Enhanced Safety and Reliability for Chemelot’s Electrical Infrastructure

Between 2011 and 2023, all cast iron high-voltage distributors at the Chemelot site were replaced with new, future-proof installations. This marks a significant leap forward in terms of safety and reliability.

Maintaining Old Installations Not Feasible
The distributors of the high-voltage installations at Chemelot dated back to the 1960s. Sturdy cast iron installations, but they no longer met the requirements of our time. “Meanwhile, our insights into safety have changed considerably,” says Hans Smeets, Senior Electrical Engineer T&I at Sitech. “Maintaining and making the cast iron high-voltage distributors safer was not feasible, as various studies showed. Hence, they had to be replaced with modern, future-proof installations. With the principle of doing this as efficiently as possible and keeping investments as low as possible.”

Major Investment for Chemelot Plants
All plants at Chemelot agreed on the need for replacement, but they still had to secure the funding for it. Plant Manager of the Caprolactam factories, Rob Reinartz, took the lead: “It was a mega investment,” he explains. “What convinced me was a tour of the switch stations. It made me see with my own eyes that the electrical installations were no longer future-proof.”

Savings through Smart Solutions
With Rob Reinartz’s decision, the signal was given to start the long-term project. Hans Smeets: “We began by moving a distributor to the switch room of a new factory under construction. The space that this created in the existing factory gave us the idea to split the electrical infrastructure by moving distributors. Nico Hendrix, Senior E-Engineer Projects at Sitech explains: “In the switch stations at Chemelot, there were distributors from multiple plants. By moving these distributors, the companies each got their own switch station. And by expanding these with extra feeds, the factories can always keep running during maintenance on one of the distributors.”

Challenges: Duration and Time Pressure
One of the major challenges of this mega project was its long duration. Rob Reinartz: “I am proud that the project team managed to pull this off. They succeeded in convincing the successors of the people who made the investment decision in 2011.” Another challenge was the time pressure in the subprojects. Hans Smeets: “Part of the work was stop-dependent and had to be carried out during Turn Arounds.”

Low-Voltage Distributors Next in Line
In June 2023, the final touches were added, and all new distributors for the plants were put into use. Thus, we meet the compliance requirements as agreed. Hans: “The installations that are now in place are future-proof, safe, and reliable.” Have all the cast iron installations on the site been replaced? “Now it’s the turn of the low-voltage distributors. They are old and show the same issues; we prioritized the high-voltage installations.”

Power Expansion for Electrification
With the completion of the replacement project, all high-voltage distributors are ready for the future. Yet, new challenges are already emerging. “For the electrification of the production processes, the current capacities need to be expanded: by 2030, 4 times more power will be needed, and by 2050 even 16 times,” concludes Hans Smeets.

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