Interview with the general director of the Chromos company Andrey L.Pakhomov One of the participants of the largest international analytical equipment exhibition Analitika Expo 2018, which was held from 24 April to 26 April 2018 in Moscow, was the Chromos company, a modern manufacturer of gas and liquid chromatographs, laboratory furniture as well as one of the leading companies for designing and comprehensive fitting out to laboratories for various purposes. The company has been operating in the Russian market since 1993, has its own production facilities with an area of more than 6,000 m2 and is equipped with up-to-date equipment. The company’s products meet all modern requirements and is a successful example of effective import substitution. At the exhibition the correspondent of the magazine had a talk with the general director of the Chromos company Andrey L. Pakhomov; the conversation concerned the company’s novelties presented at the stand and its prospects.
Mr. Pakhomov, what are the main novelties that provide the basis for showing the company at the exhibition?
At the exhibition, Chromos typically presents a wide range of manufactured equipment, such as gas and liquid chromatographs and laboratory furniture. This time we also exhibited a gas analyser which is currently in the planning stage. For those who are familiar with our products, it is obvious that this year the range of gas chromatographs has significantly expanded, and the number of tasks, which are solved with them, has also increased. In particular, this was the result of the fact that Rosneft had purchased more than 100 Chromos gas chromatographs by setting a number of complex technical challenges for us to expand the capabilities of our devices with which the company’s specialists could cope successfully. The main achievement in the work was to develop and improve a new chromatograph combined with an autosampler. This is our latest development, the chromatograph is very useful for consumers, it is distinguished by its simplicity, reliability, low noise level, perfect operation and the accuracy of analysis results reproduction during parallel sampling. The company also developed a chromatograph of a reduced volume, smaller than the main mass-produced gas chromatograph GKh‑1000 which was already smaller than one and a half to two times of the countertypes. Thus, the new compact chromatograph was smaller by 2.2 times than the equipment of our main competitors. At the same time, the number of tasks solved with it has not become lower. From a technical point of view, the device is made single-channel; the volume of the thermostat is reduced in order to make the chromatograph more efficient. It can cool all units and devices to the required temperature to proceed with the following analysis for one and a half minutes. The high heating rate in the evaporator and the high-temperature FID (flame ionisation detector) with operating temperatures up to 500 °C, which we developed this year, provide very high accuracy and convergence of the analysis results when analysing the hydrocarbon fraction up to 120 °C. None of the countertypes gives the same results. The device was created to solve the problems of the Moscow State University and the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas (research institution). Was the work done only by your company? It would not be easy for us to cope with such a difficult task on our own. The work was carried out under the flag of the Ministry of Education, the necessary funds were allocated to the universities involved, the Chromos company became their industrial partner, chromatographs were developed and successfully delivered to universities for solving complex research problems. What other equipment samples deserve special mention? Another novelty that I would like to talk about is a catalytic gas purification filter. This device is necessary in the preparation of gases used in the analysis, carrier gases and neutral gases involved in the analytical circuit design for the chromatographic analysis. The need for those devices arose as a result of improving the requirements in the regulatory and technical documentation relating to the finished products of chemical and petrochemical plants, and the requirements to chromatographs increased respectively. For oil refining it is also necessary to install a cooling system, a cooling system for the column thermostat. This is a very complex device, there are several fundamentally different designs of such equipment in the world. For example, a device for cooling a column thermostat by using liquefied CO2 is very time-consuming and expensive, the sensors fail, and the analysis may stop at the wrong time. There are also cooling liquid nitrogen systems, they have a high cost, which increases the cost of each analysis by an order of magnitude, and it also increases the risk in the laboratory by carrying out such types of analysis. We proposed a system based on an industrial air conditioner depending on the power of which various negative temperatures are reached in the gas chromatograph column thermostat. The system is very simple, it is reliable, and it was appreciated by consumers; and its price is so low that there are no competitors in the Russian Federation. Another novelty is a drying cabinet, it is very simple and reliable, and it is also of a low cost. The design is very simple, there is a line of cabinets for various temperatures and volume, the doors can be made with and without glass. Another novelty in 2018 in the line of industrial equipment is the