3/30/2020 - Posted in  Engineering

Postponement of turnarounds (TAR) due to COVID-19

One of the consequences of COVID-19 on the industry: The postponement of turnarounds

Before the measures due to COVID-19 were taken, a lot of great chemical companies were planning and preparing the maintenance stops of their plants. Because of the measures taken, some of these maintenance stops will have to be postponed. Of course, the health of the workers and the population comes first! But which consequences can the postponement of these maintenance stops - also called turnarounds (TAR) - have?

Every chemical plant must complete a maintenance stop at a certain time to guarantee the security and integrity of its installations. Turnarounds are planned at a precise moment in time when the plant is approaching the point it can’t meet the security norms anymore.

Maintenance stops that were already planned or initiated far enough, such as the ones of Delamine in Delfzijl and Borealis in Chemelot, will still take place respecting the minimum occupation and sanitary measures taken by the government. Stops that were not initiated yet or advanced enough will be postponed, such as the ones of OCI Nitrogen in Geleen and Gunvor in Rotterdam. Many other companies are currently examining potential postponements.

Turnarounds that are postponed, must still take place ASAP! Many investigations are being led to determine whether postponing these stops for half a year doesn't put the security and integrity of these plants at risk.

Because of postponement, multiple TAR’s will have to take place simultaneously. This makes maintenance contractors such as Stork, Spie, Sitech question the feasibility of this whole operation as they normally go from one stop to another. The market of qualified technicians is rather limited. Under normal circumstances, contractors already must share technicians with one another between TAR’s to successfully complete them. Another result is that several technicians booked for now postponed stops, are now home and without a project for the upcoming months.

This situation now leaves us with a lot of questions. Would it be realistic to undertake many turnarounds at the same time? Will there be enough manpower? If some stops will have to be delayed even longer because of the lack of manpower, will this mean that some of these plants have to stop their activities for a while, before maintenance, as they can’t meet security norms and integrity of infrastructures? Which economic impact will it have, as a great number of production lines we daily need rely on the chemical sector and its products?

This crisis will certainly change our way of producing, consuming and living. Of course, we are always afraid of the unknown, but this might be an opportunity for the chemical industry, great companies as for us all to challenge status quo. By doing so we will be able to rise stronger together.


- This article was written by Aldwin Camus, Associate Consultant Engineering

Source: petrochem

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