Achema, the largest manufacturer of nitrogen fertilisers and other industrial chemicals in the Baltic states, is gradually returning to its ordinary pace of business. This month, the company will be finishing most of its scheduled repair operations – the repairs of the second ammonia shop and the calcium ammonia nitre and ammonia nitre shops, and will restart the manufacturing processes in them. The end of the repairs of Grand Paroise, the second nitric acid system this October will mark the completion of all repairs scheduled for 2020. Achema’s allocations to repairs alone amount to nearly EUR 20 million each year
‘We conduct this type of repair routinely every year to be able to ensure the reliability and safety of production. Traditionally, the repairs take place in summer, between the months of June and September, when the demand for fertilisers is at its lowest. A lot of the work is done by our own personnel to adequately prepare the facilities for the whole of the upcoming period of operation. For difficult work that requires specialist knowledge and equipment, we hire foreign contractors. Their geography is vast: from Sweden to Germany to Russia to Poland to Slovakia to the Czech Republic to England and other countries,’ Ramūnas Miliauskas, Achema’s CEO explains.
According to him, the global COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on movement among the countries have complicated organising and performing the repairs this year a bit, and the process as such has taken a little longer.
‘The main repairs on the ammonia shop were carried out by the Slovakian outfit Termostav, and we had obtained special clearance from the Lithuanian government for its staff to arrive in the country. On the other hand, specialists from Russia had to self-isolate for two weeks before they could begin working. Then there were contracts with foreign companies that had to be cancelled all together due to the self-isolation overheads,’ Mr Miliauskas says.
The annual repairs of the equipment are mandatory to ensure the efficiency and safety of the facilities. Operation causes wear in the bearings, collars of dynamic installations, and automatics systems tend to break down. Achema’s production works with corrosive and aggressive environments, which necessitates annual replacement of segments of worn-out metals and pipes. Another reason for the annual repairs is to perform checks of potentially hazardous equipment. The checks include interior inspections that cannot be done without halting the production and emptying the equipment first.
As a member of a group of companies of strategic national importance, Achema is subject to statutory annual inspections by a commission from the Fire Safety and Rescue Department as well. The commission consists of specialists from the Fire Safety Service and bodies for the control of potentially hazardous equipment, energy, and environment, the Labour Inspectorate, and experts in building supervision.
‘This inspection would typically occur in April in the form of a visit from all of said services to the company. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inspection was split among different services this year. This made the procedure more difficult and more complicated for the company, but we are glad that all the items on the agenda were ticked off successfully,’ Mr Miliauskas says.