Our History

Establishment of the refinery Apollo

When, in 1895, Bratislava City Council gave its consent to the erection of a mineral oil refinery, Europe was on the threshold of the era of the internal combustion engine and large oil refining plants were scarce. The decision to establish a refinery, adopted in Budapest, was a far-sighted business move that ranked Bratislava with other important oil refining centres in Central Europe.

The new refinery in Mlynská záhrada on the Danube was named Apollo after the Greek mythological god. The plant, with an area of 75,000m², at first refined Russian oil from the Caucasus and Galician oil from Poland and then later on oil from Romania as well as from the domestic Gbely oil fields. The annual refining capacity of the staggered distillation boilers amounted to about 30 thousand tonnes.

At that time, Apollo used very advanced technology, predominantly producing aviation gasoline, ligroine (lacquer petroleum), petrols, ceresine, candles as well as artificial ice (from paraffin plant coolers) and various lubricants. During its boom days in the inter-war period, the refinery owned its own oil fields and a network of filling stations.

Less than a year before the end of the Second World War, the refinery was damaged in a wave of air raids but production was restored no later than May, 1945. However it never reached pre-war levels and, in 1963, its activities were finally terminated.

The 50's and 60's

In the early 50s, the Government was considering the erection of a new refinery to replace Apollo. After some delay, construction at a site called Vlčie hrdlo commenced. In 1956, long-term agreements on oil supply from the former Soviet Union were concluded.

The new refinery was named Slovnaft and its first production unit went into operation in 1957. It was an atmospheric-vacuum distillation unit, designed to process Soviet crude oil, with a capacity of 122,000 tonnes of processed crude per year. Shortly afterwards, fuel refining, production of leaded petrols, preparation of other fuels and, in 1959, oil dewaxing, electrostatic desalting and thermal cracking were launched. A year later, bitumen oxidation and the manufacture of bituminous drums went into operation as well as two heating plant units. A much bigger new atmospheric-vacuum distillation unit with a capacity of one million tonnes per year started up in 1961.

In connection with primary oil refining, other production units were erected for further treatment of semi-products so as to obtain high-quality final products. This included selective refining of oils by furfural, propane de-asphalting, the contact filtration process and an oil mixing department. Construction of reforming units was a platform for the production of petrol with a higher octane number. New hydro-treating units served for the production of diesel and kerosene. One of the first refineries in the world, Slovnaft introduced the process of catalytic hydro-treating of viscous lubricating oils.

In February 1962, oil started to be delivered to Slovnaft from the Soviet Union via the Druzhba pipeline.

In the 60s, Slovnaft changed from being a refining plant to a refining and petrochemicals combine. Under this umbrella, first-class technological units started operations under licence from leading global companies. One important production unit was the ethylene recovery unit which produced ethylene, propylene and C4 and C5 fractions. Based on these semi-products, production of a low density polyethylene (LDPE) called Bralen was started. Synthetic phenol, acetone, ethyl-benzene, paraxylene, ethylene oxide and glycol production units were added, too.

By the end of 1970, as many as 62 new production units were in operation and the Slovnaft´s annual production capacity totalled 6 million tonnes of oil.

The 70´s and 80´s

Between 1970 and 1975, Slovnaft continued to extend its refining and petrochemicals bases with new production units. The range of its products was enriched by dimethyl terephtalate, which is a base material for the production of polyester fibres and Slovnaft also started to produce the first Czechoslovakian polypropylene branded Tatren. In this period, an aromate chemistry complex was built to produce benzene, toluene, ortho-xylene, ethyl-benzene and xylenes.

From 1975 to 1980 an even larger complex known as the Petrochemicals Complex of the Slovakian Republic was constructed by Slovnaft. In this way, a large base for the production of ethyl-benzene, ethylene oxide, glycols, aromates and other important products was established at Vlčie hrdlo. The highest refining added-value was the annual production of more than 160,000 tonnes of Bralen polyethylene and more than 40,000 tonnes of Tatren polypropylene. In 1988, a unit producing 55,000 tonnes of n-alkanes was launched.

In addition to continuing production expansion in the 70s and 80s priority was given to ecological projects. Slovnaft established hydraulic ground water protection, built a mechanical-chemical-biological waste water treatment plant that is still one of the most modern and complex in the world, started operating solid waste incineration plants and was active in other ecological projects.

The 90´s

In 1991, Slovnaft launched a hydrocracking production unit that enabled more effective and deeper oil processing within its given capacity of 800,000 tonnes of raw material a year. At the same time, isomerisation of light petrols was added to existing processes with an annual capacity of 250,000 tonnes of isomerate – a high-octane component that enabled blanket production of lead-free petrols. Petrols, one of Slovnaft’s main commodities, reached new quality levels through another upgrade project involving reforming with continual catalyst regeneration which was started in March, 1998. From May, 1997, Slovnaft’s high level of technology enabled production solely of low-sulphur diesel fuel with a sulphur content of up to 0.05% by weight which, together with the production of lead-free petrols, made significant contributions to environmental protection.

Slovnaft’s technological transformation in the 90´s proceeded amid major social changes initiated in 1989, reflected in the restoration of the legal joint stock company with subsequent privatisation under a management- and employee-owned Joint Stock Company named Slovintegra. With this change in ownership structure, company-owned business operations started to develop, from the purchase of oil to running a network of filling stations. On the production site itself, investments were not only made in production technology but in information systems and a blanket computer network which resulted in improved production management, storage and shipment of products. The high quality of motor fuels and increased flexibility in supply to the home market and to markets in neighbouring countries created a promising start for long-term prosperity in the incipient market environment. In 1995, company management decided to crown the upgrade process by implementing an ambitious Apollo Environmental Fuel Project (AEFP) which involved installation of conversion capacity to process heavy residues from atmospheric and vacuum distillation.

Entering the new Millennium

In 2000, two key events entered the history of Slovnaft. By starting up the entire AEFP complex with the latest technology to process crude oil, Slovnaft joined the most modern European refineries. From its production assortment, fuel oil was nearly completely ignored since the newly-installed processes enabled it to reprocess products with higher added value, fine motor fuels such as lead-free petrol and low-sulphur diesel. This fundamentally improved company finances.

Through privatisation, technology upgrades and restructuring of the organisation and its main processes, conditions were created to achieve another Slovnaft strategic goal - integration in an international business structure and participation in the regional consolidation of oil processing. This was achieved by entering into a strategic partnership with MOL Group of Hungary.

In 2001, Slovnaft became a member of the leading Central European oil & gas company, MOL Group, the most rapidly expanding consortium in the industry. In this way, Slovnaft had good prospects of dynamic development and sustainable competitiveness in the globalisation of motor fuel and petrochemicals markets, after Slovakia’s accession to the European Union. This accession became reality in 2004 and, in the same year, Slovnaft became an integral part of MOL Group. Also in the same year, a high-capacity middle distillate hydrogenation facility (HRP 7) started operating and, in 2005, a new strategic polypropylene production unit (PP3) started up. The HRP 7 unit, with a daily capacity of 3,500 tonnes of deeply desulphurised diesel components substantially strengthened MOL Group’s position in the European diesel market. The new polypropylene unit increased Slovnaft´s previous production capacity by more than 3.5 times. Together with the new high-density polyethylene production unit (HDPE) at TVK Tiszujváros, MOL Group’s Petrochemicals Division increased its annual production capacity to 1.2 million tonnes thus becoming the biggest polyolephinic granulate producer in Central Europe.

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