Shell Pernis is one of the Netherlands’ largest industrial complexes, located in the Rijnmond area in the Municipality of Rotterdam. Shell Pernis consists first and foremost of two independent operating companies of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group: Shell Nederland Raffinaderij B. V. (oil refining) and Shell Nederland Chemie B. V. (chemicals). Various other chemical companies formerly owned by Shell are also located on the site.
These were divested to new owners at the end of the twentieth century. This brochure refers to the refinery as SNR, to the chemical operations as SNC and to the entire industrial complex comprising the Shell and third-party companies as Shell Pernis.
An essential part of the refinery, although located some twenty kilometres from the plants, is the Shell Europoort terminal for the offloading, storage and transfer of crude oil and naphtha. Company Many oil products leave Pernis by inland waterway.
The Royal Dutch/Shell Group has operating companies in around 140 countries, employs more than 110,000 people and is active in the fields of petroleum, (liquefied) natural gas, petrochemicals, electricity and sustainable energy.
This makes it an energy company in the very broadest sense of the word. The Royal Dutch/Shell Group was formed in 1907 as the result of an alliance between Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and The Shell Transport and Trading Company Limited. The company is 60% Dutch-owned and 40% British-owned. History An installation to process crude petroleum from Sumatra was built on Rotterdam’s Sluisjesdijk in 1902.
The installation underwent vigorous expansion until it was dismantled in the 1930s.
Shell had decided to build a new refinery outside the city on a site alongside the First Petroleum Dock. Chemical operations commenced in 1949 when one plant was built to produce liquid synthetic detergent and another to produce PVC. The demand for chemical products continued to grow in the 1960s and 1970s. At the beginning of the 1970s a new location was constructed at Moerdijk, thirty-five kilometres southeast of Pernis, as there was no more room for the Pernis site to expand.
Several pipelines interconnect the Moerdijk and Pernis sites. Oil tankers increased in size during the 1950s, which necessitated the development of a special terminal further west in the new Europoort area. From 1960 onwards, the very largest oil tankers from the Middle East were able to dock there and unload their cargoes. Refinery / SNR is one of the world’s largest refineries. The refinery converts crude oil into other products. These might be end products such as gasoline (petrol), or semi-finished products which require further processing. There are two reasons why the Pernis refinery is special.
It can process many different types of crude oil, light and very heavy types alike. And this makes it flexible and capable of capitalizing on market changes. In addition, the refinery is equipped to produce all kinds of special products. In terms of volume, for example, fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, LPG and fuel oil are the most important, followed by naphtha, the raw material for all kinds of petrochemical products. Other products are lubricants, steam, electricity and sulphur. Roughly 50% of the products are exported, mainly to Germany.
The refinery processes approximately twenty million tonnes of crude oil each year. This oil is supplied via underground pipelines from Shell Europoort, where the huge tanks containing crude oil are located.
The crude oil refining process starts in these furnaces. Despite advanced automation, the eyes and ears of the process operator are still indispensable. Crude oil is a mixture of hundreds of different compounds. Its composition strongly depends on where in the world the oil was extracted, but crude oil can seldom be used as an end product.
Several processes must be used to refine it. The first process is distillation. The crude oil is heated in a closed system and partially vaporizes. The vapour rises in a distilling column and gradually cools. This means that different products condense at different levels, which makes it possible to initially separate various products. That fraction of the oil that does not vaporize, the residue, is further processed by means of conversion processes: its molecular structures are altered. Cracking is an effective process for ‘chopping’ the large molecules in the residue into smaller ones, which make better fuels.
Various cracking processes are available, all of which involve high temperatures. Other techniques that may be used in conjunction with the cracking process include pressurizing, adding hydrogen and introducing a catalyst to speed up the reactions. Other conversion processes include alkylation and reforming, particularly for the production of high-grade gasoline components. A third process that has become increasingly important with time is desulphurization. Crude oil always contains sulphur, usually between 0. 5 and 3 per cent.
But highgrade fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel may not contain more than 0. 005 per cent sulphur and in future this figure will be as low as 0. 001 per cent. Sulphur can be removed from the products with the aid of hydrogen, catalysts and a considerable amount of energy. Shell does not use the sulphur itself but sells it on to fertilizer factories and other users. Finally, the many products also have to be blended to obtain marketable end products of the right quality. Some products are piped elsewhere straightaway while others are held in on-site storage tanks before being delivered to the customer.
The industrial complex At the end of 1998, Shell announced that it would be thoroughly restructuring its global chemical activities. The broad range of products has been drastically reduced since then. Today’s basic activities involve the bulk supply of ‘close to the cracker’ petrochemical products. For the Pernis site, this meant that more than 60 per cent of SNC’s production facilities had to be sold off. This was completed over a period of more than three years. The new owners reached agreements with SNR and SNC, initially of course about whether or not to re-employ the Shell personnel and if so under what terms.
A study was conducted to find out what products and services could continue to be provided by SNR and/or SNC. The most important product that SNR supplies to SNC is naphtha for the cracker in Moerdijk, which operates completely differently from most oil crackers. For more information, please see the brochure that describes SNC’s activities. Energy for Shell Pernis A major proportion of the energy for the refinery and the chemical plants comes from two combined heat and power stations. These generate both heat (steam) and power (electricity) simultaneously.
