Omsky Biocluster: Hello, Mr. HENKEL!
JENS HENKEL: Hello!
EPC has been known in Russia for a long time as a supplier of high-quality technological solutions. What is the main activity of the company today?
We are a provider of innovative process technologies in the fields of biotechnologies, renewable energies, polymers and fibers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, among others. Our portfolio includes technologies developed in-house as well as process technologies from partner companies around the world. This enables us to always offer our customers the most up-to-date, safest and most economical solutions for their plants. We also undertake the construction of turnkey plants worldwide, including all engineering services as well as supervised installation, commissioning and training. EPC pays special attention to the issues of reducing the burden on the environment, this is an integral component of modern technologies.
Mutual collaboration of industrial partners and R&D centers is currently in the focus of attention of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia and the Ministry of Education of Russia. For this purpose, the Russian Federation is adopting various state programs and support measures. How is the collaboration between science and industrial companies developing in Europe?
The development and optimization of process technologies has established itself as our main business area in recent years. For this purpose, we employ several specifically trained engineers in our company and engage in extensive market observation. In innovation workshops, we develop approaches for new technologies internally or discuss how we could optimize existing processes. Sometimes it is our customers who ask us to develop a special technology. We then analyze the technical feasibility and economic viability of these ideas and also include environmental factors, such as waste reduction through closed production cycles. We also work closely with renowned research and development institutes, such as the Fraunhofer Institute. These then support us in the realization from the initial idea to the lab-scale plant. When the laboratory tests in these plants are all satisfactory, we move on to the demonstration and finally the finished industrial plant.
That is, it is a complete innovation cycle - from posing a problem to finding a technological solution?
Of course, in this case, the technological solution is tested consistently in laboratory and industrial installations. The customer does not receive "raw" material, but a proven technology.
One of the trends in EU is the increase of energy efficiency, inclusion in the production of renewable resources and decarbonization of the economy. In your opinion, which available technologies for renewable resources can be a real interest for Russia?
The use of resource-saving processes and the associated reduction of waste materials have always been part of the basic philosophy of our company. In a best case scenario, we manage to create a completely closed loop, as in the case of our EPS recycling plant, which is currently being commissioned in the Netherlands. Here, expanded polystyrene, which is also contaminated with the flame retardant HBCD, is completely recycled into pure, granulated polystyrene by means of a physical dissolution process. The HBCD is also further processed into bromine and the water used is purified so that it can always be reused within the process. This conserves resources while increasing economic returns.
What is the role of government agencies in the renewable resource issue?
When it comes to recycling, however, the state must also do some preliminary work. It is important that the waste is appropriately sorted before recycling and that there is also an appropriate infrastructure for collecting and sorting the material. Only then can innovative recycling processes be profitable.
Mr. Henkel, in the opinion of the EPC, which resource-saving business cases may be relevant today?
Another example of resource-saving technologies that could be used in Russia are gas recovery plants. For example, in the extraction of crude oil, the associated gases are often simply incinerated. However, it would be possible to use them and, in a small auxiliary plant, to generate electricity from the energy produced by the combustion process.
Another example is regarding CO2, where we have also achieved a completely closed production cycle, with plants for the production of methanol. In this process, CO2 is used as a raw material for the production of methanol. This also accumulates as waste gas. Our plants capture the "waste CO2," clean it, and then feed it back into the production process - again saving costs and energy while protecting the environment.
Our group of companies offers a wide range of solutions for protecting the environment and conserving resources.
What are the main areas for cooperation between the EU and Russia?
In our many years of working with companies throughout Russia, we have noticed that there is a major shift: Away from being a mere supplier of raw materials to becoming a country that processes raw materials itself and develops its own high-quality products. This requires investment in appropriate technologies in which environmental protection and economic efficiency can go hand in hand. As a company with many years of experience in the Russian market and our headquarters in the EU, we have deep insight into both cultures and economic entities. We can provide support as early as the planning stage of new plants and ensure a constructive exchange with the EU in order to comply with and take into account all applicable standards.
What are the main problems that need to be solved?
The current political situation and the sanctions against Russia pose challenges for many companies. However, our portfolio shows very clearly that these are not impossible to solve. Despite this difficult political situation, we have always maintained close contact with our Russian customers and have not shied away from the increased bureaucratic effort in order to realize projects together even in these difficult times.
Mr. HENKEL, thank you for the interview and wish you new interesting and useful projects for our countries!
Omsky Biocluster Press Secretary Ravshana Balloyeva.