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China-invested bitumen plant in Kazakhstan benefits local residents

Alwihda Info | Par peoplesdaily - 26 Avril 2017

Before 2014, nearly 90 percent of bitumen in Kazakhstan was imported. Thanks to the “Belt and Road” initiative, the country’s vision to foster its own petrochemical processing industry has realized.

By Ma Xiaoning, Zhou Hanbo, Xie Yahong and Liu Junguo from People’s Daily

China-invested bitumen plant in Kazakhstan benefits local residents
Thanks to its cooperation with China under the framework of “Belt and Road” initiative, Kazakhstan’s dream to develop its own petrochemical processing industry has come true. After establishing Aktau asphalt plant, the largest direct investment project in non-resource sectors between the two countries, the Central Asian nation is no longer dependent on asphalt imports.

Co-invested by KazMunayGas and China's CITIC Group, the plant is Kazakhstan’s first modern oil processing company, which has brought considerable benefits to local residents.

Though oil-rich, Kazakhstan sees a relatively backward oil refining industry, with many downstream petrochemical products relying on imports for a long time.

Before 2014, nearly 90 percent of bitumen in Kazakhstan was imported. Thanks to the “Belt and Road” initiative, the country’s vision to foster its own petrochemical processing industry has realized.

The plant was put into production three months after Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his historic visit to Central Asia in September 2013.

Before kicking off his visit, Xi told a Kazakh media that China and Kazakhstan should enhance cooperation in non-resource sectors such as chemical industry.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, when announcing the operation of the plant via video connection, expressed his gratitude to Chinese enterprises, saying that Kazakhstan “is finally able to construct its roads independently.” On a following inspection tour to the plant, the president even compared the bitumen plant to “his own child”.

“The plant has not only satisfied domestic demand, this year it started to export bitumen to Uzbekistan,” 63-year-old manufacturing technician Groba told the People’s Daily with pride.

Groba added that no disqualification has been reported in environmental inspections over the past three years, as the environmental standard of Kazakhstan is much stricter than that of the EU.

Zhou Hanzhang, chief mechanic of the plant, said the plant’s technologies and equipment are both imported from China, with qualities above international standards.

CITIC Group, when investing in Kazakhstan, has been following Xi’s requirements on international cooperation in production capacity.

“China will promote international production capacity cooperation, offer high-quality, advanced and environmental-friendly production capacity and technologies to help its partners optimize industrial distribution and raise industrialization,” Xi said.

“The plant has not only enabled me to live a descent life but also provided jobs to over 200 citizens near its location,” said Groba. As a larger number of locals are indirectly working for the plant, it has become a star among the joint ventures in Aktau.

Wang Fuhua, engineer-in-chief of the instrument system, said that his workmates and he are all known to the locals, who will always express their willingness to apply for jobs at the factory. “We feel very proud to work here,” Wang said.

Abizhanov, director of the product and material workshop, said that he hopes his daughter to learn at China University of Petroleum in the future where she can not only get specialized knowledge but also learn Chinese language. Abizhanov’s daughter is currently studying petrochemical engineering in Minsk, capital of Belarus.

“With the accelerated construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt, China will increase (its) investment in Kazakhstan. Given such background, she will embrace a better career prospect if mastering Chinese,” Abizhanov added.

Dispatcher Aman said that he wants to build high-quality roads for his motherland. Aman graduated from China University of Petroleum in Qingdao, Shandong Province and was impressed by the wide and smooth pavements at the school.

“After Kazakhstan's ‘Bright Road’ new economic policy aligns with China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, there will be larger demand for high quality bitumen,” he added.

“As the largest and most professional bitumen manufacturer in Kazakhstan, the plant will not only help build the nation’s bright pathway with domestically produced bitumen, but also pave a bright pathway for my future career,” Aman is confident about the future.

Pic: Chinese and Kazakh administrative staffs discuss operation of the Aktau bitumen plant, which is the largest joint venture in non-resource sectors between China and Kazakhstan. (Photo by Zhou Hanbo from People’s Daily)

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