Various fuels can be used, such as heavy fuel oil, natural gas and synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that itself is produced via the gasification of the heaviest residue. Co-generation of heat and power is a very efficient method of generating energy. The amount of electricity generated at Shell Pernis is almost always higher than the plants’ requirements. Surplus power is fed into the public electricity grid. A large amount of process heat for the plants is generated directly in furnaces by firing refinery oil products or gas, or natural gas.
Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, many investments were made in equipment that enables the waste heat from one process to be used in a subsequent process. However, a great deal of heat still ends up in the atmosphere or, via cooling water, in the waterways. Shell is actively seeking methods to use this waste heat off-site too, but this of course depends on the cooperation of third parties such as government authorities and utility companies.
They also aim to be good employers in order to earn and retain their licence to operate. Shell acknowledges its responsibility both to its own employees and to the immediate environment within which every Shell company operates. Sustainable development is key to this, and must be achieved through the interplay of economic development (growth), care for nature and the environment and corporate social responsibility. The policy principles that ensue from this are taken into consideration in all decisions regarding investments and company activities. The objective is the ongoing development of new improved techniques and processes. Health, Safety, Well-being and the Environment The aspects of health, safety, ell-being and the environment take a central role throughout operational management. The people working in Pernis and Europoort must be able to do so safely. And people living in the vicinity and our customers must also be confident that they will not suffer any harmful consequences from SNR’s activities and products.
The company has a clear policy, with clearly defined procedures and guidelines to meet the strict criteria for health, safety, well-being and the environment. Its norms and values demand full compliance with health, safety, well-being and environment rules, exemplary leadership and teamwork n the part of employees, and customer-focus and good relations with business partners, government and local residents. The results relating to health, safety, well-being and the environment are communicated each year in a public report. More information about this is available on our website, as well as the full text of the most recent annual report. Flaring for safety / Flares are a clearly visible feature of the petrochemical industry. Anyone driving through the port of Rotterdam at night will see several flares: tall stacks topped by a permanent flame. These flares are part of the safety system.
Most of the plants on Shell’s Pernis site are connected to them. If the pressure in a particular plants exceeds a set limit, the system activates automatically. The plant is rapidly depressurized and the gaseous product is discharged to the flare stack where it is safely burned. Large flames can often be seen for relatively short periods. Certain maintenance work may also necessitate the use of the flaring systems. Flaring for safety Impermeable paving limits the consequences of any leakage. When barges are loaded, the vapours released are recovered and condensed to reduce the environmental impact.
Visual inspection by the operator in the modern hydrocracker. Pernis discharges large volumes of treated process and cooling water. Flaring system at Pernis.
The European Parliament has drawn up criteria for increasingly cleaner oil products. In practice this means that gasoline and diesel fuel are only permitted to contain very small amounts of sulphur. The maximum sulphur content of diesel fuel is to be reduced over ten years from 350 ppm (parts per million) to 10 ppm by 2010. This will enable the automobile industry to fit improved engines (more economical and with fewer emissions) in their vehicles.
To make this possible, all refineries, including SNR, will be obliged to make further changes to their plants to remove even more sulphur from their products. This will mean investments of well in excess of a hundred million euros for SNR alone. Other facilities A network providing water for fire-fighting is installed in and around the plants and other units and offices. All the plants are also connected to sewer systems. Wastewater and process water from the various plants are treated before being discharged onto the surface water. Two treatment units are available for this purpose.
The production processes generate a great deal of heat and this is recycled internally wherever possible. However, some has to be discharged as waste heat in the cooling water, which is drawn from the Oude Maas and Nieuwe Maas rivers. The vast majority of the raw materials and finished products are both delivered on site and shipped off-site by pipeline and waterway, in roughly the same volumes. Relatively small volumes of LPG and aviation fuel are transported by road tankers. Specially equipped storage sites allow the temporary storage of packaged waste products before they are removed to authorized treatment and disposal sites.
The Shell Pernis Residential Advisory Board / The Shell Pernis Residential Advisory Board was set up as an experiment in 1998. The aim was to improve the quality of life in the Rijnmond area. In the Residential Advisory Board, people living in the vicinity of Shell Pernis consult with company management about all kinds of issues confronting them either directly or indirectly as neighbours, particularly any nuisance they may have experienced, and environmental and safety aspects. It is not the intention for the Residential Advisory Board to take over the tasks of official uthorities with regard to permits, rules and regulations.
As suggested by the Shell Pernis Residential Advisory Board, several storage tanks have been attractively painted. The Residential Advisory Board comprises independent members from the surrounding towns of Pernis, Hoogvliet, Albrandswaard, Spijkenisse, Vlaardingen and Schiedam. Partly in response to a Board initiative, Shell has taken measures that have drastically reduced the number of port incidents and the frequency of flaring.
Moreover, the Residential Advisory Board drew Shell’s attention to the unsightly appearance of the older parts of the Pernis complex. An improvement programme has been initiated here too, including the painting of eye-catching motifs on storage tanks. Evaluation of the Residential Advisory Board experiment demonstrated that there was a clear basis for it to continue its activities. The Board’s experience and learnings were collected and published in 2002 in a bilingual brochure titled ‘Model for a Residential Advisory Board’.
The brochure also recommends the steps to be taken by other companies (or industrial estates) interested in setting up such a consultative body. Information about nuisance Despite all the precautionary measures, incidents may occasionally occur. This might cause a nuisance to people both on and off-site, and beyond the perimeter fence people may be inconvenienced by noxious odours, noise and flaring. In addition to these incidents, maintenance and other work may also constitute a nuisance. If it is obvious that particular activities will cause a nuisance, Shell Pernis informs the neighbourhood in advance.