One would have thought lessons were going to be drawn from the Furnace (F61) explosion at Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) about 12 months ago.
Unfortunately, management of the refinery appear not to have learnt any lesson from the January 26th 2017 incident that destroyed property and nearly took away lives of the refinery workers. This laxity has resulted in the rapture of Residue Air-Cooler (EA64) tubes forcing a shutdown of the refinery plant on January 18th, 2018.
TOR’s Crude Distillation Unit (CDU) which was started on 2nd January 2018 after delayed turnaround maintenance for 9 months as against a 3-month scheduled program due to poor planning; had to undergo a forced-shutdown as a result of non-compliance to procedures and practices. As a practice, every maintenance work should have been concluded with a Post-turnaround report to validate the integrity of the major parts and components. From post start-up developments, it is clear that the integrity of the Plant’s major parts were not established before the rush start-up.
Two weeks after the startup, a leakage was detected in the Stabilizer reboiler (heat-exchanger E-19), forcing the CDU to go a week without stabilization.
Normally, when crude oil is fed into the CDU, it should take about 4 hours to warm up, break circulation at 200°C and attain transfer temperature at 345°C for distillation to begin. And anything beyond 4 to 5 hours distorts the crude’s yield pattern. Strangely, it took about one week to stabilize the plant for optimum distillation, causing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to mix with Naphtha; leading to loss of 280,000 litres of LPG. Subsequently, the plant was forced to shut down due to excessive pressure rapturing the Residue Air Cooler (EA64), adding to the financial loss caused the country as a result of last year’s explosion.
A number of questions readily come to mind about the operations and management of the refinery:
1. Was a thorough post-turnaround test carried out before re-starting the refinery’s CDU?
2. Was the Pressure indicator of Residue Air Cooler working, and was log-sheet kept?
3. How well are the operations, monitoring and maintenance of the refinery being carried out?
Today, technical and operational lapses, factionalism, vindictiveness, mismanagement, absence of teamwork, lack of due diligence have consumed Tema Oil Refinery and is causing financial loss to the state.
When persons with requisite capacity are sidelined for substandard people to run affairs, the result is chaotic.
To forestall further losses to the state, the Institute for Energy Security wishes to once again call on the Ministry of Energy and the government to pay special attention to the country’s only refinery by addressing the leadership crisis, which continues to negatively affect the operations of TOR.