Maintenance starting on the drawing board

With a fast-growing demand for its products, the chemical company Huntsman Holland BV has to focus strongly on production safety and efficiency. Service and maintenance play a key role in maximizing the throughput of its plant.

DATE 2023-11-28 AUTHOR Birgitta Lundblad

Efficiency may have a high priority for Huntsman Holland, but EHS (Environment, Health and Safety protection) is an even more common concept in the company’s vocabulary. EHS is referred to in every small discussion, and no efforts or investments are spared when it comes to guaranteeing every aspect of it in the company’s operations. As a visitor to Huntman’s premises, you are struck by all its strict safety regulations.

Even if safety rules are necessary and common procedures in the chemical industry in general, it is obvious that Huntsman takes safety one step further than what is required by law. For example, each of its 400 employees and 200 contractors undergoes security training regularly. “We never, ever compromise on safety”, says Jan van Goolen, Maintenance & Project Group Manager and member of the management team at Huntsman Holland BV. “Safety is a matter of procedures and techniques, but most of all it is a matter of human behaviour. So making all our people aware of possible risks and behave in the safest possible manner is one of our main priorities.”

Holland’s chemicals industry centre

Huntsman Holland’s Rozenburg Works is located in the Port of Rotterdam which was the world’s largest port until some three years ago, when Shanghai took over this position. Rotterdam is still Europe’s largest port in terms of throughput volumes; about 100 million tonnes of crude oil are shipped into Rotterdam every year. The strategic position means that products can be conveniently transported via pipelines, rail, tank truck or ships into Europe and by ocean-going vessels to overseas locations.

60 per cent of the Dutch petrochemical industry is to be found in the Port of Rotterdam area. The area is home for over 40 chemical companies and many of them work closely together. The cooperation results in lower investment and operating costs due to shared energy and utilities, facilities and infrastructure. “We co-site with several other companies and some of them are also raw material suppliers to us,” says Jan van Goolen. “This Integrated Supplier Concept leads to important savings of time and transportation costs.”

Huntsman also cooperates with neighbouring companies on EHS matters according to the industry’s Responsible Care principles. “Representatives of 16 companies as well as of Rozenburg inhabitants meet four times a year to discuss what actions we can take to improve health and safety and reduce environmental influences,” says Jan Verburg, Mechanical Team Leader.”

Following the spirit of the founder

Huntsman Holland belongs to Huntsman Polyurethanes which, in turn, is one of the six business divisions of the Huntsman Corporation with headquarters in Salt Lake City in the USA and with 14,000 employees and more than 75 operational sites in 24 countries.

Huntsman bought the operations at the Rozenburg site from ICI in 1999. Today, the site includes two factories for the production of 300,000 tonnes a year of diphenylmethane-diisocyanate (MDI) and one factory for the production of 50,000 tonnes a year of polyols; both products are chemical substances used for making polyurethane, the most versatile of any group of polymers. The site also has two factories for semimanufactured products.

Huntsman was founded in 1970 by Jon Huntsman who started his business in his own backyard with the help of his wife and his brother. In 1974, the family company had a true breakthrough when it developed its innovative hamburger boxes. Jon Huntsman is not only a pioneer and a successful businessman, he is also a true philanthropist who puts a lot of money and efforts into fighting cancer. He founded the Huntsman Cancer Research Institute that has grown into one of the most prominent research institutes in the United States.

Huntsman Holland reflects the founder’s humanitarian spirit. For instance, the Rozenburg site was the first winner of the President’s Responsible Care Award in 1999. The award is an initiative of the Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry, established to improve health, safety and environmental performance.

Service is the key to maximizing up-time

An important issue for Huntsman as an industry cost leader is overall operation efficiency and cost minimization. “We need maximum throughput in our plants and it is of vital importance that our equipment is up and running as much as possible. Therefore, service and maintenance are taken into account from the beginning of a project,” says Jan van Goolen. “For us maintenance starts on the drawing board, and our people in Maintenance & Construction, Purchasing & Logistics and Engineering work as an integrated team.”

