Pundits Protest Lube Plant Move


Industry sources say plans to relocate a Moscow-based specialty lubricants plant to make way for a railway line could jeopardize availability of lubes and specialty fluids used by Russias shipbuilding, aerospace, aviation and pharmaceutical industries.

A city council that oversees Moscows transportation infrastructure recently asked the Russian government to relocate the low-tonnage capacity plant of Moscow Neftemaslozavod (MNMZ), the Izvestia daily reported last week.

The plant was built in 1925, located in the industrial zone Severyanin near prospekt Mira, one of the main city avenues that lead to its center. The independent specialty manufacturer is one of two suppliers for the country’s rocket, air force, navy and aerospace industries, according to people knowledgeable about the matter. Nefteprodukt is the other plant, and it is also located in Moscow.

The city is trying to bring up a case [to the federal government] for plant closure by making an excuse to put a railway route on its place. It is not the first time they have tried to relocate this lubricant plant, Oleg Tsvetkov, head of the oil and lubricants department at All Russia Research Institute for Oil Refining (VNIINP), told Lube Report last week. They’ve tried before, but they failed. I think it will be the same this time.

MNMZ has a special status with Russia’s shipbuilding, aerospace, aviation and pharmaceutical industries because it manufactures unique lubes and specialty fluids. Many industry people questioned whether the relocation effort is worthwhile, saying it could cost a lot of money and time, and cause serious shortages of supply.

For example, the plant produces VNIINP-282, a specialty grease for oxygen-breathing machines used in cosmonaut suits and developed by VNIINP, Raisa Platonova, head of the institute’s special works and technical department, told Izvestia. The plant relocation could cost the city from U.S. $50 million to $100 million and the procedure could take up to five years, she said.

The institutes greases are extremely expensive by Russian standards. VNIINP-282 could cost around $4,600 per kilogram. There are few distributors for this product but only two manufacture it, and if Moscow Neftemaslozavods production is halted, the price for it would rise even higher, according to some marketers.

The plant also produces greases for high-pressurized cameras used in medical labs and radiation-protective greases used in the Russian navy and air force.

Of course, these products can be supplied by alternative producers, but according to government regulation, when replacement of specialty feedstock, technology or supplier takes place in the rocket, space, aviation and shipbuilding areas [which are put under special status as industry areas of national interest], the companies should perform not only bench or autonomous tests, but real-time testing as well, Platonova said.

Relocation could be very expensive. It would be cheaper to leave the plant as it is, she continued. Let them make a railway line that would pass right through the plant’s yard. Otherwise, [relocating] it can harm the rocket and space industry.

If the plant management makes every effort to explain the problem to the right military and industry [higher level officials], I’m assured that MNMZ would still keep its old address, Tsvetkov said.

For its part, the city government is confident that the new railway line would improve the conditions on Moscows heavily congested streets near the city’s railway belt, by offering daily commuters alternative transportation.

A plant representative said that its management has not been informed about a possible plant relocation.

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