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SAACKE GmbH upgrades the centerpiece of H&R Ölwerke Schindler GmbH in Hamburg

Refinery conversion: flexible and efficient expansion to simultaneous co-firing

SAACKE GmbH upgrades the centerpiece of H&R Ölwerke Schindler GmbH in Hamburg

Refinery conversion: flexible and efficient expansion to simultaneous co-firing

The H&R Group, an international specialty chemicals company, has invested in the future of its Hamburg location. SAACKE GmbH from Bremen was commissioned to upgrade and convert the refinery to natural gas simultaneous co-firing for the vacuum distillation plant, which has been the centerpiece of H&R Ölwerke Schindler for about 50 years. Following the conversion, both natural gas as well as other fuels from the production cycle can be used depending on availability and cost. A sophisticated fuel grading system and the automatic control technology ensure a safe and reliable operation and lower emissions. A significant part of the ancillary production oils is now no longer burnt-off, as was previously the case; instead it is further refined to produce special products. With an estimated amortization period of two years, the plant has gained flexibility, a higher real net output ratio and process efficiency at a relatively low financial cost.

Refineries worldwide are currently experiencing difficult, volatile market conditions and the future development is difficult to predict. As a result, a promising strategy is to increase flexibility in order to be more proactive and continuously improve the efficiency of all processes. The H&R Group is pursuing precisely these objectives with the systematic analysis of their production processes and the implementation of projects with a high optimization potential. Their specialty refinery, H&R Ölwerke Schindler in Hamburg, has had a long and eventful history to which the administration building from the 1920s bears witness. These days, the location produces over 400 petrochemical specialties for industry, including lubricants, non-labeled plasticizers, paraffins and technical and medical white oils produced from fuel production residues - up to 800,000 tons a year. The vacuum distillation plant is designed for a furnace firing rate of 20 MW. The furnace was constructed in 1966 and has now been redesigned and upgraded. The aim was to become more flexible by using natural gas and other thermally viable waste material, achieve a higher level of automation and reduce overall emissions.

"It was clear that converting all the burners to simultaneous co-firing would be no easy task", says Dieter Köhler, Project Manager at H&R. "We also had almost no accompanying documentation. The original furnace manufacturer was not available. This meant that we needed an experienced partner." This is something that the experts at SAACKE were able to provide: with a company history dating back over 80 years, over 300 engineers and German production, SAACKE is a well-known, innovative "problem-solver" in the industry. In particular, the combustion plants specialist is the first port of call for issues relating to energy efficiency and alternative fuels.

42 natural gas guns and 14 burners: complex conversion in just one week
"For the H&R furnace, we upgraded the existing condensate oil, fuel oil and fermentation gas burners for additional natural gas simultaneous co-firing so that compliance with the NOx and CO thresholds is always ensured. We are able to fine-tune this in the engineering with our fuel grading", explains Bernhard Rieger, Project Manager at SAACKE. A total of 42 natural gas guns and 14 pilot burners, all the associated gas supply lines as well as completely renovated control and monitoring technology now optimize the entire plant. A maximum of one week was available on-site for this complex conversion, which was another good reason to choose an experienced and reliable partner.

The conversion and implementation progressed according to plan. The project was successfully completed for all those involved. The refinery's real net output ratio and resource efficiency have increased significantly as a result of this process optimization, in line with the H&R motto "Oil is far too valuable to be burned"; the efficiency and flexibility in terms of fuel use provide a cost saving of about 30 percent by replacing oil with natural gas. The automatic control technology has also increased occupational and plant safety; in particular, the relevant standards, such as EN 746-2 and EN 61508, are now satisfied. It has also had a positive impact on H&R employees: the plant can now be operated more safely and conveniently and is more reliable thanks to modern flame detector monitoring and the pilot burners. This means that a number of inspections and manual ignitions are no longer required.

2,750 tons of CO2 saved every year
The simultaneous co-firing also has another effect: the use of natural gas reduces the CO2 emissions by an average of 20 percent. This corresponds to a saving of 2,750 tons of CO2 in the first year of operation following the conversion. "A good local environment and good cooperation with the approval and supervisory authorities are important to us", says Dr.-Ing. Guido Breidenich, Division Manager Technology and Approval Management at H&R. This is the reason for a voluntary commitment to reduce CO2, which the plant set up as part of an environmental partnership with the City of Hamburg. If the H&R Group's guiding principles include efficiency, resource conservation, occupational safety and quality, the refinery in Hamburg will have met all these demands in one go thanks to this project. Guido Breidenich sums it up as follows: "An upgrade is worthwhile in every respect. We have promoted the creation of value at our refinery and will be able to respond more quickly to the market and our customers' wishes in the future."


H&R AG is an international specialty chemicals company with over 1,400 employees. The company’s core business involves the development and production of special chemical and pharmaceutical products based on crude oil as well as precision plastic parts. H&R Ölwerke Schindler GmbH operates a specialty refinery in Hamburg. It was constructed in 1920 to produce base oils, high-quality special oils for the turbine and automotive industry and white oils.


SAACKE GmbH was founded in 1931 as CSÖ Carl SAACKE Ölfeuerungsgesellschaft mbH. The company introduced its first burner for marine use to the market in 1934. The company is now one of the leading specialists for combustion engineering and complete plant systems. In 2002, SAACKE launched an innovation to safeguard liquefied gas transport ships in the form of the Gas Combustion Unit. The company has been the market leader in this segment since then.

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