The performance of every piece of equipment, including all plateheat exchangers installed at the plant, is carefully monitored. “We analyze the consequences of a possible failure on each of them, looking at four aspects; health and safety influences, environmental influences, production loss and maintenance costs,” says Maintenance Engineer Cor Vogel. “By our Asset Maintenance Plan methodology we determine how important the equipment is in relation to these four aspects and prioritize the preventive maintenance activities according to the appreciated consequences of failures. In certain cases, thorough preventive maintenance is of great importance in eliminating costly product losses.”

And again, health and safety have the highest priority. “We don’t make any compromises whatsoever if we see a possible risk for human beings. In these cases, we always put in preventive or predictive maintenance – and redesign the equipment if needed – to eliminate the risk. We also see to it to take all necessary measures to prevent leakage that could affect the environment,” says Cor Vogel.

Joint approach

Alfa Laval has installed some 50 plate heat exchangers at Huntsman’s Rozenburg site and is one of company’s Preferred Vendors. Alfa Laval’s commitments include comprehensive service and maintenance, and in 2001 these activities were enhanced to comprise plate heat exchangers of other brands as well.

“Our cooperation with Alfa Laval is the kind of relationship we want to have with our suppliers,” says Jan van Goolen. “In addition to the supply of highly reliable equipment, we need full understanding of our needs and conditions, and it is important for us to be able to share knowledge.”

“We judge our suppliers according to a number of criteria, and to qualify as a Preferred Vendor the companies have to live up to each and every demand,” says John van Emmenes, Operational Buyer. ”Proof of our well-functioning relationship with Alfa Laval is that we at the Purchasing Department are not involved in closing individual maintenance deals. We meet them only once a year to set prices and delivery times, and then our maintenance people have direct contact with Alfa Laval. This is a very smooth way of working.”

Cor Vogel points out that Huntsman needs reliable suppliers who keep their promises. He also considers it important that they are willing to advise Huntsman on how to improve the performance of the equipment and how to reduce maintenance costs. “And the suppliers should not wait until we ask them. We want them to be proactive and continuously suggest improvements and redesigns when needed,” adds Jan Verburg.

“There is not a day in the office when we don’t talk about Huntsman – and with great respect, too,” says Klaas Krook, Parts & Service Sales Engineer of Alfa Laval Benelux. “It takes time and effort on both sides to build up the type of fruitful and long-term relationship we have, but it certainly pays.”

Large investments

Jan van Goolen sees certain challenges for Huntsman in the near future such as labour shortage at all levels and the high prices of oil, metals and raw materials.

But on the whole, the future for Huntsman Holland looks very bright. “The MDI market is growing tremendously. We have a number of large, interesting projects in the pipeline here in Rozenburg that are aimed at increasing the output in our plants through increased automation, enlarged capacities, optimization of our processes and application of new technology,” he concludes.

Well-defined frames of cooperation - Huntsman

Alfa Laval is a Preferred Supplier to Huntsman Holland and the two companies have a very close relationship. Some 50 Alfa Laval plate heat exchangers are installed at the Rozenberg works for different heating and cooling applications.

Alfa Laval carries out service and maintenance on the heat exchangers according to an AllBrands contract covering all plate heat exchanger in the plant including 11 of the APV brand. The reconditioning of plates takes place at Alfa Laval’s service centre in Waalwijk. The reconditioning programme includes regasketing plates, inspection, pressure testing and gasket recommendations. The AllBrands concept offers a number of benefits such as one single partner for all reconditioning service, optimized product life-time, overall lower maintenance costs and support from sealing and thermal technology experts.

"By applying fixed prices and delivery times, we have managed to establish a very smooth way of working without time-consuming ordering procedures. We save a lot of time this way,” says John van Emmenes, Operational Buyer.

Mechanical Supervisor Uwe Klockzin and his colleagues work directly with the Alfa Laval team when ordering running service. “We are very pleased with the AllBrands concept,” he says. “Our maintenance costs have decreased by about 10 per cent since we introduced it, and it has also resulted in improved safety with reduced production losses and more production uptime.”

The cooperation with Huntsman is advantageous for Alfa Laval as well. “All specifications are very clear to both parties and we have a well-defined scope of work that has enabled us to build up a close relationship for mutual understanding and good communications on all levels,” says Sander van’t Klooster, Sales Engineer, Process Industry at Alfa Laval Benelux. “Huntsman is an ideal cust