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Updates on the incident at Schwechat refinery

Incident at Schwechat refinery results in partial delay of the startup after the turnaround.

On June 3, 2022, an incident occurred at the Schwechat refinery, which has been undergoing its maintenance turnaround since 19 April 2022. Two persons were slightly injured. For this reason, the start-up of the refinery will be partially delayed. A review of the extent of the damage and the duration of the shutdown is still underway.  

Safety as well as reliable product supply to our customers are our most important objectives. We have set up a task force immediately after the incident and are currently working closely with our customers and suppliers to mitigate any potential impact on product availability.  

What happened exactly?
At the Schwechat refinery, damage occurred to the outer shell of one of the distillation columns in crude distillation unit. to the unit occurred on June 3, 2022 during a legally required water pressure test as part of the finalization of the refinery turnaround.  

Which part of the refinery was damaged and how severe is the damage?
One of the distillation columns in the main crude distillation unit was damaged. In order to identify the root causes of the damage, a large interdisciplinary team is working with support of experts from the OMV Group and independent specialist service providers. As the damage occurred in the lower section of the distillation column, the damage site is difficult to access – OMV’s priority is the safety of the team. 

Will the refinery be able to start up partially, or will it have to shut down entirely until the completion of repair work?
Other areas of the refinery continue to be operational and additional short-term technical adaptations to compensate for the damage are being intensively examined.      

How is the repair of damaged equipment organized?
Immediately after the incident, a broad-based on-site task force was set up with the remit of investigating the incident and at the same time working on restoring operations.

Dismantling work, preparatory work, ordering of materials, and prefabrication for repairs have started immediately after the incident. As the damage occurred at the bottom area of the distillation column the damage location is quite difficult to access, and we proceed with high focus on safety of the workers.

In the first phase, a comprehensive inspection checklist is being ticked off, based on a broad selection of non-destructive testing methods. In addition, material samples are being taken and these are tested for defects in special testing laboratories.

Parallel to this, work is already underway on a detailed repair concept, with the first step being to optimize material procurement. Based on this, the most suitable repair methods will be identified, and a corresponding schedule drawn up. At present it is not yet possible to estimate the duration of the repair phase.

When will the refinery be fully operational? 
We expect the refinery to be fully operational in the fall. Whether this will take place in the third quarter or until the beginning of the fourth quarter cannot be precisely predicted today due to the large amount of work involved.

Are any short- to mid-term supply shortages of fuels expected in Austria?
For the duration of the repairs, OMV has established a new supply system to supply the markets served by the OMV Schwechat Refinery. This system is based on three pillars:

  1. OMV is using the capacities of the refinery network within the group to compensate for the loss of production in Schwechat in order to be able to temporarily supply the Schwechat site with feedstock and the Austrian market with larger product volumes.
  2. The distillation capacities of a smaller available crude oil distillation unit are being maximized, which now covers around 20% of the previous capacity. In this way, all crude oil produced by OMV in Austria can continue to be processed without restriction.
  3. OMV cooperates with partners and buys products to make up for shortfalls. 

The release of fuel reserves by the Republic of Austria is a sensible measure that will secure supplies until the new supply system is fully in place.

Is OMV planning to close service stations in Hungary, Slovakia or other countries because of the incident?
OMV has no plans to close filling stations in Hungary, Slovakia or in any other country and is doing utmost to maintain supplies. 

Further background information

Press releases
Update on OMV Schwechat Refinery: Significant progress made on alternative supply system | 24.06.2022
Update on the incident in the OMV Schwechat Refinery | 10.06.2022
Incident at Schwechat refinery results in partial delay of the startup after the turnaround | 03.06.2022

What is a turnaround?
Turnaround 2022 | (German)

What happens in crude oil distillation?
Crude oil distillation | YouTube
Verfahren & Produkte der Raffinerie Schwechat | (German)

What are emergency reserves or strategic reserves? What is ELG (crude oil storage company)?
Erdöl-Lagergesellschaft m.b.H. (ELG) | Home page