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UK Cassel plant overhaul completed safely and on schedule, despite the pandemic

Major plant overhauls usually take place at three yearly intervals.
The 2020 overhaul at Cassel in the UK had been brought forward by 12 months driven by the need to replace a temporary fire tube boiler that had been installed in 2018 to alleviate the risk of potential failure. This major work, planned maintenance; the replacement of other significant plant equipment and the creation of major new tie-ins for additional future process improvement projects meant that this was always going to be a challenging and complex overhaul. But these challenges were of course exacerbated, in an extraordinary year, by the additional safe working precautions made necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been at the centre of our business operations since it arrived in early 2020 and has shaped the way we had to adapt as a site in order to remain safe and continue plant operations, so it was recognised from the outset that this was going to be the most difficult overhaul event that the site had ever had to deliver. With significant numbers of external contractors coming onto the site, additional new risk assessments, our infrastructure and a radical reappraisal of how we engage with external contract organisations was required.

Given the effect that COVID-19 had taken on the local population with many companies furloughing large amounts of people for many months, some of whom had been made redundant, the company also wanted to utilise local labour to help support the local work force as much as possible during this difficult time. The site adopted a revised strategy for the planning and execution phases of the event utilising four different key contract companies to execute the work on individually allocated areas of the site. This meant that the quality of supervision and the trades people who came to the site were much better than had been used previously, a step change from the 2018 event which ultimately delivered enormous benefits in terms of SHE behaviours, productivity and resource retention.

The challenges of executing an event with over 1000 people on site under COVID-19 conditions was enormous and influenced the teams thinking through all aspects of the overhaul, this included: The purchasing of materials from both
inside of the UK and external to the UK had to be done much further in advance than ever before to ensure delivery would be achieved in time for the event.

The influx of new people onto the site meant training and onboarding could not be done in the traditional face-to-face way. The training team on site worked incredibly hard to develop a web based induction solution that could be completed remotely, leaving only basic on-boarding to be done when the individuals arrived on site for work.

COVID-19 compliant welfare facilities were developed, with additional personal hygiene facilities across the site; intensive cleaning regimes; new one-way systems; screens, partitions, extra PPE; and shift patterns to minimise the number of people in cabins and the queues at peak times.

Maintaining social distancing was a major issue needing continuous management to ensure compliancy whilst executing job activities and maintaining normal SHE protocols. Strong engagement with the safe control of work team and detailed discussions at the permit issuing stage meant that COVID-19 was always considered and control measures put in place before any activities were undertaken.

Major plant overhauls usually take place at three yearly intervals. The 2020 overhaul at Cassel in the UK had been brought forward by 12 months driven by the need to replace a temporary fire tube boiler that had been installed in 2018 to alleviate the risk of potential failure. This major work, planned maintenance; the replacement of other significant plant equipment and the creation of major new tie-ins for additional future process improvement projects meant that this was always going to be a challenging and complex overhaul. But these challenges were of course exacerbated, in an extraordinary year, by the additional safe working precautions made necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Managing groups of specialist contractors, some from overseas, was challenging throughout with early engagement playing a key part, excellent dialogue and information sharing in advance of attendance on site with higher levels of segregation and testing deployed to ensure the safety of the individuals who arrived to execute the work. All of the above measures meant that the event was delivered with no work related COVID-19 cases originating from the site.

When undertaking an event of this size and scale the performance is generally measured against 4 key KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

SHE

The SHE performance at the overhaul was generally very good and comparable, and in some cases better than 2018, with the
exception of two classified injuries and one significant loss of containment that occurred on start up. As always detailed investigations have been conducted for all three of these incidents and key learning will be identified
to provide opportunities for improvement going forward.

Quality

Approximately 4712 flanged joints were remade during the course of the event with only 15 issues associated with these joints. Torqueing and tagging of joints was implemented for the first time at this overhaul with excellent compliance in both areas. Safe fluid testing was also utilised which helped to identify issues before hazardous chemicals were introduced.

Duration

Due to large amounts of emergent work on the SAR plant and extensive repairs within the Esterifier vessels at MM8, the overhaul didn’t achieve the level 1 planned dates for the main plants but the plants were recovered and back producing within the contingency period that had been agreed with the business, which was a fantastic performance by the team.

Costs

The cost performance for the event was excellent with the overhaul delivered within agreed budget figures despite the large amount of emergent work encountered and the increased costs associated with management of COVID-19.

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