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Full steam ahead for reducing costs and CO2

If our facilities operate at maximum efficiency, we not only save costs, but also CO2 – specifically around 60,000 metric tons by modernizing the steam turbines in the Schwechat Refinery. How does such a large energy-efficiency project run? What does blading have to do with it? And what is the PMs personal approach to the issues at hand? OMV project manager Christian Steinbrugger and Siemens project manager Florian Pessl reveal all.

“I always wanted to extract the maximum possible”, says Christian Steinbrugger, explaining his fascination for his job as a project manager. And it was no different on his latest project. In the course of a planned inspection of one of the steam turbines in the Schwechat Refinery, a technological advance was adopted: specially molded turbine blades that increase the efficiency and thereby save not only steam and costs but also CO2. Specifically, 20,000 metric tons per year per turbine. By 2021, a total of three turbines will be modernized, leading to CO2 savings of some 60,000 tons per year. With average per-capita emissions in Austria standing at around eight metric tons a year, this is equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 7,500 people.

We have a strong tradition of energy efficiency here at the Schwechat Refinery. Upgrading the steam turbines is just one example of how we are making our operations more efficient and simultaneously more environmentally friendly. One does not exclude the other - quite the opposite, in fact. 
Christian Steinbrugger, Project Manager, Steam Turbine Modernization, OMV Schwechat Refinery

A doubly worthwhile investment

„A standard audit was scheduled for steam turbine 6 in cogeneration unit 1 in 2019, just like your regular service obligation for your car”, says OMV project manager Christian Steinbrugger, describing the process. “This is a large-scale project spanning several months: the turbines are taken down, dismantled into their individual components, sent to the workshop, checked, brought back to the refinery and then reassembled. That’s why we like to take the opportunity to identify ways in which we can optimize the equipment”.  This led to an expansion in the range of measures, whereby project partner Siemens was asked to propose new and more efficient technology. The new blading offered by Siemens increases the turbines effectiveness to more than 80 percent. And greater effectiveness means savings in both energy and CO2. This upgrade naturally translates into higher investment. But investing more can pay off quickly – and not just from an economic standpoint. “The environmental aspect was the clincher for this investment decision as it is not only entrenched in our corporate goals, but also in our minds”, says Christian Steinbrugger, who has already applied his expertise as a certified environmental engineer on many innovative projects in the group.

State-of-the-art energy generation

For Florian Pessl, project manager at  Siemens Energy Austria, it is already the third project he has developed with Christian Steinbrugger and his team. “Modern steam-turbine technology is one of Siemens’ specialist fields and we can apply our unique knowhow here extremely effectively”, says Florian Pessl. Inside the turbine, steam causes the blades to turn; these are connected to a generator and this is how electricity is produced. The modern geometry of the new turbine blades ensures better flow and thereby an increase in energy produced. Florian Pessl is passionate about such details in energy production and about conserving resources: “In my private life I also strive to repair things rather than replace them. The great thing about my job is that projects of this scope and scale don’t come along every day and they present a real challenge”.

Modern steam-turbine technology is one of Siemens’ specialist fields and we can apply our unique knowhow here extremely effectively.
Florian Pessl, Project Manager, Steam Turbine Modernization, Siemens Energy Austria

Apropos challenges: even though the cooperation went off without a hitch – from taking down the turbine, which weighs 32 tons, and transporting the parts to two different Siemens workshops in Germany and Poland, right through to the testing phase – the team faced a technical hurdle when it came to the start-up on site. Just when the steam was supposed to move the new blades for the first time, the engineers were confronted by a leaky stop valve. The flexible solution: within two days, Siemens had produced a replacement for the faulty sealing ring and it arrived from Germany at the weekend. “While I am aware that more than 100% is impossible from a technical viewpoint, in this case I really must say that our team gave more than 100%”, grins Florian Pessl.

Net-zero operations by 2050 or sooner

The audit program in Schwechat is a good example of how OMV is applying innovation to continuously make its facilities more efficient and consequently more environmentally friendly. OMV has pledged to make all operations net zero in terms of CO2 emissions by 2050 at the latest. By utilizing energy-efficiency measures to reach these targets, OMV is in good company: in its Sustainable Development Scenario, the International Energy Agency IEA calculates that energy-efficiency measures will be a key pillar in achieving climate goals, standing alongside renewable energy and the switch to lower-carbon fuels. In terms of energy efficiency, the OMV refineries have been among the best in the industry for years, as confirmed by industry benchmarks. And with forward-looking projects like the energy-efficient steam turbines, we hope to retain this position in the future.

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