The largest division in HOLBORN Refinery, Production, got right back into full swing again once the maintenance activities were completed. This was based on their colleagues in the main Operations division ensuring the means for product streams as the processing units were started up – the last phase in any downtime. This stage not only requires a great deal of precision, but primarily the greatest care and experience.
Everything during commissioning follows exact start-up plans. These extend to heating curves for individual units that specify how newly relined towers are to be incrementally heated to ensure that they are not damaged. Pressures need to be slowly increased, values monitored and settings adjusted. A large number of dependencies must be considered, because the processes within individual units as well as in the two major processing units – crude oil distillation and catalytic cracking – are in many cases interlinked. The procedure is incremental until production can recommence.
Commissioning involved increased flare activity at the refinery: these flares form an important part of our safety system and enable controlled and residual-free incineration of crude gases, such as methane, which unavoidably result from the start-up process but are not yet usable. We naturally adhere to all environmental regulations and statutory provisions when doing so.
All of the tasks were implemented as scheduled in a total of six weeks downtime plus the time for plant shutdown and start-up. This included the inspection of 764 safety valves, 406 heat exchangers, 356 pressure vessels, 51 towers, 27 reactors and countless filters, pipelines, pumps and furnaces. Numerous people were involved in the turnaround: in peak periods it involved HOLBORN receiving support from some 2,200 additional personnel from a wide range of contractors, such as scaffold erectors, pipe fitters, welders, insulation specialists, electricians, control mechanics and crane operators, as well as engineers and experts.
Supply to customers was constantly assured during the turnaround, since good preparation meant that the storage tanks were filled and the loading facilities continued to operate. The downtime costs amounted to around 110 million euros: this investment is a commitment to Hamburg-Harburg as a location, to securing the 800 or so direct and indirect jobs that depend on the refinery and to the ongoing supply of fuels to the region. The actions taken mean that the refinery is in good shape and safe for a further five years before another TÜV overhaul is due in 2028.
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