TBY talks to Nizami Piriyev, Chairman of the Board of Directors at AzMeCo, about methanol production, DME, and his company’s push into petrochemicals.
TBY What was behind the creation of AzMeCo in 2007?
NIZAMI PIRIYEV I used to work in Russia at StroyTransGasOil and came back to Azerbaijan in 2007 when we decided to set up this company and establish a methanol plant, mostly for ecological reasons. Mr. George Olan, a Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, declared that methanol is the 21st century energy source. It is a clean source of energy. With this in mind, the company established its first plant. Around that time, alternative energy was the main issue of discussion across the world, and methanol was one of the alternative energy sources being discussed widely. Currently, Dimethyl ether (DME) is a very well-accepted alternative energy resource internationally, and is a derivative of methanol. It is an alternative to diesel engine fuel. Some leading companies, such as Nissan and Volvo, have begun to use DME in their vehicles, and this is a good example of a renewable energy source being used in the market right now. Compared to diesel, DME is clean burning and contains no sulfur. There are further technological applications for methanol, including its use in batteries. Such batteries can be used to charge telephones and computers while on the move. This is a technology being utilized by Sony and Toshiba, to name just a couple. The possibilities are endless and the advantages it holds over traditional engine fuel are stark. As methanol is a hydrogen carrier, it makes the handling process very simple. There is no danger of a spill, and the substance easily disseminates in water and evaporates from surfaces.
What is your estimated timeline for the completion of the plants and the distribution of the product?
We have a 10-year plan. First, the plant will be commissioned at the end of 2011, and the next phase will be to begin producing DME. A filling station will be established, and the technology for such a project already exists in some other countries. To further these goals we are engaged in talks with the government and hope to implement the technology as soon as possible. In 10 years time, we are aiming to pass on this technology to trucks, buses, and various other types of vehicles.
What will the capacity of the methanol plant be?
The methanol plant will have a capacity of 560,000 tons a year. This will throw up another issue, quite literally, in the form of expelled carbon dioxide. We plan to use a mechanism allowing us to capture 140,000 tons of CO2 per year and re-inject it into the mix, and thus increase capacity to 720,000 tons per year. It will enable us to receive carbon credits from the Multilateral Carbon Credit Fund (MCCF), created by the joint initiative of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). For the DME derivative, we are planning to produce 100,000 tons a year. The President declared that 2010 would be the “Year of Ecology”, and these drives have continued into 2011. For this reason, we hope to be able to fulfill our aim of seeing trucks and buses using DME as an alternative fuel.
What assistance have you had in setting up this operation?
Several companies are working on DME technology, and the overall aim is to see DME used across Azerbaijan. In support of our goals, the International Bank of Azerbaijan has provided financial support for us to be able to establish the company and construct the plant. In terms of partners we also have agreements with some European, Russian, and Canadian banks. We also work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. We are very proud to be a large private petrochemical company in Azerbaijan.
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