The first in over six years inspection of the Russian Federation Federal Service of Ecological, Technical and Nuclear Surveillance (Rostechnadzor) of one of the world's largest ammonia producer PJSC Togliattiazot has attracted great attention of the Russian media. The plant and its majority shareholders, the Makhlai family, were reminded of all the numerous past violations, and even now, judging by preliminary data, not everything is in order with the safety and labor protection at the plant.
Nevertheless, the press service of ToAZ decided not to wait till the end of the inspection. Armed with a quote from the well-known film "Brother-2" - "right is might"- which has been recently used by it here and there, the press service has made a long statement in which it refutes everything and everyone. If PR specialists, who suggested endlessly repeating this phrase for any reason, remembered how the whole quote sounded, they would have thought twice. "Tell me, American, what is the power? Is it money? My brother says that it is money. You have a lot of money, so what? I think that power is in the truth. Right is might. If you deceived someone, you would make money, but would you become stronger? No, you wouldn't! Because you are not right! And the one who was deceived by you, is right. So he's stronger, isn't he?" Let's not forget that this year on July 5, the main owners of ToAZ, including the US citizen Sergei Makhlai and his partners, were found guilty of embezzlement of 87 billion rubles from ToAZ and his shareholders. So, after all, who is right there, and who is the American who stole the money?
But anyway, the press service claims that allegations of the absence of inspections of Rostekhnadzor at ToAZ for many years have been a lie. Allegedly, as many as 95 inspections have been carried out at the plant for the last eight years, and ToAZ has successfully passed all of them. But how to explain then that neither the press office of ToAZ, nor Rostekhnadzor have ever said a single word about these inspections over all these years? If these inspections were really carried out, and the plant passed them with honors, it would be an extremely positive news, especially after the 550 violations identified in 2011, which were acknowledged even by the ToAZ press service. Apparently, real inspections were nevertheless carried out only in the imagination of PR specialists.
The press service remains silent about the most important thing: the checks of the local authority were carried out on facts that the factory workers gave to inspectors themselves. All "detected" violations were previously agreed upon by the management of the plant's supervisory services and local inspection services. All this happened with the assistance of a former employee of ToAZ Raisa Abdrakhmanova, who got a job at Rostekhnadzor specifically to resolve such issues.
Commonly, such agreed violations were not serious, their reflection in the acts of inspections did not carry any consequences for the plant in terms of the risk of shutdowns. Emergencies, however, were never recorded, they were withheld or communicated with a significant delay, already upon elimination. Here are some typical examples: ammonia leaks in the workshop No.13 in January 2016, acid and alkali leaks in workshop No.16, depressurization of alkali and acid pipelines. In 2011-2019 there were repeated collapse of pipelines, ammonia leaks from the pipeline in the insertion zone from ammonia workshop No. 5 to the MCC workshop No. 16 (May-June 2019). These incidents were reported late or not reported at all.
By the way, trying to keep Abdrakhmanova out, the press service reports that "more than 35,000 people have worked for the enterprise during its entire history, so we don't see any reason to accuse them of certain actions in favor of Togliattiazot" However, no one has accused these 35,000 people of anything, unless all of them, after working at the plant, went to work in the supervisory departments that checked this plant in order to deal with all sorts of dubious matters there as a "problem solver".
Further, the press service tries to refute the lack of industrial safety expertise at ToAZ. But this is exactly what no one in the media has ever claimed. There were reports that the examination at the plant was fictitious, which was confirmed by numerous identical conclusions for different pipelines, where, for example, the data of ultrasonic measurement of the thickness of the metal was completely the same, and the permitted temperature of the pipes was one and a half times lower than the actual one. In addition, at the time of the overhauls, there were no decisions on the admission of expert organizations for conducting the safety-related measures. The only expert organization that conducted inspections at the plant ("TMS RUS" LLC) was technically not able to conduct all the necessary examinations in 14 calendar days.
Since 2018 all the work on the territory of ToAZ has been carried out exclusively by Moscow company "TMS RUS" LLC, which was approved by the TOAZ management to conduct expert examinations at the plant. All other organizations either do not pass accreditation formalities, or have been included into the register of undesirable ones and are not allowed to tender. As a result, during the overhaul period only 60-70% of technical devices (apparatus, pipelines, fittings and other supervisory equipment) undergo industrial safety expertise. When preparing to start the unit after exiting the overhaul, information about the state of the electronic safety device is not requested and is not submitted. Rostekhnadzor of Samara region have never compared the number of examinations carried out with the number of declared items of equipment that were to undergo technical examination. That is, there are examination results, mostly fictitious and partial. ToAZ's press service hasn't even tried to explain any of these facts.
