Czech Republic: Plant Productivity Unipetrol to Commence Plant Operations Post Turnaround
Unipetrol will resume operations at its chemical facility in Litvínov, Czech Republic after a two-month-long planned operational turnaround. To curtail the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic during the turnaround period, the company also undertook diverse safety, hygienic and anti-epidemic measures.
Czech Republic – “We are part of the Czech Republic’s critical infrastructure and are one of the pillars of the Czech economy. At one moment, we were facing two simultaneous challenges: to implement the needed and urgent general overhaul of our production facilities and to minimise the risks related to the spread of Covid-19. I am glad that we managed both challenges together with the neighbouring municipalities, the region, ministries, and a host of experts,” said Tomasz Wiatrak, Unipetrol Group’s CEO and Board Chairman.
The turnaround, in other words, a planned shutdown of the entire production, took place in the Litvínov plant after four years. The primary reasons were regular maintenance of onsite production technologies according to legislative and review requirements and the preparation of the facilities for the next operational cycle. “The majority of planned work has been completed, and now we are beginning to gradually put the production technologies back into operation. The shutdown and the start-up of each production unit always take several days and is the most sensitive part of the turnaround. It includes the controlled combustion of excess gases using safety field burners. We apologise in advance to all the inhabitants of the neighbouring municipalities for the related transient light and sound effects,” said Tomáš Herink, member of the Board of Directors of the Unipetrol Group.
For seven weeks, six thousand maintenance tasks and a range of investment projects were implemented within the maintenance and renovation of production facilities. “The key projects included a repair of the furnace of the atmospheric crude oil distillation unit, the replacement of the cooling-water underground pipeline at the partial oxidation production unit as well as servicing of large compressors at the steam cracker,” listed Tomáš Herink.
About one month before the start of the turnaround, an unexpected situation occurred – the whole of Europe was affected by the pandemic of a coronavirus causing Covid-19. It resulted in the respective governments adopting unprecedented measures restricting the free movement of citizens, the performance of many occupations, the offer of services and contact abroad. “Within a few days, we had to change the planned schedule of individual tasks and mainly create and implement a system of safety, hygienic and anti-epidemic measures which we submitted to the Central Crisis Staff of the Government of the Czech Republic,” explained Tomáš Herink.
All these changes had to be coordinated with dozens of large and small domestic and foreign suppliers. And since the measures against the spread of the coronavirus were adopted in other countries of Europe as well, foreign suppliers could not guarantee that their employees would be sent to the Czech Republic in this situation. “We opened our crisis staff to representatives of municipalities, the region, the police and the public health protection authority. We collaborated with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Regional Public Health Protection Authority, the police and the municipalities of Litvínov and most on the preparation of measures inside and outside of our site. Our goal was to ensure the safety of our employees, suppliers and inhabitants around the plant,” described Tomasz Wiatrak.
Foreign workers who arrived in the end had to undergo 14-day work quarantine and were subjected to a special regime where they were not allowed to move freely and use public transport. “We created communication manuals in eight languages, organised isolated accommodation capacities for quarantine and disease, and designated special entrances to the site, separate catering locations and stores to minimise foreign workers’ contact with our employees and the inhabitants of the neighbouring municipalities. Also, everyone was tested for Covid-19,” Tomasz Wiatrak enumerated the key measures.
Already the start of the turnaround work confirmed that the decision to perform the turnaround according to the planned schedule was right. It prevented any risk of employees and inhabitants that could be caused by operating technologies that would not be reviewed according to the mandatory deadlines. “We saw what we had expected while planning the turnaround. Some parts of the technologies were reaching the limit of their lifecycle and putting off their revision or replacement would have meant an increased operational risk,” said Tomáš Herink.
In conclusion, Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of the Unipetrol Group, added: “We would like to thank all the authorities, institutions and organisations that were involved in the preparation and implementation of the safety, hygienic and anti-epidemic measures. At the same time, we thank the inhabitants for their understanding and patience. Together, we have experienced a situation that has no parallel in the history of the Czech chemical industry.”