When the facilities are stopped in a six-year cycle at the OMV refinery in Schwechat, there is a reason for it: legally prescribed cleaning, maintenance and inspection work. To be able to service and inspect a plant of this size, the shutdowns are split into twoyear periods. After the crude oil processing section last year, this year it is the turn of the petrochemical area. TÜV AUSTRIA has been a safety services partner for OMV for a long time. A large team of authorized experts will be on site until mid-June. Every pressure vessel, every new welded joint and every flange connection is inspected with the utmost meticulousness by TÜV AUSTRIA technicians – a substantial contribution to ensuring the plant’s safety and environmentally sound operation for the coming years. For TÜV AUSTRIA’s experts, however, the focus is not only on the technical safety of the plant, but just as important is the issue of occupational safety within the scope of the inspection. Correct behavior in any danger scenario is practiced in numerous training sessions. This is to make sure nothing happens, if anything should ever happen.
Systematic assessment from planning to commissioning
Safety technology has developed greatly over the last few years. Although safety devices for pressure equipment and systems are today still being realized with mechanical safety equipment, such as safety valves and rupture discs, a trend towards electronic safety devices is becoming increasingly apparent. The normative and safety requirements for such so-called MCR protection systems (measurement, control and regulation devices, including, for example, overfill protection for containers and safety chains for steam boilers) are very high and require a systematic assessment from planning to risk analysis and all the way to execution and commissioning. Being a safety services partner of OMV’s for many years, TÜV AUSTRIA invests a great deal of time and training to ensure its specialists have top-of-the-line qualifications. All departments within the large team of refinery inspectors consequently have the necessary expertise for such safety equipment. The preparatory work for testing the MCR protection systems had already started a few months before the refinery was shut down. While the plant is stopped, all the safety equipment will be subjected to appropriate tests, examinations and assessments until mid-June, so as to allow the systems to continue to be operated safely and reliably in the future too.
Efficient test methods, safe facilities
By developing its own test methods, the TÜV AUSTRIA materials technology unit has achieved a high reputation both domestically and abroad in non-destructive testing of materials. These are methods for assessing the internal condition of materials and welded seams, containers and pipelines, without having to cut open the container or the pipeline. Physical, optical and chemical parameters allow an accurate assessment of a material’s state, making, for example, even the finest cracks visible. Acoustic emission is also included in non-destructive testing. This method can be used to determine the condition of a container or pipeline with regard to cracks and corrosion. Depending on the application, this examination can even be performed during ongoing operation of the systems. Acoustic emission is therefore a time- and money-saving method to examine plants to be sure they are in safe condition. In addition to the classical methods of non-destructive testing, modern imaging methods are also used in inspecting the OMV refinery in Schwechat to determine the current condition of the systems. Depending on the results of these tests, specific repairs are made or, if necessary, components are replaced.