development for Gazprom and chemical plants that use reaction gases in their technology, a system for the accurate selection of main gas. It was tested in Gazprom; now serial sales begin. Chromos STOMG is a simple and reliable system that was developed only this year. Are there any industrial chromatographs in your product line? Along with the Technodesign company we have developed a comprehensive solution, a box for the commercial accounting of natural gas, associated gas, hydrocarbon media that are related to natural gas in composition. It is also possible to determine sulphur compounds in natural gas and other media as well as reaction gases. The box is weatherproof; it complies with the explosion and fire safety standards. The industrial chromatograph Chromos GKh‑1000, which is installed in the box, has an explosion-proof enclosure. A chromatograph in the explosion-proof design has such distinctive features as a full-fledged computer on the front panel of the gas chromatograph combined with an explosion-proof mouse; it allows the measuring equipment operator to provide diagnostics and necessary maintenance of the gas chromatograph without depressurisation. This allows you to avoid the occurrence of safety violations often leading to death during instrument maintenance. The device is simple, reliable, and is tested in three Gazprom laboratories; now it is for serial sale, one of which is the subject of our professional pride, the chromatograph is delivered to the Gazprom Urals Metrology Centre located in Chelyabinsk. The Centre is designed to certify the flow meters for gas pipelines with a diameter of up to 700 mm. In order to calibrate a flow meter, it is necessary to obtain reliable information on the gas component composition, and the task can be accomplished by our chromatograph. Our instrument was chosen because of the high level of metrological characteristics which are by 10 to 1000 times higher in order of magnitude (in terms of different components) than those of the countertypes. Another novelty is a general-purpose chromatograph in the explosion-proof design with a blown enclosure. Its distinctive feature is the availability of two thermostats, the possibility of installing up to 6 types of detectors for the realisation of the whole range of tasks in chemistry and petrochemistry. In addition, a full-fledged computer is installed on the front panel of the device, which controls the operation of the chromatograph, and the measurement equipment operator can directly analyse the state of the device in the shop and launch certain functions in order to resume operation in case of any malfunctions, or send the necessary files to our database. The Chromos company is known to produce not only appliances, doesn’t it? We present a whole range of novelties of our laboratory furniture here. Similar furniture has already been produced by our company; some colours have been changed, some process concepts have been changed, the perspective Polish material Durcon (epoxy resin composite) on many surfaces has been more actively used as well as a line of polypropylene furniture for operating in particularly aggressive environments and the furniture for production sites were presented. Could you tell me more about your production, is that a complete cycle? In the domestic market there are virtually no countertypes of our chromatographs. A number of companies produce instruments of imported components. We perform a completely closed production cycle, software and electronics, detectors in various designs, analytical cups, assembly as well as task setting on a turn-key basis. Our production is located in the city of Dzerzhinsk of the Nizhny Novgorod region, 170 people are employed on 6,000 m2 of the production space; it is planned to erect two more buildings. In our plans for the next 5 years are to increase to 12,000 m2 of production space and turnover to 7–10 billion roubles. How is the equipment maintained? All chromatographs are provided with a digital bus to collect information about the operation of each node. The algorithm provides four data points per second, the information is written in Russian, the generated files have a small volume, they can be easily sent by mail and, thus, without any additional sanctions from the management and without any additional financial costs; remote diagnostics of the device by our specialists is carried out. The specialists in Dzerzhinsk perform diagnostics of the chromatograph and nodes, diagnose the condition of each unit separately, even if a device is broken. Then recommendations on repair work are given, and the necessary set of spare parts will be sent. It is important to note that the ‘depth’ of repair (the period of interchangeability of components and parts) is 14 years, that is, all the devices manufactured by our company during that period can be repaired, and the necessary components and parts replaced today. All devices are adapted and determined by the system; the electronics are woven by the controller according to the algorithm set during the device creation. The efficiency of the device is therefore regained within one working day. Diagnostics is performed within an hour, the time for the transfer of parts determines the time of repair, if a device is at a remote distance (up to 9,000 km), the period is three days, if the distance is small, then one day. How do you see the future development of the company, what new business areas are you planning to implement? This year we have become the vendor of the Munich-based Linde company as part of its shares belong to