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Permanent Partner Shin-Etsu PVC

14-04-2009

With a production capacity of more than 3 million tons, Shin-Etsu is the world’s largest producer of PVC. In the Netherlands production takes place on two locations: Botlek and Pernis. The commercial office is situated in Hilversum. The customers of Shin-Etsu turn the PVC into piping, window frames, floor-covering, cables and many more products. In a few years Vos Mechanical has become a fixed partner of Shin-Etsu concerning safe execution of cleaning and repair of necessary shutdowns.
In the Botlek branch Shin-Etsu manufactures the so-called vinyl chloride (VC). A process whereby chlorine and ethylene are converted to ethylene dichloride (EDC). The chemical structure of this EDC is then broken up in large furnaces under high temperatures. The result? VC that serves as raw material for PVC. This VC is transported to Pernis via pipelines where the PVC factory of Shin-Etsu converts this basic product. Jan Franken is project manager on behalf of Vos Mechanical for the stops at Shin-Etsu in Botlek. Theo van Es is shut-down manager and his colleague, Leo Arkenbout is turnaround coordinator at Shin-Etsu.

Responsible for stops

Jan Franken: “In 2006 we were requested to do the job preparation and execute a stop at Shi-Etsu on the Akzo premises. This project went so well that we were again requested to do the job preparation execute a stop in 2007 and 2008.
At this point in time the job preparation is completed so that we can commence the stop in week 12. We have  received a contract to do the job preparation and execute the stops for a longer period. During these stops we inspect, clean and repair. The work consists of opening and closing appliances, furnaces, heat exchangers, distillation towers and several other appliances. Next to the inspections we also do necessary repairs and other projects such as renewing steam pipes.”  Theo van Es: “We have specific employees for various units in our plant. We came to know Vos Mechanical Rotterdam from smaller projects and we requested them to take responsibility for the stops. These we have now divided over two external parties: Vos and another specialist and we are very pleased with this decision.”

The crucial importance of stops
Theo van Es: “For stop activities we handle a fixed running time during which we try to plan all the activities for the stop. An average stop takes three to four weeks. We handle partial stops which take three years – one each year. And once every four years we have a total stop. This total stop takes longer than three to four weeks we calculate for a partial stop.” Leo Arkenbout: “Stops have an important function. There are a number of matters during a stop which we are legally obliged to inspect. Also some facets of the production process lead pollution. Cleaning of the production system is of great importance. We also implement small to large projects during a stop. An example of this is the replacement of the distillation column during the next stop. An operation that has quite an impact but which we can easily execute during a stop.

Safety first
Although stops have primarily a technical function, safety stands high on the agenda at Shin-Etsu as well as at Vos. Jan Franken: “It is important that we execute the work professionally. But execution must be done under the highest safety precautions. It is risky work and we take all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents. Until now we have been lucky. Safety belts, breathing protection - we are constantly alert regarding measures, materials and changes of conduct. The safety risks are enormous. Around the stops there are many workers in a limited area. We also work with heavy appliances which can cause injury or worse. There is also the permanent risk of coming into contact with fumes of chemicals.” Theo van Es: ‘To date there have been no accidents during the stops that were executed by Vos at Shin-Etsu. Only a few minor injuries of no consequence which were healed with a plaster. During the last stop this was also brought back to zero. This safety record is of great importance to us. Management attaches great value to safety. But we are looking for safety in the long term and are adamant on hearing protection.”

Deliberate contracting out of job preparation

A stop begins with a good job preparation. Leo Arkenhout: “This is my responsibility. It states exactly what we expect from Vos. In 2006 we deliberately opted to lay the responsibility of job preparation on the external party which would ultimately execute the stop. Of course under supervision of SE. There is a purpose to this which seems to work: the party who both prepares and executes can judge cause and effect more readily and can adjust quickly  where necessary. At Vos we brought this into practice and it works! Vos also introduces new ideas. The introduction of central beads for the regulating valves was an idea Vos introduced – it works in practice and enhances safety.“ Jan Franken: “You get a clear picture and we deduct from this what is necessary. This we translate into definite orders for our stop team in the form of a plan charts. I couple the right people from my fixed team to special projects. We build racks, remove the insulation, start-up the cleaning process and we can carry on without interruption. When the appliances have been cleaned, the inspection can take place. During the stop everything is inspected, reports are drawn up and suggestions are made for repairs. If repairs seem to be necessary we have cart-blanche to repair immediately. We deal with as many tasks as possible during a stop. We work with a fixed team for stops existing of approximately 50 employees. The team works under my leadership and there are a few foremen. The foremen form part  of the preparation team so that everyone is familiar with all the aspects of the project. There lies our strength.

Intensive collaboration
Theo van Es: “We have our own technical staff who keep a strict watch over a stop team during a stop. The production staff makes sure that the system or parts thereof can be safely passed on to the stop team. In other words thoroughly cleaned, free of pressure and free of liquids, carbon residue and fumes and gasses. All the facets are executed according to a strict protocol, whereby Shi-Etsu and Vos work in close harmony. This collaboration is the core of our success. Our staff and the staff of Vos are both partners of the same challenges you come across during a stop. That creates a bond and a shared responsibility. Here safety is also the keyword as we work continually with materials with a high risk factor”. Leo Arkenbout: “We have our own inspection team in accordance with the latest legislation, so that all inspection protocols can be done in our own plant. During a stop we have technical  deliberation in the morning with our own staff and every afternoon we have a meeting with all external contractors such as Vos on the progress of the project. We keep close contact with each other.”

The importance of a good evaluation
Leo Arkenhout: ”After every stop we have an evaluation, internally as well as with the Vos people. We remove the bad things and retain the good.” Theo van Es: “At the start of our collaboration, there was too much rubbish lying around during a stop – a safety risk. We immediately decided to insert an interval to clear the mess. Vos picked this up well and it never occurred again during following stops.”
Jan Franken: “Because of excellent evaluation we turn out better stops”. Leo Arkenbout: “Tension and stress cause extra safety risks. By evaluating and adjusting you take away the tension and improve concentration during the stops. As a result fewer accidents and, up till now, no accidents!.”

And then…. the restart

The restart after a shutdown is reasonably complex. Theo van Es: “This takes place in stages according to strict protocols. We also test everything on which we worked for leakages. From the stop organisation there is a transfer to the production organisation.” Leo Arkenhout: “Usually we can get production going within three days and after a week we are back to full production.”