The entire work of plant director Dmitry Mezheedov in terms of industrial safety has been reduced to the monopolization and centralization of all work on conducting electronic safety measures through "TMS RUS" LLC. The work of this organization is known at the factory for its low quality and incompetence in the nitrogen and chemical industries.
According to the press service, there is no problem of high accident rate at ToAZ, either, due to the "multiple measurements of temperature, pressure, chemical composition of technological flows and air" that are carried out on ammonia and urea aggregates. Temperature measurements can be carried out as much as you like, but what is the use of them, if gas and ammonia leaks are everywhere and ignitions occur constantly? This is what workers witness with their own eyes at the factory. Despite statements by the press service, accidents at ToAZ and its infrastructure facilities occur annually, which is not a secret for any of the plant's employees. This is the main result of the criminally disregarding attitude of the plant management towards ensuring production safety.
In 2014, a fatal accident occurred at the plant. During the investigation, numerous facts of violation of industrial safety and labor protection rules were discovered. In the same year, a serious accident occurred at ammonia unit No. 4 - the storage tank for the solution exploded. In June 2015, a pipe broke through on the Voronezh region's section of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, and 550 kg of ammonia leaked through it. The management of the plant tried to withhold from the public the accident of 2016 in workshop No. 13 (read more about it below). In February 2017, several ammonia units were stopped, and as a result almost all the equipment of the enterprise was iced up. In October 2018, a fire occurred on the reforming furnace of ammonia unit No. 4, and until today the consequences of the fire have not been eliminated. At the beginning of 2019, another accident occurred, but the factory management also kept silent about it. The last (God grant) accident happened on October 28, 2019 at ammonia unit No. 3. The press service keeps prudently silent about it in its statement, since it is pointless to deny the obvious.
As for the commissioning of the urea aggregate reactor without the permission of Rostechnadzor, the press service says that it is allegedly in pilot industrial operation, so permissions for it are not yet required. And they are cheating again. At the beginning of 2018, the certain work was carried out to replace the old reactor with a new one on the existing urea unit. So, what years-long tests of the reactor can be discussed now? It was the lack of documentation that made it necessary to prepare fictitious documents on pilot operation. And then the PR people decided not to comment on the information about the lack of insulation and the heating line at the reactor. But it is precisely this careless approach to security that leads to accidents and technological disasters.
The ToAZ press service considers false the information about the critical condition of the main ammonia pipeline and they say it allegedly even has an expert examination of industrial safety. The facts of the doubtful level of expertise of industrial safety at ToAZ have already been given above. Information on the critical condition of the ammonia pipeline in workshop No. 16 has been reported directly by ToAZ workers. But the press service thinks that it knows better. In fact, the conclusion about the ban on operation was made by the specialists of the technical supervision department of OJSC Togliattiazot back in 2011, which was not reflected in the register. The SINCO expert organization did not dare to make a fictitious examination of industrial safety, but limited itself to a technical audit of 10% of the ammonia pipeline and confirmed the ban on operation. The audit report presents critical changes in the wall thickness (wear of 50-70% of the pipe thickness).
The repair of the ammonia pipeline was carried out only in June 2019 after a weld seam broke in the area of unit No. 5. The normal mode of operation does not include work on the ammonia pipeline of MCC No. 16 with a ban on operation. In January 2016, an accident occurred with an ammonia spill in workshop No. 13. At the same time, the pipeline for repair and replacement did not stop, pipes and valves valves were not replaced. In January 2016 after poor-quality repair works only one emergency valve was replaced. All materials on the accident in workshop No. 13 and valve replacement were investigated by the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Togliatti, then by the Investigative Committee of the Samara Region in the framework of a criminal case. The fact of the accident was withheld, the overhaul of the pipeline and the replacement of valves have not been carried out so far.
