File photo: Henk Kruger/Cape Times.

Chevron’s Cape Town Refinery (Caltex) in Milnerton will undergo one of its biggest routine maintenance and safety inspections, worth R412 million, which will provide thousands of new jobs.

The firm announced on Friday that maintenance and safety inspections were carried out annually to maintain the high safety and reliable operation standards at the refinery. Supply constraints were carefully mitigated through the building up of strategic fuel supply in the time leading up to the planned maintenance and safety inspection. The maintenance and safety inspections were scheduled from February 13 to the end of March.

Doug Pottenger, general manager at the Chevron Cape Town Refinery, said investing in the maintenance of the refinery ensured adequate product supply across all its markets.

“This year, Chevron will invest R412m, a majority of which will be directly injected into the Western Cape economy. Furthermore, 3 000 additional contractors are employed during this safety inspection and maintenance period, including artisans, semi-skilled and unskilled workers.”

The refinery contributes substantially to the Western Cape and the national economy through the disbursement of its annual capital and operational expenditure budgets.

According to an independent economic impact report conducted by Econex the refinery procures about R2 billion worth of goods and services annually, of which 70 percent are from the Western Cape.

Furthermore, 3.3 percent of the Western Cape’s gross domestic product and 2.4 percent of employment in the province can be traced to the ripple effects of Chevron’s operations in the Western Cape.

A recent significant capital investment at the refinery has been the construction of a multipoint ground flare and a 100m elevated flare to replace the plant’s existing high-level flare.

WORLD-CLASS TECHNOLOGY

Pottenger said this was a R450m investment which had resulted in employment for 500 local residents.

“The ground flare is of world-class technology and forms part of Chevron’s continued efforts to minimise the refinery’s environmental footprint and, together with the new elevated flare, will improve the refinery’s operational efficiencies.”

With a multipoint ground flare, combustion is much more efficient as it occurs over a larger area compared to an elevated flare, where combustion occurs from only one release source.

The new multipoint ground flare would replace the existing elevated flare and safely combust all the off-gas that was seen burning at the existing elevated flare. The multipoint nature of this flare meant the gas would be combusted more safely, quietly and smoke-free.

Pottenger said the ground flare was installed in November and there was a reduction in noise emissions from the refinery. He said the new elevated flare, which would be 50m higher than the existing flare, was at an advanced stage of construction and it would work hand-in-hand with the ground flare.

“The new elevated flare is designed for emergency relief scenarios only. During routine operation all that will be seen at the top of the flare is a small pilot flame. Only in rare occurrences will this flare be seen burning gases.”

The maintenance and safety inspection will involve safely shutting down all production units, with the exception of a number of storage tanks which will be used to manage the supply of products.

Pottenger said Chevron had made contingency plans to mitigate potential constraints on the supply of fuel throughout the maintenance and safety inspection period.

During this period communities near the refinery may notice increased noise levels and occasional visible flaring and stack emissions (black smoke) over the first four days, and then again as operations are resumed.

“We have made every effort to ensure activities that result in increased noise levels are kept to a minimum.

“Furthermore, Chevron places the highest priority on the health and safety of its employees and the communities in which it operates. We take every possible precaution to mitigate unnecessary or unplanned emissions.”

He said ambient air quality monitoring around the refinery would continue as normal during this period.

Cape Argus