, the enterprise is carrying out major repairs and revamping of all production facilities, including seven ammonia units and two urea units, two one-of-a-kind insulated tanks for the storage of liquid ammonia, 30,000 tons each, biological treatment facilities and railroad infrastructure.

New Chemistry

Last autumn TOAZ launched the construction of a third urea unit which will allow for an increase in urea output from 3,000 to 5,200 tons per day. This project was developed in cooperation with Casale S. A. (Switzerland) and the Design and Research Institute of Urea and Organic Synthesis Products (Russia) and takes advantage of cutting-edge technology in the area of environmental and industrial safety. These technology implies using carbon dioxide formed in ammonia production as raw material in obtaining finished products at the new unit of Togliatti-based ammonia plant. As a result, Togliattiazot expects the environmental emissions of this gas to be minimised.

Urea is mainly used as a fertilizer, which is the next stage in ammonia production. The global urea output amounts to 100 million tons a year, with TOAZ having a 2 % share in the global market. Urea production requires two components, such as ammonia and carbon dioxide, which enter into a chemical reaction at a temperature of 130–140 °С and a pressure of 200 atmospheres. For this reason, urea production is combined with ammonia production. The main resource for ammonia production, in turn, is natural gas. It is involved in the production of 70 % of all ammonia in the world (25 % is produced from gasified coal). In terms of output, ammonia production is one of the largest in the chemical industry. Ammonia is produced in liquid form or as aqueous solution, i. e. ammonia water.

TOAZ is the largest ammonia producer not only in Russia, but also worldwide. There are only two other enterprises in the world comparable to TOAZ in terms of capacity (over three million tons a year at one site). The main use of ammonia is as a source of nitrogen for the production of fertilizers. Besides, the component is widely used in the production of plastic, explosives, organic nitrogen compounds (hydrazine, amines, amides, nitriles). Ammonia is used in the production of paints, pharmaceuticals, in medicine.

Gaseous ammonia forms explosive mixtures with air. Therefore, ammonia synthesis is qualified as a hazardous industrial activity. To ensure safe operation of equipment, it is critical to provide uninterrupted power supply, carry out all activities in strict compliance with the regulations, as well as perform diagnostic measurements and well-timed maintenance operations.

Industrial safety enhancement is what the investment program of TOAZ with a budget of over RUB 32 billion over the past six years is aimed at. In fact, a new plant has been built in these years.

Environmental Protection As a Point of Investment

The chemical industry has traditionally been perceived as particularly dirty: industrial activities has a negative environmental impact due to air emissions, discharges and waste products. So enhanced regulation of chemical enterprises is a worldwide trend. Russia is no exception. Pressure on the chemical industry is increasingly exerted by both regulatory authorities and the public. And if the former initiate inspections (for example, last year more than 1,800 air samples were collected at the industrial site of TOAZ and in the buffer zone), the latter simply raise claims against major market players for any environmental issues in the vicinity of their enterprises, including ones they have nothing to do with.

At the same time, it is major market players who approach the issue of care for the environment in a particularly responsible way: their operations are thoroughly regulated by public authorities, while environmental payments are tangible, considering their outputs. Additionally, it is big, well-established enterprises who have resources and funds for modernisation and environmental safety improvement.

In 2018, TOAZ managed to achieve a significant reduction in the air emission of pollutants to 2,470 tons, which is 60 % lower versus the past year (4,190 tons). The ratio of actual emissions to the maximum permissible level decreased to 33 %, while in 2017 it was 56 %. For TOAZ the maximum permissible level is 7,430 tons a year and it is set by Samara Regional Administration of Rosprirodnadzor on an annual basis.

“In the modernisation of its production facilities and design of new industrial assets, TOAZ is guided by the so-called best available technology, and our specialists took part in the preparation of a relevant reference book. Consequently, we select bet technology available at the time of design. The return on the implementation of technology indented to improve the environmental status should be estimated using indirect factors. For example, savings in terms of resources — both financial, such as payments for excessive emissions, and natural, such as natural gas,” representatives of TOAZ told Expert.

Starting from 1 January 2019 as part of the Ecology national project, the requirement for continuous automatic control over harmful emissions at category one facilities having a negative environmental impact was imposed at the legislative level. Togliattiazot will be the first enterprise in Togliatti to implement such a control system.

To monitor the quality of ambient air, TOAZ uses an in-house industrial laboratory, which collects air samples at the sources of air emissions, in the buffer zone of the enterprise and at the site on a daily basis. The indicators are also monitored by the accredited laboratory of the Centre for Laboratory Analysis and Metrology in the Volga Federal District. As mentioned before, more than 1,800 air samples were collected during the year 2018. The levels of all controlled substances were within the limits.

Equipment immediately involved in the production process is not the only driver mitigating adverse environmental impacts. In the recent years TOAZ has invested substantial amounts of finance in water treatment facilities. The biological treatment facilities (BTF) do not only receive effluents from the industrial site of TOAZ, but also ensures canalisation of wastewater from Komsomolsky District of Togliatti and the village of Povolzhsky, as well as from the Severny Industrial Hub, where other chemical enterprises of the city are concentrated. The BTF complex has been expanded with an ultraviolet water purifier, whereas earlier water disinfection involved gaseous chloride, which was unsafe. After treatment, purified wastewater is transported via header pipes into the Volga, like effluents from other treatment facilities in Togliatti.

However the modernisation of the BTF is more than just that. In the coming years, another five billion roubles will be invested in treatment facilities, and this project is a priority for TOAZ. “The primary goal in our further work is to improve the quality of water after treatment, the second goal is to implement technology that allows switching to the plant water recirculation mode if required. Trials have already been finalised on the pilot unit, and the treatment technology has been tested, with the project feasibility study in progress at the moment,” say company representatives.

Modernisation Can Only Be Started

Togliattiazot is one the largest chemical enterprises in Russia. Its products are in steady demand all over the world. As of the end of last year, company sales grew by 27 % to a total of RUB 53.5 billion. Net profit amounted to RUB 7.1 billion (over eight times more than in 2017).

The key production facilities at TOAZ are represented by units which were put into operation in 1979–1988. Since 2012 TOAZ has been running a large-scale modernisation program to improve the level of technology and enhance performance in the field of environmental and industrial safety. This strategy enables the company to plan capital investment in modernisation and reconstruction without losing production capacity and, therefore, market share. Moreover, step-by-step modernisation allows the company to use depreciation charges as a source of finance without excessive debt burden for the company. It drives company performance, helps ramp up production and, ultimately, contributes to better economic and environmental indicators over the entire chain in the production of ammonia and nitrogen fertilizers.

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