21 July 2020

White silos, a skyline dominated by chemical installations, and a labyrinth of pipes in between. The industrial park, where Dow is located, is nothing short of impressive. And Dow, in collaboration with E.ON, is adding another jewel in the crown to this high-tech landscape: a high-performance boiler installation. CLAFIS is also involved in this project. We took a look behind the scenes.

Terneuzen is Dow’s the second largest production site worldwide. It is here that Dow Benelux produces chemical semi-finished products for the production of packaging, coatings, and foam. And the processes involved require a lot of energy. At this site a reliable, efficient and flexible energy supply is essential, for example when production has to be scaled up in a short period of time or as backup/standby for the main steam supply.

More flexible, efficient, and sustainable
For many years Dow used a combustion boiler, but this was no longer able to meet the company’s requirements. ‘In 2015 we started discussing ideas on how to make the energy supply more flexible, efficient, and sustainable,’ explains Markus Wächter, project manager at E.ON. This resulted in a plan for a gas-fired process steam boiler: this ‘stand-by boiler’ will be integrated into the utility infrastructure on the Dow site.
Wächter: ‘The installation has been custom-designed for Dow and can generate 350 tons of steam per hour. Thanks to advanced burner technology, the boiler can burn gaseous by-products, thereby allowing Dow to reuse some of its waste flows.’ E.ON as energy contractor, was commissioned to take care of the financing, construction, management, and operation; EPC contractor Standardkessel Baumgarte GmbH is responsible for the boiler design and implementation.
From preparation to commissioning, the construction of a boiler installation at an industrial hub is an elite sport: Wächter: ‘We want to generate benefits for our customer, but at the same time you have to keep a close eye on the costs, the schedule, and the quality. You can only do this if you have a dedicated project team. Partners who understand that the only way to succeed in complex projects like this is by working together.’

CLAFIS provides knowledge and experience
To guarantee quality and achieve the project objectives, E.ON approached the CLAFIS branch in Dordrecht, which appointed three experienced specialists. Adri Aarnoudse (74) was one of them. With 35 years of work experience at Dow under his belt, he was the right man to supervise the civil engineering part of the project. ‘I know the company, the people, and the local situation in terms of geology and nearby structures.’
Aarnoudse reviewed designs and specifications and asked critical questions during construction meetings. ‘You’re building a 50×60-meter installation, with a 65-meter-high stack next to it. The foundations have to be strong enough to cope with that. You have to prevent the risk of subsidence.’ And that was no easy task. Aarnoudse: ‘When some of the ground piles had been laid, we noticed some deviations, which required corrective measures.’
Aarnoudse investigated the issues (‘I delved into Zeeland’s archives for that’) and came up with solutions that would allow construction to go ahead. ‘By tackling the problem together and then focusing on a solution, we were able to keep up the momentum of the project.’

Boiler construction
In addition to the installation of the ‘civil engineering hardware’, plenty of attention was also paid to the boiler construction itself. Sytze Koolhaas supervised the electrical, instrumentation and control aspects of the boiler design. Koolhaas: ‘We wanted to design a safe, reliable boiler that can be scaled up quickly and at the same time stay within the strict emission limits.’ To do this, Sytze worked closely with the contractor. ‘We spoke each other’s language, knew where the other was coming from. And sure, I can be quite fierce, but I am also open to exchanging ideas.’
Sytze is very pleased with the result: ‘We’ve ended up with a boiler that can do more than we think. It’s a Formula 1 car of boilers. The real strength of this boiler is that it works efficiently and flexible, based on several gas mixtures: gas from the intercontinental pipeline and gas from the production process.’ And of course, high-performance cars need to be tuned properly. ‘As soon as a gas stream comes in, the boiler has to respond appropriately. It’s a finely tuned process. We are currently monitoring and fine-tuning this on a small scale.’

‘No weak links’
Quality was the keyword throughout this project. Since September 2017, it has been Quality Manager Herman Heatubun’s job to make sure that quality is guaranteed. ‘The contractor had some freedom when it came to the design. And they worked with around 15 sub-contractors. It was essential that all sub-products met our specifications and all applicable standards. All the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together seamlessly.’
In addition to reviewing quality documentation, Heatubun visited suppliers in Turkey, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands. ‘Wherever you go, you really have to zoom in on the detail. Does a component meet the contract requirements? Is work being carried out according to the procedures and laws and regulations? You observe, make adjustments. Boiler construction is a chain with many links; there can’t be any weak ones.’
Of course, there are always things that can and must be improved, but this was always done with mutual respect. Heatubun: ‘You could be confrontational, but the trick is to identify a problem and then look for a solution together. By taking that approach, rather than opposing each other, you stand side by side. I think that’s one of the main reasons why this project is a success.’

This also explains why, despite the drought of 2018 (which led to a delay in transporting the boiler down the river Oder in Poland) and the coronavirus pandemic, the commissioning of the boiler is still on course. Dow will be able to start using the high-tech boiler this July 2020, thereby increasing operational reliability. And the Dow skyline will be even more impressive.