Chevron to close Cape Town oil refinery for maintenance


The Chevron Cape Town Refinery, situated in Milnerton, will undergo one of its biggest routine maintenance and safety inspection from 13 February 2015 throughout March 2015.

Maintenance and safety inspections are carried out annually to maintain the high safety and reliable operation standards that are continually practiced at the refinery. Supply constraints are carefully mitigated through the building up of strategic fuel supply in the time leading up to the planned maintenance and safety inspection.

“Investing in the maintenance of the refinery ensures adequate product supply across all our markets,” says Doug Pottenger, General Manager at the Chevron Cape Town Refinery. “This year, Chevron will invest approximately R412m, a majority of which will be directly injected into the Western Cape economy. Furthermore, approximately 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 some R2-billion worth of goods and services annually, of which 70% are from the Western Cape. Furthermore, 3.3% of the Western Cape’s GDP and 2.4% of employment in the province can be traced back to the ripple effects of Chevron’s operations in the Western Cape.

Innovation at the refinery

A recent significant capital investment at the Chevron Cape Town Refinery has been the construction of a multi-point ground flare and a new 100 meter elevated flare to replace the refinery’s existing high-level flare. This is a R 450m investment which has resulted in employment for 500 local residents.

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

With a multi-point 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 multi-point ground flare will replace the existing elevated flare and safely combust all the off-gas that is currently seen burning at the existing elevated flare. The multi-point nature of this flare means that the gas will be combusted safely, quietly, and smoke-free.

Pottenger says, “Since the ground flare was successfully installed in November 2014 there is a very noticeable reduction in noise emissions from the refinery.”

The new elevated flare, which will be approximately 50 meters higher than the existing elevated flare, is at an advanced stage of construction. This flare will 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 gasses,” explains Pottenger.

This new elevated flare will be operational at the end of the maintenance and safety inspection.

What to expect during the scheduled maintenance and safety inspection

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. “Chevron has made contingency plans to mitigate potential constraints on the supply of fuel throughout the maintenance and safety inspection period,” says Pottenger.

During this period communities situated near the refinery may notice increased noise levels as well as 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. Ambient air quality monitoring around the refinery will continue as normal during this period,” concludes Pottenger.