A company’s technological competitiveness is largely determined by its having innovative, high-technology product lines. Gazprom Neft is today a market leader in high-technology road coverings — bringing new types of bitumen products to market, revitalising the domestic market in aviation fuels, replacing harmful fuels with environmentally-friendly products, and overcoming the challenges of the thousands of kilometres of the Dakar Rally, through specialist racing motor oil for sports-car engines.
High-technology bitumen products
Bitumen is the traditional material for road construction. Today, in the face of ever-increasing demands for quality and durability in road surfaces, innovative materials are becoming ever more common. These are, predominantly, polymer-bitumen binders (PBBs), created by the addition of polymers and plasticizers to road bitumen.
PBBs demonstrate greater resistance to warping, in contrast to standard bitumen binders, as well as better endurance under extreme temperatures, and greater resistance against deterioration.
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Using PBBs in an asphalt surface coating extends the serviceable life of a road from three to four years with standard bitumens, to seven to 10 years.
Gazpromneft-Bitumen Materials, operator of Gazprom Neft’s bitumens business, has led the promotion of PBBs in the Russian market. The company’s opportunities and scope in developing innovative bitumen materials was significantly broadened in 2016 with the opening of its own science and research centre.
In particular, the centre is equipped to allow, the development of binders using the design process for the formulation of Superpave road coverings — a methodology based around the most diverse factors impacting a highway — climatic conditions, traffic, and axle loading. Theoretical calculations are verified through experimental testing with the help of equipment modelling the various environmental and natural conditions under which specific bitumen coverings are likely to be used.
In the summer of 2016 Gazprom Neft licenced the first domestically produced own-brand modified bitumen (PG
In addition to branded bitumen road coverings, the company now produces innovative bitumen materials used in other areas. BRIT-NORD and BRIT-ARKTIC polymer-bitumen sealants for aerodromes, produced at the company’s new facility in Vyazma, are fully competitive with products from global market leaders. Specialist bitumen mastics (sealants) ensure water-tight expansion-joint coverings for highways, aerodromes and man-made structures.
A further area of their application lies in the creation of elastic insertions between tramway rails and urban street coverings, as well as reliable sealing joints for road coverings, and bitumen-polymer binding tape. Liquid resin (polyurethane foam or PUF) can also be used as an insulating membrane to make various coverings in inaccessible areas with complex topography, or to provide a waterproof membrane.
While aviation gasoline is not currently produced in Russia, the fleet of small aircraft using this kind of fuel is growing, and undergoing a revival. The bulk of imported fuel for these kinds of piston engines, moreover, involves ethylate or “leaded” blends, which contain toxic tetraethyl lead, used to improve the performance of the fuel.
Gazprom Neft specialists, together with the All-Russia Research and Design Institute for Oil Refining and Petrochemical Industry (OAO VNIPIneft), have successfully developed a formulation for a lead-free aviation fuel with an octane number (anti-knock rating) of 91 — fully compliant with GOST leaded-fuel standard B-91/115 and unleaded avgas standard 91UL (ASTM D 7547) — the standard many leading aircraft manufacturers are now developing engines to meet.
The company has now begun working on a new project, which includes plans to develop an unleaded alternative to aviation gasoline with an octane number of 100, in no way inferior to leaded fuel in its performance.
Racing motor oils
Gazpromneft-Lubricants, operator of the Gazprom Neft lubricants business, was the first company on the Russian market to launch a new, special-purpose product line of fully synthetic oils, G-Energy Racing, specifically developed for professional racing and the latest sports cars. In partnership with the G-Energy Team and MAZ-SPORTavto the company tests specialist racing oils under the heavy loads typical in rally-raiding.
Supported by a mobile laboratory, engineers undertake immediate analysis of selected samples on a daily basis to supplement statistical research data supporting the continued enhancement of materials produced by the company.
G-Energy Racing is also involved in the legendary Dakar Rally, responsible for supplying MAZ-SPORTavto trucks, with the oil successfully withstanding the challenges of the 9,000—10,000-kilometre rally.