This year the Schwechat refinery is celebrating its 50th birthday. The high-tech plant outside the gates of Vienna is one of the biggest and most modern inland refineries of Europe. TUV AUSTRIA helps to ensure that in future Schwechat will continue to be amongst the safest und cleanest oil processing centres of Europe.
Industrial plants can have something of an austere sort of beauty. Landing on a night flight at the Vienna airport or driving past at night on the motor highway one can get a direct view of a sea of lamps and spotlights of the oil refinery nearby.
Austria’s most important energy hub presents itself as a glistening picture of beams of light and pipe works. The Schwechat refinery is a highly complex industrial plant which is responsible for mobility and well-being of most Austrians. Without the distillation products from Schwechat warm apartments and operational cars would be rare goods.
On 24 April 2008 Schwechat celebrated the 50th anniversary of the laying of its foundation stone as one of the biggest and most modern inland refineries of Europe. Through the distillation and refining of crude oils a staff of some 750 people produce more than 8 million tons of mineral oil products and petrochemical basic materials annually. A major part of all mineral oil products in Austria is distilled, desulphurized, refined and mixed in a long processing chain in the OMV refinery.
OMV director-general Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer underlines the importance of Austria’s only refinery: “Schwechat is amongst the ten biggest and most modern inland refineries of Europe. With this plant we cover a major part of the Austrian mineral oil products requirements and enhance the supply security of the country”. For Gerhard Roiss, deputy director-general of OMV, the plant is “the heart of OMV”. Gerhard Roiss: “The Schwechat refinery is of central importance for Austria in several respects. It guarantees the energy supply of the country and it is an important employer and economic factor in the region.”
2.4 km2 of bundled technology
The figures for the entire industrial plant are impressive: The total area of the refinery including Lobau of 2.4 km2 is bigger than the principality of Monaco. If one were to fill the 8.2 million tons of crude oil from some 15 countries, which are being pumped from the port of Trieste via pipelines to Schwechat, into road tankers one would arrive at a distance of 5,800 km – that is the distance from Vienna to Karatschi, Pakistan. The storage capacity of the refinery and the tank farm of Lobau equals a road tanker column from Vienna to London. From the more than 100 chemical compounds contained in the crude oil all ingredients are extracted, from bitumen and sulphur to super petrol and the aviation fuel A1. The viscous black liquid is kept moving in the 2,100 km of pipelines by 3,300 pumps – a number which is only exceeded by the 4,240 safety valves.
High investments in plant development and environmental protection
Modernisation and environmental compatibility of the plants have in the meantime become a condition in Austria for successful competition. During the last 25 years some 2.5 billion EUR were invested in the refinery. Half of it (approx. 1.2 billion EUR) was spent since 1983 for product and plant related environment protection measures, e.g. for the production of unleaded petrol, sulphur-free diesel and for lowering of emissions. In October 2007 the new flue-gas desulphurization and denitrification plant (SNOx) was inaugurated, which was inspected and approved by TUV AUSTRIA. As a result sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are now 50 % below the limits. In 2006 the biggest investment so far of approx. 400 million EUR was made together with Borealis in the extension of the growth market of “petro chemistry“. Since then the OMV/Borealis location Schwechat has also been amongst the biggest plastics production locations of Europe.
Oil from 15 countries
The Schwechat refinery imports crude oil from 15 countries. The wide range of source countries is an important element for ensuring supplies. Half of the crude oil processed in Schwechat comes from Kazakhstan (21 %), Libya (15 %) and Austria (13 %).Other important supplier countries are Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The imported crude oil is pumped environmentally-friendly via the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL) and the Adria-Wien-Pipeline (AWP) from Trieste to Schwechat. The storage capacity of the refinery, including the tank farms of Schwechat, Lobau and St. Valentin which form part of it, is 3.4 million m3.
A healthy circulation
For a company which handles highly explosive substances such as petrol or propane, safety has absolute priority. Visiting the site is subject to strict rules. The visitor has to present an authorization, there are signs everywhere pointing out the prohibition of mobile phones, and in spite of the size of the plant the car has to be parked at the entrance to the factory.
Explosive vapours and gases are natural by-products of the refining process. In such surroundings leak-proof pipelines and a functioning explosion protection for electrical appliances are a question of survival. Uninterrupted computer monitoring of all installations provides a comprehensive control system. Sensors in pipelines and pressure containers continuously send data to the monitoring centres of the refinery which will initiate the necessary steps when there are any changes.
OMV relies for advice regarding safety and environmental protection specifically on TUV AUSTRIA. For this reason there are always 10 to 15 TUV AUSTRIA employees on site. These safety experts not only ensure that the acceptances and inspections for the individual installations prescribed by law are performed, but also contribute much of their technical know-how.