Total Refinery Netherlands: Revolutionizing Crude Oil with Cutting-Edge Refining Techniques

Refined tastes

Total Refinery Netherlands (TRN) is a leading crude oil refinery that uses advanced refining processes to produce a range of crude-based products that include petrol, LPG, kerosene, diesel, oil, naphtha, sulphur and other solvents.

The refinery, which is a joint venture between Total and Dow Chemicals, is situated in the Zeeland region of The Netherlands along the river Scheldt, which is an ideal location for the reception and distribution of products.

TRN’s history is one of continuous development, originating from an initial petroleum refinery distillation complex to become one of the world’s most advanced oil refineries.

Claude Gueguen, general manager at the site tells European Oil and Gas Magazine more about the history of the facility: “TRN is jointly owned by Total and Dow Chemicals, with Total owning 55 per cent of the shares and Dow Chemicals owning the remaining 45 per cent. This year the site celebrated its 35th anniversary, which is an important milestone in the history of the business and allows us to reflect on just how successful it has been. Today TRN is a complex crude oil refinery that processes roughly 200,000 barrels of feedstock per day – crude that comes from Northern Europe, but is increasingly arriving from the Middle East and Africa.

“In terms of operational scope, TRN operates a relatively standard range of refining operations,” he continues. “This includes distillation and vacuum distillation, regenerative reforming, hydro-cracking and the splitting of Naphtha. This means that together with the more traditional products such as petrol, oil and LPG we also produce a range of other products including solvents, lubricants, hydrogen, bunker fuel and even a range of biofuels. These are most commonly used for the markets in the Benelux countries, West Germany and Northern France.”

As Claude mentioned, this year marked the 35th year of successful operations for TRN, and as he explains, this period has seen significant changes at the site: “TRN started operations with distillation and refining for petrol, but quickly had to develop related to two distinct factors – the need by Dow Chemicals for increased amounts of Naphtha in the Netherlands, and the continued growth of the diesel market in Europe. The result of this was the decision to construct a new hydro-cracking unit, which went into operation during 1986, and this really spurred the continuous pattern of growth that we have witnessed since. We are extremely lucky that both Total and Dow Chemicals are committed to permanent investment to ensure that TRN operates at its optimum level.”

An important factor in the success of TRN during its lifetime has been its location on the river Scheldt, a waterway that for much of Europe’s history has always had a significant commercial and strategic importance. Today, the river is equally important, and the fact that it flows through France, Belgium and the Netherlands before reaching the sea means that TRN can manage an efficient and effective logistics chain.

Claude explains: “Our crude oil arrives at the Maasvlakte Oil Terminal (MOT, which is a terminal at the Europoort of Rotterdam, before being piped directly to TRN. We have our own harbour and jetty on the Scheldt through which our products leave the refinery predominantly on transport barges. This, combined with our truck facilities, means that we can easily and quickly transport our products to clients around the world.”

In the oil and gas industry, the refining of products in inherently dangerous areas means that safety is of paramount concern to operators, and TRN is no exception. The refinery’s stringent safety programme ensures that before each step or decision is made during the production of fuel, a number of factors are considered – namely, the consequences for the safety of the plant and its employees, any possible impact on the environment and the effects on the quality of the end product. Furthermore, the business is certified to a number of safety standards including the International Safety Rating System (ISRS) for safety, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 9001:2000, IVG certification for internal inspection and the ISPS standard for port security.

To maintain such high safety standards requires constant time and investment from both owners, as Claude explains: “A large part of all investment always goes towards safety at the facility. Most recently this has been evident in the design and building of a new control room that will offer significant improvements over the existing technology.”

Alongside safety, TRN takes its environmental responsibility extremely seriously. The refining process itself can be damaging to the environment if not carried out correctly, a fact that TRN fully acknowledges. However, years of investment and improvement mean that the facility is one of the most environmentally friendly in Europe. “Firstly it is extremely important to note that the Netherlands is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of environmental protection. Consequently we are stood in very good stead following the national laws and regulations that are relevant to our operations,” says Claude.

“Secondly, I think that we benefit by the fact that TRN is located in a relatively rural location, whereas many of the other refineries in the Netherlands are located in the built up areas of Rotterdam and other cities so we have less of an impact on the environment. The regional authorities here in Zeeland give us our environmental approval and permits to operate, which adhere to the rules of the IPPC and BAT (best available technologies) as described in the EU law for refining operations. This indicates that we have the best available technology in terms of the environment at the facility, and if you look at the benchmarks in Europe as set by studies such as the Solomon study then we are in the top quartile.

“Of course, all of this has been achieved by regular investment into improving the environmental footprint of the refinery,” he comments. “We are operating a sulphur plant with a sulphur yield extraction rate of over 99 per cent, as well as a water treatment facility which has links to a company in the Zeeland Seaport. We are also one of the only refineries in Europe with de-NOX (Nitrous Oxide) systems on the stacks of our topping facility, this means that in regards to our NOX emissions we are in the bottom rankings – we are constantly looking to implement new technologies to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Not only is TRN dedicated to the maintenance of the environment surrounding its facility, but the community too, proving to be one of the most valuable industrial businesses in Zeeland. The company has a strong in-house training department that works closely in conjunction with training facilities at Total, as well as with local suppliers and universities; taking on up to 30 newcomers every year. Most of these new additions to TRN come from the local region and the refinery is seen as a strong partner for the local economy, not only from an employment perspective but also from its use of regional contractors.

Claude explains: “We spend a lot of time and money on training, especially for newcomers who benefit from the experience of our older employees. As the refinery is now 35 years old a lot of people are reaching retirement age, which means we need to find replacements, and we will actively recruit them from the local regions. We also gain a lot of support from the local authorities that recognise our contribution to the region and want to help us develop in the future.

“Over the coming years,” he continues. “We are participating in a number of projects that will benefit the community as a whole. For example, Total is the leader for investment in solar energy in Europe, holding a strong policy in renewable energy, which we intend to follow.”

TRN is ideally located for this kind of development and is currently in the process of installing wave mill equipment to produce electricity from the tidal waters and river current in the Scheldt. The refinery is participating in this project, driven by the local community and region to provide the facility with renewable power. Discovering and utilising these new sources of energy is vitally important for the surrounding landscapes and nature, ensuring the preservation of wildlife for future generations.

With such dedication to flexibility and new developments in the oil and gas industry, TRN is well placed for continued success over the coming years as Claude highlights: “The future for the refinery is bright. We are in a strong position to evolve with the industry and roll with the market changes, looking towards diesel, biofuel and jet fuel production. We are one of the main sites in Europe for Total, so for the partners our refinery is a key tool for future developments, and coupled with our progress in local projects for renewable energy we are set for continued growth. Though crude refining remains our core business, I would say that the integration of TRN in Zeeland and the local communities is the real strength of the refinery.”

TRN Total

Services: Crude refinery