Comprising a network of Caltex service stations and a refinery, as well as a sizeable supply and trading organisation, Chevron South Africa recently restarted production at its Milnerton-based refinery, in Cape Town, shortly after one if its most significant and successfully planned maintenance and safety inspections, which took place from February until March.
The planned maintenance and safety inspections required an investment of about R440-million.
Chevron Cape Town Refinery GM Doug Pottenger explains that planned refinery maintenance and safety inspections are practised worldwide to allow for technology and operational upgrades, which ensure that high safety levels are upheld and refineries run optimally, resulting in fuel security.
“During maintenance periods, supply constraints are carefully mitigated through the accumulation of strategic fuel supply in the time leading up to any planned maintenance and safety inspection,” he says.
Pottenger adds that, during these periods, Chevron’s refinery in Milnerton takes every possible precaution to mitigate unplanned emissions, which are independently monitored. The refinery adheres to air-quality regulations nationally and internationally.
In addition to the planned maintenance and safety inspection investment, Chevron injects direct capital of more than R300-million a year into the refinery for general maintenance and operational development, he notes.
Chevron invested an additional R450-million into a project that started in 2009, namely the construction of a multipoint ground flare and new 100 m elevated flare that replaced the existing flare.
The ground flare is used for day-to-day operations, while the elevated flare is used for abnormal or emergency operating conditions. “This investment . . . resulted in employment for 500 local residents and will further improve the refinery’s operational efficiencies,” says Pottenger.
Benefits associated with this advanced flare compliance system include noise reduction during routine flaring and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, owing to the increased efficiency of the new ground flare, he explains. The multipoint nature of the flare will result in safe, quiet and smoke-free gas combustion, thereby reducing its environmental impact.
Construction of the multipoint and elevated flare, which started in 2009 and was completed in November 2014, used advanced technology. Construction equipment for the flares was supplied by total combustion solutions provider Callidus Technologies.
The ground flare uses a multipoint, spread burner design that produces smokeless burning. The other key factor of this flare is the wind fence designed to ensure laminar airflow to the flames. In the elevated flare, combustion takes place from one release source, called the tip. This results in much more efficient combustion and lower steam requirements.
Workmanship and Economic Contribution
Of the 3 000 contractors hired during this year’s maintenance and safety inspection, about 2 600 contractors were on site daily. The jobs comprised 67 different skills categories that ranged from skilled artisans to semiskilled and unskilled contractors.
“The preparation and planning for a maintenance and safety inspection are crucial to ensure a smooth and successful execution,” says Pottenger, adding that the planning for this year’s mega inspection started two years ago.
More than 160 000 work hours were spent on the planning and pre-execution stages during this year’s inspection, with more than 1.34-million work hours spent during actual execution, he adds.
Pottenger notes that refinery maintenance and safety inspection have a significant ripple effect that enables individuals and companies to benefit. In addition to increased employment and skills transfer, a number of small businesses benefited, from catering companies to companies that hire out marquees and scaffolding. Pottenger notes that 1 370 t of scaffolding were erected during the inspection, which is enough to build a 4 m × 4 m tower with a height of 6.4 km.
“We have one of the best safety records in the industry and our preventative approach has helped us achieve our reputation for safety and operational effectiveness. We are very proud of all our employees and additional contract workers for their hard work and the long hours they have dedicated to implementing the recent inspection,” says Pottenger.
Chevron’s refinery spends more than R700-million a year on local suppliers, all of which are broad-based black economic- empowerment-accredited companies and 25%-black-owned companies.