Market-leading industrial gas company, Air Products, has announced a successful shutdown of its Sasol plant after a careful two-year planning period.

In addition to optimising equipment use and maintaining a high level of operational production, plant shutdowns at specific intervals are a critical part of securing a safe work environment.

Given the already complex nature of overcoming time sensitive logistical challenges during an organised shutdown, the South Africa-based Air Products faced additional responsibility by having to adhere to Covid-19 safety protocols.

As a result of their experience in planning and executing plant shutdowns, the company also reported zero Covid-19 infections amongst the 270 individuals forming part of the process.

With a focus on ensuring the continuation of operations and keeping customers informed, Dumisa Gina, General Manager – Operations, said, “When we do a shutdown, communication with the customer is crucial and our team ensure that all parties agree on the timelines and have their planning in place to manage during the shutdown period.”

“In this situation the customer becomes the most critical player on our team.”

The team associated with the shutdown itself consisted of experienced engineers and maintenance crew implementing a 20-day execution of a plan which took approximately two years to draft.

Taking into account the highly specialised nature of a successful shutdown, good communication and a high degree of interaction between crews is a key aspect.

Gina also explained the important role that contractors play in the procedure, stating, “Although Air Products consists of an experienced team, we need more hands when it comes to specific skill sets and utilising the expertise of contractors definitely adds to the overall strength of a shutdown team.”

She also mentioned the need for outside contractors to become acquainted with the company’s Covid-19 safety protocol.

Chris Schoeman, Area Production Manager, praised all involved in the shutdown, saying, “I am really humbled by this team – a shutdown is always a challenge, but they worked like true professionals and went the extra mile to adhere to the additional Covid-19 protocols.”

Taking pride in the entire team’s dedication and professionalism during the procedure, Gina said, “At Air Products, we pride ourselves in our ability to provide an outstanding service, but we have a very important new learning from our last shutdown – using and having proven processes in place, we had a solid base to work from and were able to absorb additional challenges, such as keeping all safe during a pandemic.”

Air Products recognise that it was this collaboration of efforts from its skilled maintenance, operations, and project teams that ensured a successful shutdown.