In contrary to all the data from industry institutes, the press service of ToAZ does not believe that the plant's production facilities are in a deplorable state. This makes us suggest that the press service workers haven't visited the plant at all. "Since 2012, ToAZ has been actively and systematically modernizing production facilities, so the overhaul and modernization of all ammonia and urea production units, both isothermal ammonia storages, the enterprise's piping system, and railway infrastructure have been carried out," PR managers proudly say. It is not even clear who they are trying to convince in this case: the reader, industry institutions, or themselves. But, to paraphrase the famous Russian proverb, no matter how many times you say the word "ammonia", it won't make the plant reach its design capacity (which has been expected for many years). And even if you are constantly engaged in convincing yourself and repeating the mantras about "systemic modernization", you won't make the plant produce 3 million tons of ammonia per year. Indeed, they put new equipment on ToAZ, but only if the old one literally falls to pieces. If everything had been done on time, there would not occur annual accidents at the plant, and the plant's production indicators would at least approach the level of design capacity.
An explosion of 3 thousand cubic meters of gas in workshop No. 4 occurred due to the use of inappropriate shut-off valves, and mismatch in metal, temperature and pressure. An examination of the equipment in August 2018 by TMS RUS was fictitious, which was confirmed by official documents of the plant's technical supervision department. The indicators for workshop No. 3 and 4 are identical, which indicates the lack of expertise or its fictitious nature.
Since the release of Federal Law No. 116 "On Industrial Safety" and requirements for the replacement of automated process control systems at ToAZ, digital systems have supplied only two of the seven ammonia units (No. 3 and 6). Part of this work was carried out on unit No. 5. It means that the old analog system is still used on the five other units. The ammonia transportation workshop No. 13 has an old ACS system. The necessary work was completed only on unit No. 1 of the two urea units. Since 1991, not a single new ammonia or urea unit has been commissioned. Reconstruction of the gas supply system has not been carried out. The plant experiences a shortage of gas capacities. The enterprise cannot operate all seven ammonia units at the same time, since gas is consumed by Tomet LLC in its methanol production.
The press service reported on the commitment to full and unconditional compliance with industrial safety requirements to reports of foundation gaps under the boilers of the ammonia of unit No. 2, which was demonstrated by Director General Dmitry Mezheedov in his speeches to the work community. The problem is that his adherence, unfortunately, is limited to his speeches. In private, Mezheedov tells employees something completely different and, in their own words, expressly prohibits spending money on important repairs. This is not difficult to explain: financial resources that could be used for fixing and repairing are transferred via various channels to the Makhlays abroad: via the purchase of spare parts that are expensive according to the documents, by selling the plant's products for export at low prices, as well as through fictitious construction contracts.
Here is a striking example. All construction and repair work is carried out by one general contractor - "ISA-Intercon". Four sets of spare parts have been purchased from affiliated structures for the modernization of compressors of Chemico units. The work has been performed only at unit No. 3. Colossal financial resources have been frozen for three other units, including No. 1 and No. 2, and the terms of work performance for them have never been established. Unit No. 4 has been stopped and decommissioned after more than a year since the explosion of the furnace. The cost of the contract for the purchase of spare parts and work on finishing the assemblies significantly exceeds the cost of acquiring new compressors. And it is clear what the reason is.
According to the press service, there can be no questions about the privatization of ToAZ either, because "in the 2000s, there were attempts to challenge the privatization of a small package of shares (6.1%) of the enterprise. The legitimacy of the privatization of these shares was also confirmed by the Supreme Arbitration court of the Russian Federation. " But back in 1998, many years before the criminal case against the owners and management of ToAZ, Rossiyskaya Gazeta in its article with the eloquent title "Scam" stated that the entire enterprise (and not 6.1%) was privatized by the third option, that had been designed for small firms. The press service does not say anything about it, but speaks of contesting the privatization of 6.1% instead, which, as a result, was soft-pedalled solely by the "problem solvers".
Finally, the press service considers it necessary to recall that Togliattiazot have repeatedly informed the public about the implementation of the strategic program for modernization of production capacities adopted by the Board of Directors of Togliattiazot OJSC in 2012. Under this program, more than 33 billion rubles have been invested in updating the enterprise over the past 6 years. As it has already been repeatedly demonstrated by the example of this very press service, you can inform anyone and about anything throughout your life. But no one has seen the results of investing these 33 billion rubles so far. They have not reflected neither on equipment upgrades, nor on production indicators of ToAZ, nor on workers' salaries. So far, these investments exist only in the statements of PR specialists who supposedly adhere to "right is might." But is it worth to believe the words of these "truth-seekers" who actually obey convicted criminals living abroad?
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