How should a company react when it is carrying out a turnaround and the COVID-19 crisis hits the country? Once again, XERVON Instandhaltung, the company’s specialist maintenance division, has been able to demonstrate its strengths throughout this emergency – offering absolute professionalism, high levels of flexibility and uncompromising safety.
24 February 2020. This is the date that XERVON Instandhaltung begins a turnaround at its customer BAYERNOIL in the Bavarian town of Neustadt an der Donau, a project that is due to last several months. TAR 2020 is the biggest ever turnaround in BAYERNOIL’s history and comprises a whole range of maintenance and repair tasks as well as TÜV inspections. XERVON has been closely involved in the planning of the event and is expecting to deploy around 900 specialists throughout the project. The situation is calm; coronavirus is far away. Any potential risks for Europe are believed to be moderate at most; the few people contracting the virus in Germany are considered to be one-off cases.
Things, however, do not remain as calm as everyone had hoped. The novel virus is spreading rapidly – in Bavaria as well. The few, one-off cases develop into the COVID-19 crisis. XERVON Instandhaltung is right in the middle of its work. Many different fittings and most of the machinery at the refinery – from the smallest to the largest pieces of equipment – have to be overhauled. Besides this, the company’s operatives need to carry out other tasks including welding work and replacing an 850-metre flare pipeline. No matter what task is being performed, the teams now have to adhere to new hygiene and social distancing rules – regulations that are much more difficult to implement than in an office environment.
were deployed by XERVON during the turnaround
XERVON Instandhaltung reacted immediately. The company bought in as many health and safety supplies as possible. Top priority was given to getting hold of face coverings, hand sanitising stations and disinfectant – goods that were in short supply at the time across the world and needed considerable effort to procure.
On 11 March, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the global spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic. For XERVON, this meant that within just 16 days its business as usual had developed into a turnaround involving extreme conditions. The teams deployed at BAYERNOIL played their part. The new hygiene regulations were integrated into their routines and followed with the usual high level of discipline. The ‘Safety First’ rule remained unchanged as always. Anyone displaying possible symptoms had to get tested or go into quarantine. Their colleagues carried out the extra work on top of their own tasks – a truly admirable performance considering the demanding turnaround schedule.
Thanks to our quality assurance and health and safety onboarding process, the operatives knew how they had to conduct themselves before the number of cases rose so quickly. An advantage that can be put down to our rapid response to the situation.
Despite the adverse circumstances, XERVON Instandhaltung continued to make good progress. All of the main tasks had been completed by Easter. The company remained on site at BAYERNOIL with a core team of around 100 specialists to restart the facilities, just as it had been there before the turnaround began to shut them down.
The project was concluded in the second half of April and the results were truly impressive: all quality and safety requirements had been fulfilled without exception. And there were no confirmed or known COVID-19 cases among XERVON’s team. Thomas Kramel, managing director of XERVON Instandhaltung, commented: “Thanks to our quality assurance and health and safety onboarding process, the operatives knew how they had to conduct themselves before the number of cases rose so quickly. An advantage that can be put down to our rapid response to the situation. The fact that the teams are so experienced in carrying out their work was a major benefit as well – they know how to complete their tasks professionally under difficult conditions.”
A robust set-up: high levels of professionalism and effective QHSE management are key to handling extraordinary situations (this
photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic began)
Delivering a turnaround in the middle of a pandemic – surely this must be one of the most difficult situations that maintenance experts will ever have to face. Especially when it hits totally unexpectedly and has to be mastered on an ad hoc basis – just like XERVON’s project this spring.