Shell Rhineland Refinery near Cologne is the largest oil refinery in Germany, with a capacity of around 17 million t of crude oil. The 4.4 km2 site is divided into two parts: Wesseling in the south (with an annual capacity of more than 7 million t of crude oil) and Cologne-Godorf in the north
(9 million t). In total, the plant provides almost one-sixth of Germany’s total refinery capacity. Fuel production began here in the year 1937.
Safety is a particularly important priority for the refinery. One example of this is the Safety Centre, which was inaugurated in 2014. Claus-Christoph Hoppe, divisional head of Safety and Environmental Protection at the Rhineland Refinery, refers to the Safety Centre as a milestone which plays an exemplary role for the entire industry. The idea for such a facility came from the Netherlands.
A number of partner companies helped make the centre a reality. Amongst other things, it features twelve pictures of work situations typical of the refinement industry, including deliberate mistakes. Every employee wishing to work at the Rhineland Refinery has to reliably identify all of these mistakes. This applies not only to Shell’s own employees but to the staff of all partner companies as well. Following this, they must each pass a test. Only then do they receive a work permit and are allowed to enter the worksite in the actual refinery area.
The company is exceptionally satisfied with the results: with 0.9 reportable accidents at work per million working hours, 2017 was statistically the safest year in the history of the Rhineland refinery. This is an excellent achievement, not only within the oil and gas sector but also in comparison with other industries.
Implementation of a safety culture
Aside from production, maintenance, modernisation and repair work are everyday occurrences at the refinery. The site’s infrastructure makes this a necessity. In addition to facilities like crackers, distillation columns and tanks, it also includes a pipeline network approximately 6500 km in length, consisting of pipes of all shapes and sizes. Up to 3000 people work at the refinery daily and the same motto applies to all of them: “Do it safely or don’t do it at all”, says Hoppe. People like safety officers and gas analysts are indispensable to implement this safety culture. The Rhineland Refinery has relied on Dräger’s steadily increasing expertise for these services since 2009. Every day, around 50 specialists from the Lübeck-based company work at the two locations, which are only a few kilometres apart.
During tank work or welding operations, for example, the safety officers ensure that all safety procedures and regulations pertaining to people, machines and the environment are observed. And should ever an accident occur, they know exactly what to do. The gas analysts’ main tasks are to carry out release measurements and monitor the air in the plants in accordance with the specified safety and measurement requirements, including documentation. Dräger has installed its own site at the front gates of both refinery sections for safety officers, supervisors and gas analysts.
Dräger‘s partnership with Germany’s largest refinery dates back several decades. Amongst other things, Dräger has been supplying respiratory protection gear as well as mobile and stationary measuring equipment for a long time – together with the corresponding services. Shell also collaborates with Dräger when it comes to implementing new regulations. At the Rhineland Refinery, for instance, Dräger’s X-PID device is used for benzene measurement tests. This solution was developed by the Hamburg-based startup Bentekk, in which Dräger acquired a majority share in April 2017. The use of the X-PID is currently being optimised for broader applications, to enable volatile organic substances to be determined in the region of the new, lower thresholds.
Reliable gas measuring equipment is vital to everyday safety in the refinery. Dräger‘s Safety Shops, which have been permanent fixtures in both parts of Shell‘s refinery since 2011, ensure this essential element. They are the hub for all work-related safety measures, especially for all the external companies that are provided with measuring equipment here. Almost 4000 single gas detectors and more than 700 multi-gas detectors are ready at the site for this purpose. All measurement strategies employed at the site can be mapped in this way. Hydrogen sulphide monitors, however, account for 80 % of all equipment loaned. In total, Dräger Rental & Safety Services has more than 8000 items of equipment in stock in the refinery’s two Safety Shops.
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At a glance: Safety Services
- Rental service: world-wide rental of necessary technical equipment. This includes gas measuring equipment and PPE as well as communications technology, lighting, vehicles and sanitary and medical equipment.
- Shutdown safety service: a complete package for major shutdowns and similar projects. Dräger is on-site with a Safety Shop, from which safety equipment can be loaned. In addition, qualified personnel provide services such as safety officers, release measurements, industrial safety guidance and much more besides.
- On-site safety service: designed with long-term presence on the customer‘s site in mind, this includes a Safety Shop with an assortment of safety equipment individually tailored to site requirements. Safety officers, gas analysts and safety supervisors are also provided along with safety engineers, project managers and planners. These services are rounded off by CSE monitoring with video, gas measuring and communications equipment, for example to ensure the safe transport of containers or safe navigation in confined spaces. Finally, the Dräger portfolio includes guidance on issues such as hazard assessment and integrated safety management.