2020 was a tumultuous and unpredictable year, but some things never change. For ExxonMobil, that constant North Star is our commitment to the safety of our people, facilities and the communities around us. Every ten years, our Grossenkneten natural gas processing plant in Lower Saxony, Germany, gets shut down for maintenance – including safety checks and efficiency improvements. That time once again rolled around in 2020.
ExxonMobil Grossenkneten has supplied natural gas to thousands of homes and businesses in Germany for nearly 50 years – and with natural gas projected to play an important role in Germany’s energy transition, or ‘Energiewende’, keeping this plant running safely and at a high level of energy efficiency is more important than ever. From August to October 2020, we went over the entire plant, completing 3,200 individual maintenance actions to ensure that everything was operating correctly. The shutdown put €30 million into the local and wider regional economy – employing 600 contractors to put the entire system through its paces.
The plant was also made more energy efficient during the work. Thanks to a range of measures implemented between 2012 and 2019, the plant had already reduced its energy consumption per cubic meter of processed gas by approximately 27 percent. During the 2020 shutdown, a brand new gas/gas heat exchanger was successfully installed, enabling the team at Grossenkneten to improve the plant’s energy efficiency even further. This is consistent with ExxonMobil’s global efforts to improve energy efficiency across the company’s operations
Every action carried out during the shutdown was meticulously documented and recorded, but in 2020 the process was even more complex. The pandemic posed considerable new safety challenges. There wasn’t the option to postpone the maintenance until 2021, so stringent health and safety precautions were put in place, including staggering shift times to avoid large groups gathering, as well as enforcing social distancing and implementing strict cleaning policies.
Despite the challenges, the shutdown – and restart – of ExxonMobil Grossenkneten was a success. You can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the facility and find out about the work undertaken in our short film: