North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) is strategically important to Covestro: The company has production operations at three sites here. The sites in Leverkusen, Dormagen, and Krefeld-Uerdingen are no more than 70 kilometers apart. Since 2010, they have been combined in a separate organization, which is known as the NRW site network.
The tight network between the NRW sites, where approximately 6.800 employees work, offers ideal conditions for even better efficiency. This is crucial, since almost a third of Covestro's total global production capacity comes from Germany's most populous state. To build on this successful trajectory, Covestro continues to foster close collaboration between the sites in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen. Examples include pipelines, transport routes and means, utilities, fire protection and other safety services, as well as medical care.
As Managing Director of Covestro’s facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia, Dr. Daniel Koch is responsible for the NRW sites. He is in close contact with the three NRW production managers Dr. Susanne Buchholz (Leverkusen), Dr. Rob Eek (Dormagen) and Dr. Volker Weintritt (Krefeld-Uerdingen). One of their main concerns is to make logistics processes leaner and to unify production processes. However, the reliable supply of the plants with raw materials, such as hydrogen, natural gas, carbon monoxide and nitrogen, and various forms of energy is also essential in order to compete internationally.
With its NRW site network, Covestro combines different corporate divisions such as maintenance, infrastructure, warehousing and service. As a result, the company is able to reduce costs for all of the NRW sites and improve their cost-competitiveness over the long-term. Thus, the network is key to achieving economic success in the region.
Expanding infrastructure in NRW
Covestro needs a sound infrastructure around its NRW sites. This is essential for the company's growth, work and well-being. Strengthening the overall transport system and creating a sustainable infrastructure in Germany is one of the pressing issues for Covestro. Traffic routes such as roads, railways and waterways need to be updated and better connected. Companies such as Covestro, after all, rely on the seamless and reliable supply and delivery of raw materials and products.
Improving the Rhine River as transport route for NRW sites
A well-developed infrastructure is essential to industrial companies
in Germany. Covestro, for instance, procures approximately 75 percent of its goods in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen via inland waterway transport. At the same time, the company ships out around 30 percent of its manufactured materials in NRW.
Consequently, Covestro was affected heavily by the long-lasting low water levels of the Rhine in 2018. The company has a strong interest to prevent such extreme situations from happening in the future.
Despite changing climatic conditions, it is important that the Rhine remains a reliable transport route. Hence, the significance of inland waterway vessels as an efficient and environmentally friendly means of transport must be elevated. This might also be accomplished by developing new types of ships such as the flat-bottom vessels. Beyond that, water level prediction systems need to be improved.
Covestro wants to put CO pipeline into operation
From thermal insulation panels, to car headlights or DVDs – high-quality materials from Covestro are used in many different areas of everyday life. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indispensable building block in the manufacturing process. However, the capacity at the site in Krefeld-Uerdingen is not sufficient in the long-term. The plants are therefore to be supplied with CO from the site in Dormagen via a supply pipeline. The pipeline with a length of 67 kilometres is almost finished, but is not yet in operation due to legal dispute and public requirements. The Higher Administrative Court (OVG) of Münster decided in late August 2020 that the planning approval for the construction and operation of the new pipeline is still effective.
The state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia has repeatedly
stated that the CO pipeline serves the public good. The law, which gave the project the green light, was supported by all parties and passed unanimously. The project strengthens North Rhine-Westphalia as an industrial location, making Krefeld-Uerdingen part of a reliable, safe, environmentally friendly CO infrastructure.
Covestro welcomes decision by the Higher Administrative Court of Münster
However, residents had complained about the project. They had failed a lawsuit against the district government of Düsseldorf, which approved and will later monitor the pipeline as the authoritative agency. Now, as of late August 2020, the court has found that the zoning approval for the construction and operation of the pipeline is legitimate. The Senate rejected the claim in its entirety as unfounded. This means that the zoning approval for the construction and operation of the supply pipeline is lawful.
The court clearly emphasized in a statement that the technical design of the pipeline and, therefore, its safety not only met the technical requirements in several respects, but went beyond them. “We believe our legal opinion has been confirmed” said Dr. Daniel Koch, Managing Director of Covestro’s facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia. The pipeline will go into operation as soon as the remaining legal and construction requirements are fully met. Covestro was involved in the proceedings as a joint party. Click here to read the full press release.
In August 2014, the Higher Administrative Court (OVG) of Münster suspended the proceedings for the planned carbon monoxide supply pipeline from Dormagen to Krefeld-Uerdingen and called upon the Federal Administrative Court (BVerfG) in Karlsruhe. The responsible chamber of the BVerfG decided unanimously, in a resolution of December 21, 2016, that the submission of the OVG should be rejected as inadmissible due to legal deficiencies. Furthermore, the Federal Constitutional Court made a clear statement that Covestro felt confirmed its position.
The judges in Karlsruhe stated that, in their view, the law on the supply pipeline is suitable to serve the public good and confirmed that the legal formulations were sufficiently well-founded. In addition, the BVerfG found that the statutory purposes of expropriation are sufficiently secured in the Pipeline Act itself.
In 2014 already, the OVG had stated that it had no fundamental reservations concerning the design of the pipeline in terms of safety and routing. Only with regard to the constitutionality of the Pipelines Act, on which the project is based on, the court saw further need for clarification. Hence the submission to the Federal Administrative Court in Karlsruhe, which was ruled inadmissible in 2016.
