Green Investments as Development Driver for the Pobuzhskiy Ferronickel Plant

Green Investments as Development Driver for the Pobuzhskiy Ferronickel Plant  

Natural gas in Ukraine is in short supply.  Consequently, the implementation of energy-saving technology is becoming a major priority for all industrial manufacturers in the country, and companies that have taken appropriate steps to prepare themselves in this way have already begun to reap the benefit.  Pobuzhskiy Ferronickel Plant (PFP), currently the only specialist producer of ferronickel within Ukraine and the CIS, has executed an exemplary “green” transition. The company's investment in developing modern, more energy-efficient, technology totalled over $15m during 2013-2014 alone, with a further UAH 9m invested in introducing environmental initiatives over the last five years.

Like many similar facilities in the region, Pobuzhskoe was built during the Soviet era (1964). At the time of the project specification approval, the Soviet Council of Ministers of course did not even begin to consider the energy-efficiency or environmental impact of the facility.  However, with the dawn of the 21st century, growing awareness of environmental issues and shifting global trends, it became increasingly apparent that PFP needed to change its approach in order to continue to compete in the international market.  In 2003, Solway Investment Group came on board as investors, and the company focus was immediately shifted to developing and establishing energy-saving and environmentally-friendly technologies at the Plant.
At time of writing, PFP is a waste-free industrial facility. Thanks to the UAH 9m invested in its “ecological” modernisation, PFP’s industrial waste is now absolutely safe for both the environment and for human health.
The company has found a number of successful methods for using its waste in positive ways; firstly, the waste is used in old quarries to stimulate the renewal and fertilisation of the soil, therefore improving the environmental situation in the area. PFP’s waste can also be used to make abrasives and electrodes for various industries, including the iron and steel industry.
Another major advancement is PFP's modernised water supply system which recycles water and thus cuts down on the flow of wastewater into natural water bodies. It is worth highlighting that the company works in cooperation with local farmers, and assists in the irrigation of their farmlands by pumping water from the Southern Bug River.
Furthermore, PFP continues to develop its green initiatives.  This is made possible because of favourable government policy towards enterprises in the mining and metal producing industry.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Energy Matters was signed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in 2014, which gave Solway Investment Group confidence that the government are committed to promoting the development of domestic metal producers, despite the current economic instability.

Part of the MoU policy saw a decrease in the cost of electric energy, which made it possible for Solway Investment Group to further invest in modernising the Plant. In particular, investment was made into protecting the lining of the ore thermal furnaces’ walls from being overheated by slags during the charging process.  Consequently, the electric power of the furnaces has been increased, and there has been a significant increase in production output – 21,000t of nickel was produced in ferronickel alloy in 2013, while expected production output for 2014 is 22,000 t. In addition, one of the two ore thermal furnaces at PFP was totally upgraded according to the specifications developed by well-known Canadian organisation,HATCH.  This upgrade increased the electric power up to 10 %.
Most crucially, the new technology at PFP has meant a reduction in its dependency on natural gas supplies; the Plant now operates partially using an energy source made in Ukraine, replacing use of natural gas with pulverised coal. In total, in 2013 the company consumed 85,500,000m3 of natural gas and 105,000 t of coal.
PFP is now fully integrated into the manufacturing process of a large international investment group, Solway International Group, which was established in 1992 and has a diverse portfolio of investments with assets in mining, iron, steel, the IT industry – as well as in property. The Group is based in Switzerland and has major assets in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific region. According to experts it is due to Solway’s substantial and tightly linked network of enterprises that PFP can successfully compete with the world's leading metal producers, despite a global deficit of ore.
The most pressing concern at present is Indonesia’s restriction on exporting nickel ore, imposed in January 2014.  According to a number of estimates, this export ban will slash global supplies of nickel by 12%. The Citigroup analysts estimate that the effect of the nickel supply shortage on the global market will be most evident in the coming years 2015-2018.

PFP is fully prepared to handle such challenges.  Despite global ore shortage, Solway International Group guarantees a continuous supply of the raw material required to fulfil the quantitative, qualitative, and economic parameters of the PFP production plan. The goals are well within reach, thanks to the diverse and synergetic companies in Solway’s portfolio, that together reduce the impact of international economic factors on the operations of the fellow Solway enterprises.

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Project manager - Volodymyr Grynov