Refined air solution to Durban oil refinery shutdowns

28 August 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201915937

Hydraulics & Pneumatics

WHILE Durban is one of South Africa's major industrial hubs, it is also home to some of South Africa’s major oil refineries. The fuel and oil from these refineries keep much of South Africa and its economy on the move and flowing smoothly every day.

A refinery is a very large and highly complex operation which has been designed to run most of the time with a minimum of supervision. However, usually every two years, oil refineries need to be shut down for a period of intensive maintenance, replacement or repair.

This is according to Rudi de Vry, Rand-Air’s Area Manager in Durban, who added that this potential disruption to fuel supplies has to be carefully planned and timed.

Refined air solution to Durban oil refinery shutdowns

“During oil refinery shutdowns, thousands of subcontractors are hired to carry out the many maintenance procedures which are required. These subcontractors need to be supplied with temporary compressed air and power - as well as with other equipment – in order to carry out their allotted tasks. This is where Rand-Air comes in.”

De Vry said that over its 46 years of operation, Rand-Air had become the preferred rental equipment partner to South African oil refineries, including those in Durban.

“We have built up these relationships over many years, on the back of service which invariably goes beyond what the customer expects of us.”

The Durban branch has recently completed just such a project, partnering with South Africa’s largest oil refinery during a shutdown which extended from 15 May until 15 July this year.

During the shutdown, the refinery needs dozens of equipment items. All of these have to be sourced and if necessary transported to Durban. The equipment then has to be checked by our technicians to make sure that it is as reliable as they it can possibly be, and then dispatched to the refinery site.

De Vry said that it was a case of ‘all hands on deck’, and extended working hours for his small but highly motivated team in Durban during the refinery shutdown.

Recently, the Durban branch was able to rent out one of the larger oil-free compressors in Rand-Air’s range to the same customer.

“Ironically, even though it was for an oil refinery, the customer required Class 0 oil-free air to keep its systems operational during a maintenance shutdown.

“We have furthermore found that being able to supply Class 0 oil-free air - which is absolutely free of contaminants - has created a very nice niche for us with the various refineries in the region. These refineries therefore regularly hire our oil-free compressors. In this particular instance, the refinery concerned rented the PTS 1600 for a period of two weeks. When the compressor was returned to us, the customer feedback we received was very positive.”

De Vry said renting equipment to any refinery has to be done with considerable care, due to the nature of the business, and safety regulations are therefore stringent.

“When it comes to refineries, safety is their number one concern.”

Rand-Air’s Durban team works closely with the refinery to meet their safety obligations. “Before our equipment is delivered to a refinery site, there are a number of procedures we need to carry out on the units to ensure that our standards are aligned with those of our customer. This involves close consultation with the refinery’s safety officials.

“If, for example, a refinery needs to have a compressor pressure-tested, we fully understand why this is needed and what the legal implications are. Once the equipment is on site, Rand-Air technicians continue to monitor it to ensure it delivers faultless performance.”

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