Offshore work has its very own set of rules and challenges – and this is something the team at HEINZ PULS GmbH & Co are well aware of. This Brunsbüttel-based company, a BUCHEN subsidiary, has gradually been making a name for itself as a specialist for industrial cleaning work on the open seas. It has, for example, recently signed a service agreement which will see it cleaning the vessels and pipes on Mittelplate in the North Sea, Germany’s only offshore oil rig, over the next few years.
No matter whether it involves an offshore wind farm or an oil rig, industrial cleaning work is also needed on the high seas. Every wind farm, for example, has a transformer platform which is also home to a number of storage tanks containing waste water, diesel or heating oil for the various units. These, for example, provide fuel when there is no wind so that the wind farm’s infrastructure (computers, light etc) has an unbroken supply of electricity. The waste water tanks must be emptied and cleaned as soon as they are full; the diesel tanks have to be inspected every five years and so must be empty and clean for the inspectors. “Cleaning such offshore tanks is one of our specialities,” said Martin Stellmacher, head of the technology division at HEINZ PULS. They are also present during the actual inspection itself so that they can provide the external inspectors with the technical equipment they need (safety harnesses, climbing equipment etc).
“The real challenge to any project being carried out at sea is the meticulous preparation work that has to be done beforehand and that must take the many health and safety regulations into account. This involves a huge amount of time spent on planning and logistics,” Martin Stellmacher continued summing up the special requirements of offshore work. The actual cleaning work itself is routine: any residual material is first pumped into special containers or straight into the storage tanks on the ship docked alongside the platform; the operatives – who have all taken part in special offshore work training courses – then climb into the tanks wearing their personal protective equipment. The tanks, which rarely have a capacity greater than 25 cubic metres, are washed using a suitable biologically degradable cleaning agent. The used water is also pumped onto the waiting ship so that it can be recycled on the mainland.
Highly flexible: HEINZ PULS needs just a few hours to get ready after it has been given the go-ahead
All individual steps have to be planned and organised in detail if the work is to be completed without a hitch. All decisions are based on the in-depth risk assessments and risk analyses that are drawn up together with safety experts and take all local conditions into account. This is, Martin Stellmacher believes, the key to their success: “We consult with our clients right from the very beginning so that we can draw up a suitable safety concept and a detailed work schedule. This close personal contact helps to convey just how important the subject of safety is at our company – and conveys it much better than any certificate can.”
Top priority is always given to achieving the highest possible levels of work safety and environmental protection. This is another reason why so much time is spent on planning and logistics: starting with organising the transport (helicopters for the employees, a ship for the technical equipment and other supplies as well as for storing the used liquids) all the way through to organising the staff and material needed.
A detailed list must be drawn up in advance to specify exactly what tools, machines and personal protective equipment will be required. Each individual piece must be tested just before they are needed to check they are fit for purpose and then packed in seaworthy transport containers. “The whole project can end up failing if just one piece of equipment is missing or if just one tool is broken. When you are out there surrounded by water, you can’t just go around the corner to find a spare one,” Martin Stellmacher continued, giving a simple but perfectly logical explanation.
All offshore work is dependent on the weather. The local weather forecast, therefore, determines whether it’s all systems go or not
In contrast to the rigid rules determining this time-consuming preparation phase, the operatives performing the actual work must be flexible and able to carry out their tasks at short notice. All offshore work is dependent on the weather, the state of the sea and the tides. The final local weather forecast, therefore, determines whether it’s all systems go or not. It is not unheard of that a project has to be cancelled or postponed just a few hours before it was due to start. Martin Stellmacher commented: “We’re prepared for this. We only need a few hours to pack everything together and get to the harbour in Emden.”
For the most part, the cleaning work is carried out using hot water equipment – specially produced according to HEINZ PULS’ specifications – and special transportable pumps. These small, offshore-compliant units are packed into a mesh box so they can be lifted by crane from the ship onto the platform. “We can’t take the large high-pressure pumps that we normally use on onshore building sites. Our special vacuum/cleaning trucks aren’t used either until the ship has returned to Emden. They’re brought in to remove the used washing water and clean the ship’s tanks.”
Being part of the REMONDIS Group, HEINZ PULS now has access to some new and highly interesting business opportunities: thanks to its parent company, BUCHEN, it has been able to take part in major projects allowing it to make the very most of its workforce and equipment. At the same time, its contact to RHENUS Offshore Logistics has also created new openings. As its name suggests, this logistics specialist, which – like REMONDIS – also belongs to the Rethmann group, specialises in offshore work, taking over all supply and waste management tasks for offshore wind farm operators. The number of services it offers is growing all the time – including, for example, industrial cleaning work – so that its customers can benefit from having everything delivered by just one company. Working on behalf of RHENUS, therefore, the HEINZ PULS experts have already handled diverse diesel tank inspections and cleaned waste water tanks at offshore wind farms.
1.6 million tonnes of crude oil are extracted from the oil field off the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein every year
One of the company’s latest successes has been the conclusion of a service agreement with DEA Deutsche Erdöl AG: HEINZ PULS is now responsible for cleaning all the pipes and storage containers on Mittelplate, Germany’s only oil rig. The rig, which is just 70 metres by 95 metres in size, is situated in the Wadden Sea nature reserve seven kilometres off the west coast of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Up to 1.6 million tonnes of crude oil are extracted from this oil field every year and transported to the mainland via an underground pipeline. The rig’s operator, DEA, is very proud of its responsible operations and long-standing safety record. Which is why it takes a very close look at all the external contractors working on its platform to make sure they comply with their very high standards. With this in mind, Hansreiner Richter, managing director of HEINZ PULS, believes that the service agreement is “further confirmation of the high quality of our work”.
HEINZ PULS GmbH & Co., which is based in the German town of Brunsbüttel, is a fully owned subsidiary of BUCHEN UmweltService GmbH. Employing around 50 people, the company primarily specialises in cleaning, servicing, dismantling and recycling all types and sizes of tank. Its extensive portfolio of services, however, also includes cleaning cooling equipment, boilers and heat exchangers as well as cleaning and servicing light liquid separators. HEINZ PULS GmbH & Co. is a member of the Bundesverband Behälterschutz e. V. und der Gütegemeinschaft Tankschutz und Tanktechnik e. V. [a federal association focusing on container protection, tank protection and tank technology]. Moreover, the company has been awarded unconditional SCC** accreditation.