Sometimes, safe working practices can create a dilemma. That was the case with the SZF4 acid pump array. Despite all the safety measures, performing maintenance on this installation, which is more than 50 years old remained a risky proposition. Technicians found that working under these conditions was not safe, but the pumps still had to last a few more years, until the closure of the plant. In close collaboration with the customer, a solution was found.
Offering a variety of possible solutions
Things stayed up in the air until, at the end of 2018, Sylvia Vanhommerig (BU manager Engineering Solutions) was given the task of investigating ways of making the acid pump array safer. “After a thorough investigation, we were able to put forward four options to the Plant Management Team (PMT), each of which involved different levels of investment,” Sylvia explains.
Executing the plan at very short notice
The PMT agreed with the recommendation and chose one of the proposed solutions to move forward with – a major refurbishment, which would normally require one and a half to two years’ lead time. However, the PMT did not want to wait that long, since SZF4 is being decommissioned in 2021. What if this project was carried out concurrently with the planned turnaround in June 2019? “That was a challenge,” says Robbie Aretz (Mechanical Engineer Rotating). “We therefore began discussions with the German company Bungartz, who originally built the pumps. Together with René Dohmen (Asset Engineer at OMF) and the manufacturer, we put together a plan of action to complete the conversion within the two weeks of the turnaround. Ultimately, the time from us being given the task to finalization of the project was only six months.
Taking high temperatures into account
The working conditions for the removal and installation of the pumps were not ideal. “The operating space is restricted,” Robbie explains. “And the technicians had to wear protective suits for safety, even though the external temperature was absurdly high. As a number of turnarounds were then ongoing, finding sufficient manpower was difficult. Luckily, colleagues from Maintenance were able to lend a hand.”
The improved and safe pump array is now a source of pride
Finally, after three weeks, the refurbished pumps were ready to be signed off for delivery. “A fine piece of work,” says Maintenance Manager René Reumerman, “which was made possible by carrying out the financing, engineering, preparations, sourcing, planning and actual execution simultaneously in many cases. This required the involvement of the customer, the supplier and Sitech. “We’re proud that we were able to give these pumps a new lease of life,” says Robbie. “But the most important thing is that we once again managed to create a safe working environment for our technicians.”