Total SA is planning a nearly 2-month shutdown of its 220,000-b/d Donges refinery near Saint Nazaire, France, on the Loire estuary, for a complete modernization and maintenance overhaul designed to improve the plant’s profitability as well as its environmental footprint.
The maintenance shutdown is scheduled to begin on May 4 and will conclude on June 25, during which time all units will be shuttered for the first time in the refinery’s history, Total said in a release obtained by OGJ.
Units will be taken offline progressively during May 4-18 and gradually will be restarted over the last 2 weeks of the shutdown period as maintenance activities are completed.
Budgeted at €92 million, the modernization program will involve upgrades and installations intended to optimize and improve the refinery’s general processing units as well as the physical plant itself, with €13 million allocated to specific projects, the company said.
The flagship project will involve the replacement of 18 furnace burners in the refinery’s crude oil distillation unit, which will reduce emissions of nitrogen compounds by 30%, Total said.
While Total did not respond to requests for comment on the upcoming turnaround, the planned overhaul—which also will include workplace and industrial security upgrades—is vital to the refinery’s future, according to Eric Jego, Total’s manager for the project.
“The functioning of the site for the next 6 years depends on the quality of preparation and the execution of work [to be carried out during the shutdown],” Jego said in a circular made available to area residents.
Economics, environment, safety
The refinery’s unsustainable economic situation serves as a major impetus for the planned overhaul at Donges, according to Total, which has invested in the project to return the refinery to profitability and improve its environmental performance.
The company noted several factors that have exacerbated the refinery’s economic difficulties, including:
• Increasingly more stringent sulfur standards for petroleum-derived products in different markets, which has made it difficult for the refinery to place its products with customers.
• Rising shale oil and gas production in the US, which has made the country self-sufficient in terms of meeting its own domestic product demand but also turned it into a new competitor for the Donges refinery in the nearby export markets of Africa and Europe.
• High fixed-costs in Donges.
The major overhaul at Donges also comes as part of Total’s ongoing efforts to comply with France’s Plan for the Prevention of Technological Risks (PPRT), the company said.
Designed to protect urban development and residents living in areas surrounding industrial plants, PPRT was developed in 2003 following a September 2001 explosion at TotalFinaElf SA’s Grande Paroisse fertilizer site, just south of Toulouse, which left 29 dead and devastated buildings around the plant, including schools, hospitals, and homes (OGJ Online, Feb. 24, 2009; Sept. 24, 2001).
Contact Robert Brelsford at [email protected].