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What is a matter of course for car drivers, also applies to the operators of large industrial plants. At regular intervals, the TÜV inspectors turn up at the gates to check operations are running properly. Such events involve large amounts of maintenance work and it goes without saying that inspecting one of the largest refineries in Germany is not quite as simple as checking a vehicle. A whole range of tasks need to be coordinated – from the meticulous planning work, to sophisticated logistics, to the complicated scaffolding, insulating, welding and metal work – so that the plant is approved for a further five years. There are only a handful of companies able to provide all the services required for such a complex task. XERVON is among this small group.
The refinery and petrochemicals plant in Gelsenkirchen uses 12 million tonnes of crude oil to manufacture a range of 50 different products. These include the premium fuels sold under the “Aral” brand name, heating oil, jet fuel, bitumen and petroleum coke as well as approx. 3 million tonnes of petrochemical products which are primarily sold on to the plastics industry. The two plants operated by BP here are located in two separate districts of Gelsenkirchen (Scholven and Horst), cover a total area of around 360 hectares and provide jobs for around 1,750 people. The production facilities are owned by Ruhr Oel GmbH, a joint venture between BP and the Russian oil company, Rosneft. Founded in the 1930s to produce liquid fuels from coal, the plant has since become one of the most modern refineries in Europe and one which places great importance on subjects such as safety and environmental protection.
This year’s turnaround – aka TAR – took place at Ruhr Oel’s Scholven plant between 26 April and 16 July 2014. Regular maintenance work has to be performed at refineries every five to six years. Individual facilities have to be shut down for several weeks to enable the inspectors to do their work. What though exactly happens during such a shutdown project?
Thanks to XERVON’s support, top levels of safety were maintained during the turnaround carried out at Ruhr Oel GmbH.
As soon as the plant section has been turned off, mobile cranes are brought in and set up right in the middle of the production plants. Scaffolding is erected, insulation removed, containers opened up, engines, compressors and fittings dismantled. These steel giants, so-called columns used for manufacturing petrol and other products, are literally taken apart and stripped down into their individual component parts so that they can be carefully inspected. Safety and environmental protection are top of the list of priorities during such projects. Every part is cleaned, meticulously examined and, if required, repaired or replaced and then put back together again – right down to the very last screw. Once the facility has been turned back on again and everything works properly, the specialists take down the scaffolding and remove the cranes and any other equipment needed for the turnaround work. The plant section is then given the “TÜV seal” which is valid for the next few years.
What sounds so simple is in fact a huge project that lasts for several months and begins well before the actual shutdown is due to take place. XERVON has been providing its services at the refinery for a number of years now and has around 170 employees permanently on site to carry out scaffolding and insulation work and ensure the operations there run smoothly 24/7. A much bigger team was needed for the turnaround however: over 600 employees took part this time including 120 insulation specialists, 200 scaffolders and 300 welders and metal workers from XERVON’s maintenance division.
The volumes of material needed for the scaffolding alone were immense, with the weight of the erected scaffolding totalling approx. 6,000 tonnes. To be able to handle such amounts, XERVON operates its own warehouse on the refinery’s grounds. Preparation work for the turnaround began on 06 January when the first scaffolding structures were also erected. The actual maintenance work was carried out in a two-shift operation during the project’s core period from 05 to 28 May. Transport logistics within the grounds were essential right from the start – for example while the heat exchangers were being dismantled and reassembled. Here, the tube bundle was removed, transported to where the maintenance work was to be performed, washed with high pressure jets, inspected and, if required, parts replaced or repaired before being returned and put back into the facility. Other maintenance tasks here also included measuring the thickness of the tube walls as well as removing and reinstalling any insulation materials.
The quality of XERVON’s work was underlined by the massive storm that hit the area on Whit Monday. All of XERVON’s scaffolding withstood the hurricane-force winds.
Stable scaffolding is essential to be able to carry out all this work. One special feature of the plant in Gelsenkirchen is that the scaffolding structures need to be freestanding to prevent the facility parts from being damaged. Freestanding scaffolds that are higher than 27 metres need to be calculated by structural engineers. Indeed, some of the structures erected at Ruhr Oel in Scholven were much higher than this 27-metre mark. The quality of XERVON’s work was underlined by the massive storm that hit the area on Whit Monday. Whilst buildings, vehicles and trees in Gelsenkirchen suffered badly from the storm, each and every scaffold erected by XERVON withstood the hurricane-force winds. Having passed this “test”, work was able to be started up again immediately so that the first machines could be turned back on again on 29 May. The project was completed and the plant’s operations back to normal by the middle of July. Thanks to XERVON’s help, Ruhr Oel in Gelsenkirchen has received the TÜV seal of quality – and confirmation for the next five years that its plant is fit for purpose.