Sibur: Ramp up of trial TPE production at Voronezh site

Sibur has announced in 21 April that it is ramping up trial SBS production at its Voronezh site in accordance with the project schedule. The Russian company said that thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are a unique material, which can significantly improve the quality of output in road construction, roof coating and footwear production, and other industries.

Unit for drying and purification of raw materials and solvents at the Voronezhsintezkauchuk TPE site (Source: Sibur)

The new capacities are set to meet demand in special segments, such as compounds and glues. Thus, in 2020 Sibur’s product portfolio will include five new SBS grades, sought after in the footwear, automotive, and packaging industries, as well as in the production of household goods (e.g., hygiene products and items in close contact with food).

The company launched the investment project to increase the production of TPE for road construction, roof coating production and other industries by 50 ktpa in the second half of 2018. The project relied on available government support provided on several levels: municipal and regional support under the Special Investment Contract (SPIC) with the Government of the Voronezh Region and the Administration of the City of Voronezh, and federal support under the agreement on the implementation of the Corporate Competitiveness Improvement Programme (CCIP) with the Russian Ministry for Industry and Trade.

The use of cutting-edge technologies in line with the best global practices for project construction will ensure that TPE production will meet environmental standards. A German air purification plant makes TPE production environmentally friendly. The plant’s pollutant removal efficiency is 99 %. The project’s general designer was NIPIgaspererabotka, a leading Russian research centre for facility design, procurement, logistics, and construction in the petrochemical industry. Promstroi played the role of the projects’s general contractor.

In January 2020, the Voronezh site (Voronezhsintezkauchuk) completed the construction phase and produced the first tonne of TPE. Since then, the plant has produced 3,000 t of TPE and is proceeding with the homologation of new product grades. With the current TPE output, the total design capacity of Voronezhsintezkauchuk is set to increase to 135 ktpa.

“Thermoplastic elastomers are a unique polymer product with an excellent market potential in the modern world. They are in high demand, and with our additional production capacity we will be able to meet the demand in both the Russian and foreign markets. Other advantages of our TPE investment project include excellent environmental properties of the production process and the product itself, additional tax revenue for the regional budget and an increase in exports from Voronezh Region,” said Pavel Lyakhovich, member of the Management Board and Managing Director at Sibur.

One of TPE’s key application areas is the production of polymer-bitumen binders (PBBs), which are part of the road pavement’s top layer. PBBs help extend time between repairs and the life of pavement from 3-4 years to 7-10 years, while also improving its crack, heat, shear, water and cold resistance. Other benefits include cutting maintenance expenses almost by half, increasing the road’s surface life some 2.5 times, improving traffic safety and, ultimately, expanding road capacity – all due to fewer repairs.

Despite the unfavourable situation with the spread of COVID-19, Sibur did not postpone the start of trial production. To minimise the risk of virus spreading and support continuous plant operation, the company said that Voronezhsintezkauchuk took all necessary preventive measures as early as in March.