By guest author Eugene Gerden, an international free-lance writer, who specializes in covering global technical textile and nonwovens industry.
Gexa-Lotos, part of Moscow-based Gexa Company, Russia’s leading nonwovens producer, is expanding its domestic geosynthetic fabrics and synthetic yarns production through the commissioning of a new large-scale plant in the Astrakhan region. The new plant is located in the Lotos’ special economic zone, the residents of which receive special benefits both from the Russian federal and local authorities.
By January 2019, the capacity of the new facility will reach up to 60 tonnes of finished products per month, according to Alexander Kochetkov, CEO of Gexa-Lotos. In the second half of the next year, it is expected to grow up to 200 tonnes per month.
Most of the products will be supplied for the oil and gas industry, as well as road-building, for both domestic and foreign markets – initially, the Caspian region, particularly Kazakhstan and Iran. Exports are then expected to expand significantly, covering more markets, including the EU. The company says it hopes for a stable demand for its geosynthetic fabrics in the Western countries, following the gradual recovery in the sector after several years of stagnation.
Between USD 20-25 million is being invested in the project. According to Kochetkov, the company already secured several preliminary contracts for the supply of its products. The new plant is expected to help save at least 20% of the production costs, compared to major Western manufacturers, contributing to a higher demand in both domestic and foreign markets.
It is believed that the new project has an exceptional importance for Russia, considering that despite the government’s efforts to promote import substitution in the domestic technical textiles sector, the share of imports of geosynthetics is still estimated at around 70%. Among the major importers of geosynthetic fabrics to Russia are Turkey, India, the Czech Republic and Greece.
According to Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Indusry and Trade, at present, geosynthetic fabrics are mainly used in the building of roads and their reconstruction, including temporary access roads to oil and gas fields. In addition, these materials are suitable for the strengthening of the airport runways.
Prior to 2014, geosynthetics have not been used extensively in road-building in Russia. But the situation has changed in recent years, after several large-scale road-building projects have been completed, partially thanks to the hosting of the World Cup 2018. In addition, the increase in state support has led to a growth in interest from industry investors.
The Russian government predicts the demand for geosynthetics to continue to grow. There are plans to build up to 13000 km of new roads in the country by 2020. This will result in a significant increase in the demand for geosynthetic grids in Russia.
Denis Manturov predicts that the annual use of geosynthetic grids may reach 80 million square metres by 2020, with the 35%-40% annual growth rate of the market. In 2017, their consumption volume amounted to around 45 million square metres.
The government also plans to support research activities. Some of them could be conducted at Sibur, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, which has recently announced its plans to focus on the design of innovative solutions in the field of geosynthetics.
In addition, a new R&D centre specialising in advanced textiles and geosynthetics will be established this year in Skolkovo, a high technology business area that is being built near Moscow as an analogue to the US Silicon Valley.
Finally, the government plans to develop a single classification for geosynthetics and other similar materials. This move, according to state plans, will ease the structuring procedure of many various materials in accordance with their technical features in a single database. A single nomenclature will provide clarity to the process of materials’ selection and will guarantee a better implementation of infrastructure projects, which involve the use of geosynthetics.
The attention will be also paid to establishing a regulatory framework for the Russian geosynthetics industry. According to experts, the lack of regulatory documents in this field affects the quality of geosynthetics, produced in Russia.
Established in 1998, Gexa-Lotos currently specialises in the production of nonwoven textile materials and products. Currently, the company operates two production facilities in Russia – in Toropetsky district (Tver region) and in Dubna (Moscow region).