To improve the petrochemical sector’s asset integrity and energy efficiency, the Egyptian Petrochemical Holding Company (ECHEM) is working on two projects for “risk-based” renovation at affiliated companies who have been in long-term production.
ECHEM is also looking into the implementation of a programme to improve upon energy efficiency within the sector. To discuss these projects, Daily News Egypt interviewed Hany Abdel Aziz, ECHEM’s Vice President for Quality, Safety and Environment.
What are the projects ECHEM is working on regarding improving process safety and energy saving?
We are currently working on two distinguished projects, the first one tackling the expenses and efforts reduction during the overhauling and renovation process amid aged companies, while the second is a programme to rationalise energy consumption in the affiliated companies.
Tell us more about the techniques to save expenses, time and effort during the revamping and renewal process at aged companies?
These aged companies with lifetimes extending over more than 20-30 years of production are suffering from asset integrity problems, due to worn-out facilities and equipment. Most of the aged producing companies, especially in the field of chemicals, petrochemicals and oil processing, are facing difficult challenges, varying from low productivity, high overhauling and revamping costs, to high labour density overheads. The thing that delays the necessary renovations and process safety is getting worse. In such cases, and considering the hazardous characteristics of the materials and fluids used, like ignitability, and the explosive and harmful impacts, the risk of major accidents becomes more probable. Applying a study/technique termed the Process Hazards Review (PHR), we currently do it in one of our affiliated companies, the Egyptian Petrochemicals Company (EPC), which can achieve the objectives in your question.
The study/technique is similar to scanning an ill person to check the status of his organs before we decide on which one we should start the remedial action and which is the second and so on, depending on how dangerous the situation of each is. Of course, some organs may not need any remedy, simply because they are in good condition. Without getting in depth on technical issues, we examine the factory and detect the most dangerous items and evaluate their risks, with regard to the probabilities and consequences of major accidents, prioritising these items based on their risks and finally postulate a strategic action plan for the company in which we rationalise the renovation steps, decreasing the number of items to be corrected and put their expenses and costs on instalments. This may help the company’s budget in covering such expenses.
What is your recommended strategy to make the revamping process quicker and more cost-effective?
Prioritisation of risky items and putting them in a strategic actions plan will enable a succession of decisions made by the company’s chairmen. Also, the identification of these items and the evaluation of their risks will save a lot of money, effort and time in rectifying them due to the fact that we will focus on those items that need urgent and necessary remedy, rather than the items that are in a safe and good condition.
How much safety will that system provide?
We have two types of safety management in companies, occupational safety and process safety. The occupational safety is related to dangerous activities such as welding, excavating, electrical, and to control, it is like controlling lions, we can see them and we can manage them. As for the process safety it’s like tigers, they are well camouflaged and more aggressive. A minor unseen mistake, such as changing a valve with different specifications, can cause an explosion. The PHR technique mainly highlights the process safety and how to determine the risks in order to prevent major accidents. What we stress upon here is that process safety must take a larger place in the companies’ strategies and especially in the aged companies.
What about the other project that tackles energy saving?
The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has an interest in reducing the climate change process. There are global targets to reduce emissions that cause global warming, and one of the ways to reduce these emissions is through energy rationalisation. The UNIDO has a programme called Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE), where we participated with many developed countries, such as Russia, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa and Ecuador.
This programme has three targets: first of all, capacity building, preparing individuals and teams to enhance the energy efficiency systems in their companies. Second, the establishment of the management system of energy saving called ISO 50001, tackling ways to effectively manage the energy saving programmes, while the third target is implementing low cost and no-cost energy saving projects.
What do low cost and no-cost projects mean here?
For example, if we found that the company’s air conditioning systems are under 25°C, only by adjusting the temperature will we reduce energy consumption. This is a no cost programme to save energy. Whereas, low cost projects mean optimising some processes like steam production, burners operating conditions, and the like.
How long does the programme take to be fully implemented? How many companies are involved?
This programme takes 10 months to be fully implemented, involving a lot of activities starting from workshops, meetings, training and communication sessions with the international experts through the internet in the form of webinars. The project involves the transfer of the experience of the company that participated in the UNIDO programme, Sidi Krir Petrochemicals (Sidpec) to the rest of the companies. We are currently applying the programme at six petrochemical companies. When the programme is completed in December, we will have more experts who can transfer knowledge and skills to many other companies. Within one year, we target to have around 20-25 local experts.
From this experience, we believe that the establishment of the energy management system in any company is a very tough job, it consists of multi discipline activity, and the vision of the top management of each company is different. Some are process oriented, quality oriented and some are environmental. The key success factors to implement this system are: firstly the top management commitment, establishment and the implementation of the energy management system, the cooperation and the integration between the companies. The system also consists of the saved money from the programme, which should be held in a fund that doesn’t go to the company’s profits or bonuses, but it goes to accumulate a certain budget that will be used in high-cost energy saving, such as changing compressors or major modifications to facilities and equipment.
How can investments in the petrochemical sector be encouraged?
We are currently witnessing strong potential in investments, especially in the Suez Canal Axis Development projects, where it has strong potential. ECHEM will participate in some projects there. The only challenge we face is in the natural gas supply, as the petrochemical industry depends mainly on natural gas. Now, after the discovery of the new gas reservoir in the deep waters of the Mediterranean by Eni, the chances of developing the petrochemical industry are becoming more achievable.