BOC and BP have recently completed a successful shutdown and overhaul of their jointly managed Bulwer Island, Australia, facilities.

The operation was part of a major turnaround conducted by BP at the BP Bulwer Refinery and has delivered significant improvements to the facility.

As part of the Clean Fuels Project, the facility enables BP to manufacture diesel and petrol with a sulphur content of 50 parts per million.

The shutdown, overhaul and upgrade is a critical part of the maintenance programme which was put in place when the plant was built. It requires that a routine turnaround takes place every five years. It was also required to meet statutory requirements.

Planning and maintaining supply
An initial project team was brought together about 24 months before the turnaround and drew on the global expertise of BP and BOC. The first step was to determine the scope and timing and to work collaboratively to minimise disruption.

Engineers from both BOC and BP were a key part of the project, with a large team of engineers involved in all aspects. Nearly all disciplines of engineering were required at some stage. They included chemical engineers who ensured that the equipment was fit for service, plus mechanical, civil and electrical engineers.

The team reviewed the entire process, identifying bottlenecks that could be avoided. As a result of their work, many improvements were made to the plant such as a preheat furnace which was previously draft limited. The team of engineers was also involved in the modifications that were made to the air separation unit to supply extra oxygen.

A critical part of the planning involved maintaining supply to about 200 existing BOC customers across Queensland. During the turnaround, BOC was able to maintain supply of various gases to major customers throughout the period. BP was also able to keep the rest of the refinery operating throughout to ensure continued supply to its customers.

According to Graeme Findlay, projects and services manager, BP Bulwer Refinery, turnarounds are all about meticulous planning to ensure a smooth execution and minimise surprises. He said: "The planning, monitoring and analysis before work started ensured that nearly all of the major risks were identified and dealt with effectively."

"A major contributor to our success was the massive planning effort initiated over a year before the shutdown," said Tony Collins, manager, plant operations, eastern region, BOC. "The planning was both internal and external, with BP our alliance partner as well as major contractors interacting and cooperating closely with the BOC planning effort."

As a result of the project the HGU (Hydrogen Generation Unit) has increased its output by 115 per cent. The air Separation unit was also upgraded to produce 10 per cent more argon through efficiency saving. BP\\$quot;s Hydrocracker was also revamped to increase diesel production.

A major objective for the site during the turnaround was to deliver a unit that would run faultlessly for the next five years, and both companies are pleased that this objective is expected to be met.

The Bulwer Island facility opened in 2000 and at the time was BOC\\$quot;s second largest gas production plant investment in the world \\$quot;“ approximately $179m and by far BOC\\$quot;s largest investment in the South Pacific region.