Research and development
In pursuance of its Strategy, the ORLEN Group has engaged in numerous initiatives designed to implement innovative projects and develop unique services, with the underlying objective of building innovation culture along the value chain. In 2015, the ORLEN Group carried out R&D projects relating to the implementation of new products and technologies, as well as those undertaken to comply with regulations on environmental protection and chemicals manufacture and sales.
During the upgrade of the fractional distillation unit at its production plant in Płock, PKN ORLEN used the findings of research on increasing the yields and energy efficiency of the atmospheric and vacuum distillation columns. An analysis of the operation of burn-off furnaces at the stack gas desulfurisation units was carried out with a view to reducing carbon monoxide emissions. Additionally, research was conducted on expansion of the possibilities of polymer bitumen base production. Together with the Jedlicze refinery of the ORLEN Południe Group, process tests were performed to obtain feedstock for the production of base oils. Apart from that, a project was carried out to improve energy efficiency of the PTA process.
Having in mind both environmental care and the need to meet the targets for biomass use set for 2020 in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), PKN ORLEN engaged in projects concerning production of fuel components from biomass. PKN ORLEN and the Unipetrol Group joined a project run by BIOENERGY 2020+, a competence centre conducting research on biomass use.
Together with the University of Warmia and Mazury and the University of Szczecin, PKN ORLEN started a project on advanced biofuels to explore alternative sources of next-generation biocomponents. As part of this initiative, the Company plans to open a research station at its production plant in Płock, where carbon dioxide and process wastewater will be used to grow algae. Its main objective is to develop a technology to make biocomponents from oil-producing algae and Baltic Sea diatoms at the refinery.
In 2015, PKN ORLEN launched Poland’s first open competition to find innovative solutions for improving the energy efficiency of production processes. Its aim was to find the most effective technology concept for recovery and utilization of low-temperature heat from distillation columns.
As part of its efforts to build closer partnerships with scientific circles, the Company held a number of ‘Innovation Day’ meetings. The meetings brought together representatives of industry and academic institutions and were a platform to share knowledge on innovations in industry and to identify potential areas of further cooperation.
Other companies of the ORLEN Group are also involved in R&D.
The Unipetrol Group, in cooperation with the inorganic chemistry research institute VÚAnCh, conducted research into processes associated with production of engine fuels and processing of residual fractions. Given the increasing quality requirements for engine fuels, a large-scale analysis was performed on diesel oil additives used in the refining industry. As part of the efforts to comply with the requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, research was carried out on how different types of biocomponents influence the properties of winter diesel oil and how they affect emission levels. The Unipetrol Group also engaged in projects focusing on heavy fractions, designed to develop modern technologies of making bitumen surfaces with recycled input materials.
Together with Polymer Institute Brno, Unipetrol conducted research on plastics. In the long run, the company plans to raise the quality of its petrochemical products and improve production efficiency. In 2015, a study was undertaken to explore possible applications and further use of light hydrocarbons from the pyrolysis process. As regards polyethylene production, particular focus was placed on further improvement of the operational qualities of Liten products and on ways to achieve production cost savings. Based on the outcomes of research conducted in previous years on non-phthalate catalysts, production of copolymers was started.
Together with the University of Technology and Chemistry (VŠCHT) in Prague, a project to build a University Centre in the Chempark complex in Litvínov Záluží was completed. It will be a place where students will receive vocational training and education.
The ORLEN Lietuva Group continued projects to improve energy efficiency of its production processes and implement new technologies. The most important of the projects was that to find effective use of semi-finished product streams from the Visbreaker Vacuum Flasher through modification of existing processes and use of optimum catalysts. Work was also continued to improve efficiency of the catalytic cracking unit. Furthermore, the Group completed research on bitumens with new components and commenced their production.
IKS Solino launched a pilot programme to test the concepts of long-term storage of petrol in salt caverns. Best practices developed and research carried out by PKN ORLEN and the State Research Institute showed that storing petrol in salt caverns is safe from the geological, environmental and technological point of view.
The ANWIL Group participated in formulating assumptions and rules of a sector programme entitled INNOCHEM, whereby subsidies are distributed under the Intelligent Development Operational Programme. Participation in the programme will be an opportunity to obtain financing for the second, three-year phase of a project to develop a technology for the production of PVC-based ceramizable composites, carried out with the Łódź University of Technology and the Central Mining Institute. In 2015, production tests were carried out to verify the possibility of implementing a nanocomposite PVC production technology.
ORLEN Asfalt was in the final stages of a project to implement a new ORBITON HIMA line of modified bitumen products with a high polymer content. Additional laboratory tests were done to confirm the operational properties of surfaces with the new bitumens, and eventually in 2015 they were added to the company’s product portfolio.
ORLEN Oil continued research on product modifications (in terms of quality and costs) associated with obtaining new product certificates and on defining directions of development of lubricant technologies. A number of initiatives were also taken to bring the quality of oils in line with customers’ expectations. In 2015, EEL (European Eco Label) certificates were awarded to the HETG and HEES hydraulic oils in recognition of their environmental excellence. These were the first such certificates obtained in the Polish lubricants industry.
The ORLEN Południe Group continued work on optimising yields at the fractional distillation unit as well as on optimising the feedstock for hydrorefined and semi-refined paraffin production. It also sought to expand its portfolio of paraffin products, focusing on products for agriculture. Upon completion of a project to develop next-generation liquids that can be used in metal treatment and are made through recycling of waste oil, production and sales of a cutting oil were started. Together with PKN ORLEN, the Group continued to work on the concept for development of 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels.
In 2015, the ORLEN Upstream Group continued the research and development projects registered for the first edition of the Blue Gas sector programme, coordinated by the National Centre for Research and Development. As part of the programme, ORLEN Upstream partnered with PGNiG, LOTOS Petrobaltic, the AGH University of Science and Technology, the Warsaw University of Technology, the Gdańsk University of Technology and the Oil and Gas Institute to carry out research projects on development of geological analyses, seismic surveys, resource and risk assessment methods, and reservoir engineering models, as well as on optimum concepts for reservoir development in shale gas production. The Ungaslab project was also launched to develop innovative services to support reservoir engineering research on unconventional reservoirs (rocks with low porosity and permeability) and to create tools and services to support exploration for and production of hydrocarbons from unconventional sources. The project is carried out as part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) together with the AGH University of Science and Technology and the Bay Zoltán research centre of Hungary.
ORLEN Laboratorium performed research on corrosion and sludge analysis at the production facilities, as well as on new oil testing methods for PKN ORLEN.