Kusto Group's New Clean Technology Plant is a Model of Sustainability in Action
Yerkin Tatishev's Kusto Group is turning ash into microspheres used in toys, cosmetics and life jackets, among other things.
In July 2021, Kusto Group, an international, multi-industry company founded by Yerkin Tatishev, inaugurated the KazCenosphere plant in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. The plant transforms white ash from the local state district power station, the Aksu power plant, into high-value aluminosilicate microspheres.
Cenospheres, as they are known, are made during the warm combustion of pulverized coal. The aluminosilicate microspheres that Kusto Group now produces are used as a lightening additive in dry backfill mixtures in oilfield services.
They also serve as whitening elements in composite materials to increase wear resistance, heat resistance, and strength. The Cenosphere additives can also help reduce the weight of the product.
The finished result is then used in the manufacturing of everything from life jackets to navigation buoys, concrete, road thermoplastics, radio engineering, paint production, and cosmetics.
Kusto Group-run plant is good news for the environment
The primary consumers of aluminosilicate microspheres from Tatishev's new KazCenosphere plant are the oil and gas sectors. However, other companies such as the Danish toy manufacturer LEGO have bought Kusto Group's material through traders.
According to Kusto Group, the KazCenosphere plant can process 21 thousand tons of ash and slag waste per year, generating 12 thousand tons of finished products.
Yerkin Tatishev has stated that production at Kusto Group's new plant will significantly improve the environmental situation in Pavlodar and the surrounding areas because the KazCenosphere plant uses waste from coal combustion and reduces the dustiness of the atmospheric air.
Furthermore, the production at the Kusto Group-run plant is waste-free, as substandard fractions become general construction fillers and off-gases go through three stages of purification.
"In two years, we have come a long way from a cool idea to an actively developing enterprise. A modern high-tech enterprise that produces a useful product from waste, improving the ecology of the region. This is an example of the rational use of resources that benefits people," Kanat Kopbayev, a member of the Board of Directors of Kusto Group, says.
"The completion of the plant's construction in less than a year has only been possible thanks to the support of the local administration and personal participation of Saken Beimbetovich Shayakhmetov, Deputy Akim of Pavlodar Region," Kopbayev added.
High demand for Kusto Group's new product
KazCenosphere is a joint project between Kusto Group and GRANULA LLC. The cost of the plant is 2.3 billion Kazakhstani tenges ($5.4M USD), with a projected payback of five years.
According to Abay Kairzhanov, the director of the KazCenoshpere plant, they collect raw materials at the ash dump of the local state district power station, the Aksu power plant, worth about 1 billion tenges per year.
"Coal flaring waste is discharged into the ash dump by means of hydraulic ash removal. The white fraction of fly ash floats to the surface in the form of 'foam.' We collect this foam. In fact, it is tiny glass balls with gas inside. We bring it to the factory, dry it, cool it and separate it into fractions," he explains.
"All the products from KazCenosphere are exported, as no complex industries in Kazakhstan use such expensive additives," Abay Kairzhanov adds.
"The finished product costs more than a thousand dollars per ton. There is great demand for it in Europe and North America," the KazCenosphere director says.
KazCenosphere's unique technology
The Aksu power station is the main source of raw materials for Kusto Group's plant, as all other thermal power plants produce gray ash when burning coal rather than white ash.
"Our microparticles are whiter because the power plant has new equipment that allows it to reach a temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius, whereas all other thermal power plants and state district power plants in Kazakhstan burn coal at a temperature of 1000-1300 degrees," the plant manager explains.
The project in Pavlodar has yielded 36 permanent jobs as well as 200 seasonal jobs. In the summer, when raw materials are collected, the plant employs crane and forklift operators, truck drivers, and security guards to escort the cargo. In the winter, the plant uses stored raw materials.
Expansion in the works
Even though the new KazCenoshpere plant has just been inaugurated, an expansion has already been announced. The construction of the second stage of the Kusto Group-run plant will begin in 2022.
"This will be the next redistribution. Now, we collect, dehydrate, dry, cool and separate raw materials into fractions. The next stage is finer drying and preparation of mixtures," Abay Kairzhanov explains.
"For example, we need a mixture of microspheres for a glass blowing furnace or paint for a bridge being built somewhere in the far north, where there is a certain composition of water. Mixtures for oil wells in the North Sea and in the Persian Gulf, each with its own acidity, etc. will also be different. Depending on the application, we will not produce raw materials but a turnkey solution," he adds.
"KazCenosphere is, of course, a commercial project," says Kusto Board member Kopbayev. "But it's one that forms an important part of the wider region's environmental strategy by helping reduce pollution. For Kusto Group, it represents the latest step forward in our vision to turn Kazakhstan into a global, agricultural powerhouse rooted in sustainable principles."
"The venture adheres to the core values of Kusto Group by delivering innovative, high-tech projects that support their local communities and are environmentally sustainable."