Oiltanking GmbH Makes Efficiency Its Worldwide Operations Byword

Jan. 1, 2001
OILTANKING GmbH, Hamburg, Germany, practices its motto: Doing the Common Uncommonly Well. The privately-held terminal services business has used the concept

OILTANKING GmbH, Hamburg, Germany, practices its motto: Doing the Common Uncommonly Well. The privately-held terminal services business has used the concept in its almost three decades of continuing growth. Founded in 1972, Oiltanking has a worldwide storage tank capacity in excess of 9.5 million cubic meters.

"After establishing the company as an independent service company with a core of profit centers, the business began to grow rapidly in the early 1990s," says Jim Schepens, vice-president marketing and sales for Oiltanking Houston. "New terminals were built in Singapore and Malta. Existing companies were acquired in France and Argentina. These gave Oiltanking a global profile.

"New companies have been successfully integrated within the group. The conservative growth and historical precedent for profit center structure have been the springboard for regional development."

The company's primary product focus centers on petroleum products. Its customers include major oil companies, refiners, petrochemical companies, and traders in petroleum products and chemicals.

"We want to be considered a trustworthy custodian of valuable products," says Schepens. "The safe handling and storage of these products are done in a responsible manner."

Among the Oiltanking storage and terminaling services are product blending and treatment, distribution, additive injection, and special product handling. Products handled in various terminals worldwide include gasoline, residual fuels, liquid petroleum gas, refined products, condensate, kerosene, methanol, feedstocks, jet fuel, fuel oil, distillates, crude oil, molasses, fertilizer, gasoil, lubricants, styrene, ethanol, butanols, xylenes, acetates, alphaolefins, mek, toluene, glycols, naphtha, sulfuric acid, and vegetable oils.

"Oiltanking has the ability to respond to special customer requests on short notice, due to its decentralized structure," says Schepens. "The terminals are separate profit centers that allow flexible, quick decisions. Within this structure, an entrepreneurial spirit guides Oiltanking personnel at all levels. A can-do mentality is maintained throughout the company."

South American Expansion Oiltanking has recently expanded its South American operations as part of its controlled international expansion strategy. The company has a history of terminal network development in conjunction with joint ventures with local private companies, consortiums, and government entities.

In 1999, Oiltanking formed a joint venture in Peru with the Peruvian company, Grana y Montero Petrolera. Nine petroleum terminals there have total storage capacity of 330,000 cubic meters (2.8 million barrels). Oiltanking's largest South American facility is located in Puerto Rosales, Argentina, where capacity totals 480,000 cubic meters (4.03 million barrels). Currently, Oiltanking is pursuing projects in Venezuela, Brazil, and Mexico.

In September 2000, the company announced its latest acquisition in South America, a contract with the Bolivian government for the operation of 19 petroleum terminals with total capacity of 88,000 cubic meters (553,000 barrels).

For the development of the business, the Peruvian-Oiltanking consortium organized a new company, Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos Boliviana. The new company is the operator of the business, and in September 2000 took over the assets and responsibility for the supply and transportation of about 60% of the consumption of petroleum products in Bolivia.

The company's North American business is centered in Texas with terminals in Houston, Pasadena, and Beaumont. Storage in Houston totals 906,000 cubic meters (5.70 million barrels).

Although product storage is an important part of operations, the emphasis is on throughputting the product to the receiver. For example, at the company's Houston, Texas, terminal, crude oil storage tanks are typically turned three to four times a month. Furthermore, the product can be unloaded from ships through 30-inch lines at a maximum rate of up to 50,000 barrels per hour.

"The efficiency can save a customer as much as $20,000 per day in ship demurrage," says Schepens.

A computerized control room in the Houston headquarters is overseen by personnel who monitor all of the operations. The control room has line-of-sight to the docks, and television cameras are placed throughout the facility for further security, efficiency, and safety.

Although the Houston terminal primarily utilizes pipelines for product distribution, the facility also distributes product via rail and tank trailer.

Truck transportation is used for gasoline blendstocks, diesel, naphtha, condensate, and methanol. The truck rack has Civacon overfill prevention and grounding equipment with a self-switching rack motor. Swivel loading arms are from FMC Corp, and meters are supplied by Contrec. A separate truck area is dedicated to Gulfmark Energy for offloading condensate into storage tanks.

At the Houston site, a new dock has been added to the six already in place. Additional expansion includes the construction of five new tanks, adding one million gallons of storage capacity.

Besides the Houston facility, Oiltanking has terminals in Beaumont and Pasadena. Storage capacity in Pasadena totals 380,000 cubic meters (2.39 million barrels), and in Beaumont, 574,000 cubic meters (3.61 million barrels). Seven new tanks have recently been installed in Pasadena. The additions add 800,000 barrels of storage capacity.

Global Terminals European terminals are located in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Malta, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Bulgaria. Oiltanking is established on the Pacific Rim in Singapore, and in South Asia in India.

Depending on the dominant transportation mode in each country, Oiltanking provides the necessary terminaling equipment. For example, more tank trailers operate out of the European facilities than those in the US. Many of the European terminals also handle large numbers of ISO containers and drums.

In Germany, for example, Oiltanking has six terminals along the Rhine route for inland distribution. Product is shipped in by barge for distribution throughout the area by tank truck. At some facilities, products can be received by barge, rail car, or tank truck, and redelivered by tank truck. From Hamburg, the first port of call in Germany for ocean-going vessels, products are distributed inland by tank truck, barge, and rail.

Oiltanking GmbH and its parent company, Marquard & Bahls AG, are located in Hamburg.

As for the future - Schepens points out that the company is committed to further growth, albeit deliberate and conservative.

"Oiltanking will remain committed to the petroleum and chemical industries," Schepens says. "We will be looking for new ventures that are created by growing demand, privatization, or by outsourcing. We are developing new business in the chemical industry and seeking growth in other liquids. This will be done with the same professional and responsible way as in our existing business.

"Besides strengthening its position in the oil and chemical markets, Oiltanking is open for other business opportunities aiming at those that are a natural extension of our main activities."

About the Author

Mary Davis