Four years of planning, more than a million work hours and 1,200 tonnes of pipeline: Project Manager Thomas Rieger and his team had to master tremendous challenges before the new Butadiene plant at OMV’s Burghausen Refinery could start regular operations in June 2015. The Butadiene plant has been running since early summer 2015 and here he tells us its story…
Thomas Rieger is happy. Four years ago he set himself the Herculean task of planning and realizing a new Butadiene plant for the OMV Burghausen Refinery (Germany). No mean feat. This is why he now appears visibly more relaxed after the successful conclusion of the test phase and the official start-up. Like conducting an orchestra, he has been managing up to 750 international employees over the past few years and brought together dozens of individual projects to yield a successful symphony in C4 H6 – the operational Butadiene plant.
Place of birth: Burghausen Refinery
“Everything about this project is supersized”, says Thomas Rieger. The critical phase came as early as 2014: During the shutdown of the Burghausen Refinery, the legally stipulated, routine technical inspection of all refinery facilities, the new Butadiene plant was incorporated into existing refinery operations in just over a month. “The entire team is very proud that everything went so smoothly and that we managed to stay on schedule during this phase”.
A massive project such as the Butadiene plant is like running a marathon: It requires discipline, a clear focus on the finish line, but above all stamina!
And there’s a lot for the team to be proud of:
It took four years from the initial idea to the launch, when the last colleagues left the construction site and a celebration marked the opening of the plant. Over a million hours were chalked up in this period by a team which numbered 750 people at peak. 111,190 m3 of soil was dug up, 8,360 m3 concrete and 1,200 t of pipeline were laid. Not to forget the 145 km of cables which were also installed. Now the plant is a dominant feature of the Burghausen Refinery. The tallest column stretches 87 meters high, making it taller than Westminster Cathedral in London. Two Butadiene and two C4 tanks complete the plant.
Butadiene: What tyres are made of
So, what’s all the fuss about? What is Butadiene? And what is it actually used for? Thomas Rieger smiles: “The right question is: What isn’t it used for? Butadiene is found in clothes and shoes as a synthetic fiber, as well as in paints and varnishes, carpets and furniture. What’s more it’s used in paper coatings, computer casings and children’s toys. If you’re reading this text then you are probably sitting on a Butadiene product or holding one in your hand”. And yet that’s still not everything. Nowadays Butadiene is primarily used in manufacturing synthetic rubber, making it a fundamental material for the tyre and automotive industry. Thomas Rieger: “Butadiene is a very sought-after and important material for the chemical industry. More than 10 million tonnes are produced worldwide every year – quite something when you realize that it’s basically an odorless gas. This is a major growth market with considerable potential for us – and that’s why OMV produces Butadiene in the Burghausen and Schwechat Refineries”.