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New Shell Plant Highlights Strength of Rotterdam’s Breakbulk Cluster

February 2, 2018

Photo: Shell

Shell has an ambitious investment agenda for its refinery in Pernis. The construction of a new Solvent Deasphalter (SDA) will enable the plant to separate heavier fractions from crude oil, so that a larger share of the petroleum can be processed into lighter, high-grade products. However, before this innovative unit can enter into full service later on in the year, its massive components first have to be moved to their new site. A perfect job for Rotterdam’s heavy lift and breakbulk cluster.


Shell Pernis is Europe’s largest refinery complex and as such occupies a key position in the European market. “The most important outcome of this large-scale investment in the SDA unit is that we will be able to produce a higher volume of clean products from the same barrel of oil,” says Jos van Winsen, General Manager of Shell Pernis. “After removing asphalt from a stream of petroleum products, other plants can use them as a feedstock for more lighter, high-grade products like gasoline and diesel oil. This allows us to increase the flexibility of our refinery and simultaneously improve the environmental footprint of our product portfolio.”


Block of flats
“Rotterdam was a logical choice for shipping,” adds Arthur de Leeuw, Commissioning & Start-up Manager of the Shell Pernis SDA project. “Among other things, the port has excellent logistics connections, both by land and by water.” And these connections proved quite useful. The SDA is made up of ten individual modules – and each of them is as large as a sizeable block of flats. These modules were all transported to Rotterdam by sea.

“We were working on this transport and all the necessary preparations for over 18 months,” notes Agility Project Logistics Operations Manager Leon van Veenendaal looking back. “Stability was a particularly challenging aspect of this job. At 30 meters high, 35 meters long and 14 meters wide, the units are very tall and narrow. Still, the entire project ran without a hitch, thanks to close collaboration within Rotterdam’s heavy lift and breakbulk cluster.”

Rolldock took care of transport over water, the Schiedam firm of Mammoet handled the final leg of the journey over land, and Agility bore responsibility for the overall coordination. “It’s a good, real-life example of what a fantastic breakbulk port Rotterdam actually is,” says Van Veenendaal. “It not only has quays for a job like this and all the required know-how and equipment. You also see that they have the right mindset here to bring a mega project like this to a successful conclusion. I feel sincerely proud of both our collaboration and the end result.”

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