Sibur, it is the general designer of many of the factories that Sibur is building. We have become a vendor, that is, a possible supplier to the enterprises that Linde is launching not only in Russia but also abroad. They design not only large chemical plants but also much more, from food makers to light industry companies. In particular, one of the projects that the company is carrying out today is ZapSibNeftekhim LLC in Tobolsk. The ethylene and propylene capacity of the enterprise is 2 million tons, and the company has several other projects underway. In the projects we will act not only as the suppliers of chromatographs and laboratory furniture; in particular, in the construction project of ZapSibNeftekhim LLC, we received a very large 3-million-euro contract for comprehensive fitting out. The contract includes 380 positions, while the chromatographs in the list occupy only 10% of the total number of supplied devices and equipment items. This year we have got a new project, the construction of laboratory buildings, e. g. from capital construction, fitting put, ventilation and laboratory equipment to the turnkey delivery of the entire facility. At several large plants, we are already negotiating the construction of such buildings. Until today, the mobile laboratories for the areas have been completed as follows, the analysis of the liquefied propane-butane fraction for refueling of the commercial propane / butane mix, analysis of compressed natural gas for CNG refueling, analysis of liquefied natural gas for LNG refueling, environmental monitoring stations for waste water and a laboratory to test water and environmental conditions in factories. The scope of supply is developed; now there are four mobile laboratories for sale. This year, we plan to gain sufficient experience, as a result, there will be a wide range of mobile laboratories. What your product is most popular? The main product that we are launching on the market now is gas chromatographs; the second most important one is the liquid chromatograph Chromos ZhKh‑301; the third one is laboratory furniture; the fourth one is metal processing, we process more than 100 tons of metal per month by making products for energy companies. The new items, which I have listed, can also take the rightful place in the list of manufactured products since all those products are quite expensive, they can repeatedly increase revenue by the end of the year; then we plan to reach a turnover of 1 billion. How would you describe the main features of your equipment? Our company’s mission is to perfect the product, which is intended for the Russian market, and enhance the localisation level. It is fully own production, the ability to quickly repair and remotely diagnose. A key advantage is the transformer-based power supply scheme. The modern element base has very low power consumption, which makes it possible to use a network transformer with low overall dimensions and weight. The transformer is able to suppress pulsed network interferences and provide effective protection against network interference. Our advantage is a quick response to the market demand. When new chromatograph demand arises, we can rapidly implement them in production; for a very complicated task, we need only two months to achieve the desired result, and no one works at such rate. This ability can be proved by our work with Rosneft, sixty tasks were achieved in six months! Investors show a great interest in our company, they are ready to invest billions of roubles in our enterprise. As a result, the level of import substitution in chromatography is 100% now. In addition, we plan to produce a whole list of laboratory equipment similar to that imported to Russia. In cooperation with the federal state unitary enterprise Russian Research Institute of Metrological Service (VNIIMS) we are analysing the range and will create a state programme for import substitution in the laboratory equipment sector. So far, only domestic chromatographs and scales have been developed in the area. Where can we see your equipment? In November last year, we purchased a room of 200 m2 in the Moscow Business Centre Neo Geo class B+ in Butlerova Street; on that area there is an operating laboratory that can solve any chromatography problems. In the laboratory premises, there is also the School of Analytics Professionals, four lessons have already been held, not only representatives of the Chromos company but also leading experts in the field of spectrometry, photometry, weight equipment and sampling take part in specialist training. The course is interesting because the professionals of remote laboratories, who are studying with us, can communicate directly with experts who are number 1 in their field. During training, a complete disassembly of chromatographs is carried out; for that purpose, we have identified two experimental devices, in which there is no insulation for the convenience of dismantling, we also provide all types of detectors. We train actions in emergencies arising during chromatographic analysis; the computer simulation of 80 emergency situations is implemented. Training can also be conducted under the auspices of the Nizhny Novgorod State University, which has a Chromatography Department; and state-recognized certificates are issued according to the results of such joint training, of course, the cost of training will somewhat increase. In the Business Centre, we opened a showroom, in which consumers can come to us and look at all the products, the supply contract for which they would like to enter into with us.