Comprehensive safety concept
The comprehensive safety concept for the new carbon monoxide pipeline exceeds legal requirements. It is operated at a maximum pressure of 13.5 bar. However, it was built to handle 100 bar, and tested at over 200 bar.
The plastic-coated steel pipes have a nominal diameter of 25 centimeters. The steel is high-strength, while remaining deformable. This protects the pipes against vibrations and earthquakes, among other impacts. The pipes are installed at a depth of at least 1.40 meters, although one meter is the legal requirement. The line is monitored twenty-four seven by an operation centre and regularly inspected by Technical Inspection Association (TÜV).
In May 2020, Covestro filed a motion for immediate enforcement to complete the pipeline. The district government of Düsseldorf approved the motion, with an order for immediate enforcement. This order gives Covestro the opportunity to implement measures from the 2018 plan amendment decision, such as installing a second geogrid. These special grid is designed to protect the pipeline against damage. The order does not allow for preliminary commissioning.
Companies such as Covestro need planning security to carry out major projects. Germany faces fierce international competition. Covestro is convinced that it must be possible to construct and operate such safe pipelines in North Rhine-Westphalia, which is the industrial heart of Germany.
Questions and answers on the CO line
Why was the route located on the right bank of the Rhine?
No one likes foreign pipelines on their own territory – however, they cannot always be avoided. The best route was determined under the leadership of the district government, after considering all interests of the stakeholders involved. The route was based on existing infrastructure routes for railways and interstates. There are already a large number of pipelines in various routes on the right bank of the Rhine. This also generates synergy effects: the company WINGAS installed a natural gas pipeline along almost half of the entire route of the CO pipeline. Joint construction projects reduce environmental impact and require less space overall.
Are any residential areas affected?
The pipeline runs along existing infrastructure routes such as for railways and interstates whenever possible. However, this was not possible in all cases. Residential areas are also affected by the route of the pipeline. When the route was determined, property owners were approached personally (mid 2005). In addition, residents were informed with letters and brochures at the start of construction, and a website and phone hotline were established.
Why was the plan changed?
Plan amendments are usually unavoidable in complex infrastructure projects. In case of the CO pipeline, these changes came about after construction work had already started. The majority of the requested changes relate to route shifts of a few meters. Construction companies needed to change the location due to water, power, gas or oil pipelines they had found, or avoid other unexpected obstacles in the ground by adjusting the actual route of the CO pipeline. Ecological aspects such as protecting stands of trees, also led to changes. Despite evaluating all existing plans in advance, their exact location was not always known. It is common to combine such minor deviations in one subsequent application.
How safe is the CO pipeline?
Pipelines are the safest, most ecological means of transport for most liquid and gaseous substances. Carbon monoxide is transported safely via pipelines worldwide. Covestro used materials and concepts that go beyond existing safety standards when building the supply line. The walls of the plastic-coated steel pipes are particularly thick yet deformable. This protects the pipes in the event of vibrations and earthquakes. The pipes are installed at a depth of 1.40 meters, in some cases even significantly deeper. The legal requirement is just 1.00 meters. The pipeline is operated at a maximum pressure of 13.5 bar, but is designed for 100 bar.
How is the line monitored?
The continuous control is mainly based on the following systems: The pressure of the CO pipeline is continuously monitored - any irregularities would be detected immediately. Several leak detection and location systems are installed along the entire length of the pipeline. The smallest amounts of CO would be detected early with a sensor hose system by means of diffusion before a hazard could occur. In addition, the quantity of carbon monoxide is constantly controlled on both ends of the pipeline using the so-called model-based mass-balancing method. The same goes for the temperature and pressure in the pipeline. The pressure wave method supplements the mass balance method and is used for computer evaluation to locate the leakage point by means of the pressure wave curve. Further measuring equipment is installed – for instance, to determine the temperature and pressure in the pipeline route.
What is the contingency plan?
Although Covestro does not expect any irregularities in operating the CO pipeline, the company has taken extensive precautions to alert and protect residents in the event of a malfunction. Multiple independent safety systems will activate even in case of the slightest irregularities. If the monitoring equipment reports a deviation from the norm, the pipeline would be shut off immediately via several gate valves. It can be drained from both sides – toward Dormagen and toward Uerdingen. This ensures carbon dioxide can be disposed of safely, depressurizing the pipeline. A comprehensive emergency response plan will also go into effect.
Carbon monoxide – how dangerous is it?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas – it can be deadly, as it prevents the body from taking in sufficient oxygen. Carbon monoxide is subject to the Hazardous Substance Ordinance. However, CO is a gas that people live with every day in low concentrations: it is produced when we burn fuel in our vehicles and airplanes, or when we smoke cigarettes. Handling CO safely is crucial. Covestro has decades of experience in doing so, and carbon monoxide has been used at Covestro sites for years. Vast operational experience, employees specially trained in handling CO and highly sophisticated plant technology enables Covestro to ensure maximum safety.
Covestro – A good neighbor
Living together in harmony is very important to Covestro. This is why the company actively seeks out dialog and maintains close contacts with neighbors at its production sites. At Covestro, safety comes first. The company is dedicated to reducing risks for our employees and neighbors and to ensuring safe production processes. Additional information is available on the Chempark Krefeld-Uerdingen website.