"We are now setting our sights on Western markets and on new products, which we plan to develop with the help of Nynas among others," announces Alexander Medzhibovskiy. Medzhibovskiy today owns and runs four factories and three laboratories, including a joint venture company in Uzbekistan. Qualitet's head office is located in Russia's capital city, Moscow. But it has been a long and winding road getting here, with a mixture of successes and setbacks. Before he started his company, Medzhibovskiy spent 15 years working on developing oils and lubricant greases for internal combustion engines. "I am basically a mechanical engineer," he says. "From the start research and development have always been important to me, and I have never stopped investigating various problems and learning more. And six years ago I earned my PhD."
Medzhibovskiy's company got off to a good start in 1991 and he was soon able to employ a team of experts. But just a few years later, when the economic crisis that arose after the collapse of the Soviet empire hit, the bottom fell out of the company's market.
"We didn't get any orders and had no money," he states. "So I realised that I had to find a new direction for the company."
The solution turned out to be additives. "While I was working with internal combustion engines I had come into contact with additives. I investigated demand among Russia's refineries and how we could possibly make additives better, more efficient and cheaper."
After spending three months dedicating almost all his time at Moscow's two leading technological libraries, he returned to his team with a package of newly-developed additives. "We immediately received a large order from the Angarsk refinery, who prior to this had bought such products from a well-known international company," relates Medzhibovskiy with a proud smile. "Since then we have grown within this market, and today we are one of Russia's leading suppliers of additives." He explains: "The refineries produce base oils, but these can seldom be used for the production of, for example, lubricants, without additives. Qualitet operates in the field between technology and chemistry: 'chemitology'. Through our knowledge of the refineries' raw materials, production plant, manufacturing processes and so on, we have a very good awareness of what they need, and how we can produce that."
Today Qualitet produces 30 or so different additives. That their are very high quality demands on these additives is evident from the fact that there is a technician employed by the State working full time at one Qualitet’s production units, whose one and only function is ongoing quality control. The company sells its additives primarily within the CIS (the former Soviet Republics), but also in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Another product segment Qualitet works with is lubricants. "Our lubricants are designed for demanding and highly specialized technical areas of use," explains Medzhibovskiy.
The company's third product area is reagents for the mining industry for enrichment of non-ferrous metals and hydro metallurgic processes. "Our products, and by that I'm referring to all three product groups," continues Medzhibovskiy, "are to be found in vehicles and machinery in the mining sector, on land, at sea, in the air and in space." Last year Qualitet produced 5,400 tonnes of additives, 1,700 tonnes of lubricants and 900 tonnes of reagents. "As you can see, we are not a high volume producer, but we show good profitability on our relatively small volumes in comparison with giant oil companies," he adds with a smile. Qualitet started using Nynas base oil NS3 six years ago because it possessed two particular properties that Medzhibovskiy was looking for: "Firstly, Nynas naphthenic oils have a very good pour point, down to -70˚C, compared to -15˚C for paraffinic oils. Secondly, Nynas oils have very low evaporation. These two properties are very important for both us and our customers."
This is because Qualitet's lubricants are used in very demanding environments, such as in the hydraulic systems of aircraft. At 10,000 meters the temperature can be down to -60 ˚C so you definitely have to have a lubricant that does not harden in the cold. In spite of the economic downturn in recent years Qualitet has managed to maintain its position. "In fact, during 2009 we even increased our volumes. But I feel now that the Russian market is not enough for us, that's why we are planning to make an international drive. I know that our products will hold strong in the competition." He has further cards up his sleeve that he will play soon.
"We are working on improving lubricants for internal combustion engines to make them two to three times as efficient as those we have today," he says. "In about a year we hope to be able to offer these, starting with lubricants for diesel locomotives." "Moreover we are planning to start a totally new product segment, specialty antioxidant additives for rubber for tyres, which will improve the properties of the tyres." "And with Nynas' assistance we plan to develop new cutting oils for metallurgical instruments. We find Nynas a very easy partner to work with. Sergei Abramov and Piotr Sokol in Moscow are always willing to help, and if any deeper discussion on the technological aspects is needed we always get good assistance from the experts in Sweden. This makes it very convenient to work with Nynas. There is simply no competition!"