Hint helps Vopak Vlaardingen to automate its terminal expansionspan

When Vopak Terminal in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands, expanded its storage terminal, an adaptation to the automation software that controls it was necessary. The programming of this needed addition is specialized work, however, one where few suppliers have sufficient in-house expertise. In Hint, which specializes in process automation, engineering and plant and IT solutions for the oil and gas market, Vopak found the right partner to develop its new application.

Tank storage company Vopak has terminals around the world. One of them is based in Vlaardingen. From this location, the company offers its customers access to the Rotterdam port. There are 351 tanks housed in the Vlaardingen terminal, where mainly vegetable oils and fats, oleochemicals and biodiesels are saved. These products are transported from all over the world to Vlaardingen, where the terminal serves as a transfer point.

Controlling the terminal
Marco Langendoen is a planning engineer and plant manager at Vopak Terminal Vlaardingen and in this position he deals with, among other issues, the automation of the terminal. “Management and maintenance of the plants are continuously at play. In addition, projects for modifications to the plant run during certain periods.” One of these projects occurred four years ago, when Vopak performed a modification to the tank farm. Some of the tanks were removed and a few new ones took their place. This required a change of the existing software for controlling the automation at the terminal. Langendoen: “We were working at the time with software that controlled all the equipment of the tank groups. Because of the modifications, there was an added application to be programmed.”

Developing new additions
The existing software package controls the operation of valves and pumps, among others, as well
as the procedures for loading and draining vopakvessels, tracing, cleaning and loading of products. To be able to develop an application on existing software, requires a general knowledge of automation of industrial systems, and of the existing package, in particular. Not many suppliers here are sufficiently equipped to do this. In Hint, Vopak found a party that has the necessary in-house knowledge. In addition, Hint has a lot of experience in the bulk goods industry. Therefore, the organization engaged Hint in the development, implementation, testing and commissioning of the new application.

Hint developed the application and incorporated it into the software systems that enable the tank groups in the terminal to be controlled. Hint worked for about two years in Vlaardingen, where employees were present daily on site and worked with the Vopak personnel. Later, the developers were still involved remotely and they were able to log in to put the final, finishing touches on the project.

Quick reaction time
There were challenges in the project, such as the transfer of information to Hint at the start of the process. It is always a difficult task if a third party goes to work with existing systems. “In the transfer from the previous supplier to Hint some things were forgotten here and there, but that’s part of process. However, Hint got it sorted out,” said Langendoen. According to Langendoen, Hint has done a good job: “I really enjoyed the partnership. Hint is a group of true programming specialists who also have knowledge of our processes. I am very satisfied with the work they carried out at Vopak. The big advantage of a relatively small company like Hint is its flexibility. It can, and does, respond quickly when needed.”