How do you dismantle a chemical plant for re-erection at the other side of the world?

Richard Vann, British Demolition Awards judge

Managing director of RVA Group, Richard Vann, recently spoke to Demolition Hub for his latest column, on how you can dismantle a chemical plant for re-erection at the other side of the world.

While a decommissioning project may represent the end of a chemical plant’s life for one operator, there are occasions when assets can be carefully salvaged, dismantled, and reinserted elsewhere into the global supply chain. Richard Vann, MD at RVA Group, explores the intricacies involved in such a complex assignment.

The chemical engineering market continues to pose newfound pressures and opportunities for operators worldwide. The number of decommissioning projects being planned on an international scale is therefore vast and varied.

Some plants, upon reaching the end of their design life, pose inefficiencies and safety risks due to ageing, making their continued operation unsustainable. Others reach a natural conclusion due to evolving compliance standards, so must be ring-fenced if operators are to remain on the right side of the law. As we’re witnessing across multiple industries right now, fiscal challenges have a significant part to play too.

However, while a facility may have reached the end of its useful life for one chemical manufacturer, it may still have operational potential elsewhere.  A second-hand plant may be used as a stop-gap measure by a client to get to market quickly, for example, whilst a more efficient plant is being constructed. Often, there is also an additional driver to move production closer to the end-user, to mitigate unit cost, time, and environmental impact.

The sequential dismantling of these hazardous facilities is inherently complex, with multifaceted variables affecting whether the project can be executed safely, while ensuring environmentally and commercially viable outcomes. But it is possible. 

Devising the plan

Before any decommissioning project commences, a bespoke feasibility and option study should be conducted — providing an objective, clear, and realistic view of the project’s true liability or opportunity. As well as gleaning plant-specific insights from the operator, this process considers the EHS, commercial, and financial factors associated with the site. Essentially, it ensures the decommissioning exercise isn’t entered ‘blind’.

This means assessing achievable costs, the quantity and location of residual materials, metallurgy and exotic material content, contamination levels, other potential hazards and risks, permit surrenders, the availability of drawings, closure processes, waste management obligations, required resources, relevant legislation, and programming constraints.

The route map will vary from one site to another, ranging from the selective removal and retrofitting of assets to complete ‘flat slab’ clearance or extensive mothballing. Often, the selected route may not have been considered or even deemed possible by the client, but the studies will aid data-driven decision making. Ideally, this exercise would begin long before the plant has even closed, although this is not always possible.

The decontamination challenge

Auditing the type and level of hazardous material contaminations, as well as the cleanliness and structural integrity of the assets, is crucial. This helps to ensure that appropriately-skilled personnel – equipped with the necessary PPE – are appointed to undertake the decontamination exercise, with minimum risk.

The objective should not be to over-clean materials. Instead, the goal is to take assets to a ‘known state’ that removes uncertainties and satisfies compliance requirements  If they are to be demolished for scrap, for instance, decontamination should at least meet regulatory requirements and prevent hazardous materials from entering recyclable waste streams.

Carefully considered disassembly 

Deploying a high degree of manual dismantling techniques allows for the precise disassembly — and reassembly — of assets. Once cleaned, components should be match-marked with unique codes for ease and accuracy of reconstruction. Some may also be sent to specialist companies for refurbishment and certification. Plus, providing accompanying drawings aids reassembly at the destined location, while careful transportation ensures the integrity of materials during shipment.

Geographical complexities

Irrespective of geography or the specifics of the assignment, safety and environmental considerations are paramount in projects involving international plant transfer. While most countries adhere to similar ethical and legislative benchmarks, there are naturally varying international, and even regional, nuances. Considering standards set in both the plant’s origination and destination locations is therefore crucial, although legislative parameters should set only the bare minimum criteria — the responsible decommissioning professional should vow to achieve the highest possible EHS standards.

Finding a plant buyer

While dismantling equipment for re-erection elsewhere is a possible route map, it’s not always commercially feasible — not least if a prospective end user is not immediately apparent, and/or a third party is sought to buy the assets. It’s often easier to transfer the facility to an operator within the same group, if possible.

During such transitions, ensuring compliance with local regulations, while adhering to global benchmarks for EHS regimes and technical methodologies, is key. To combat cultural and language differences, effective personnel relations, awareness training, and communication must also be adopted from the outset.

Pursuing external buyers may be inherently more complex — introducing significant decommissioning, refurbishment, and relocation costs. This, coupled with the view of decommissioned plants of ‘old technology’, is why completing a mutually-attractive deal is admittedly rare in these cases. And holding costs incurred during negotiations will only eat into profit margins. ‘Sale for reuse’ should therefore be considered as a ‘plan B’ route map.

Bottom line

The goal – for any chemical facility – should always be to maximise the return on assets where possible and safe to do so. However, factors such as plant age, former processes, recovery cost, testing, market forces and commercial competition, will all form part of the decision as to what should happen next. 


Remediating hazardous processing environments

Richard Vann, British Demolition Awards judge

RVA Group’s managing director Richard Vann recently spoke with Demolition Hub about the importance of safety within the demolition sector, and why this is non-negotiable.

In case you missed it, catch up on the article below.

A demolition project doesn’t end as soon as a structure is brought to the ground. By their very nature, processing environments harbour inherent hazards that can pose significant risks to both the environment and human health. Site restoration is therefore a crucial facet in finalising any successful decommissioning exercise.

While it signifies the latter stages of a site’s operational lifespan, this phase also opens doors for the space to be revitalised for a range of possible uses. But remediating contaminated land often represents just as many uncertainties as the earlier phases of an asset’s lifecycle. So, how can contractors ensure a seamless transition from demolition to regeneration? 

Plan for different outcomes 

Knowing there’s rarely only one possible route map, conducting feasibility and option studies — when undertaken by an experienced demolition professional — empowers clients to make more informed decisions throughout every stage of the project, including remediation.

A number of strategies — from interviewing former operators to reviewing historical sources and public records — will help determine the past uses of a site, for example. This is important when redeveloping land previously used by a chemical or industrial plant, where a number of contaminants could be present.

Having a firm grasp on the materials used during construction and throughout operation, as well as knowing the condition of the site, for example, could uncover the presence of hazardous waste such as asbestos, or pollutants like arsenic and mercury. Manual intervention can help deal with the challenge at source, without breaking containment. However, if it is revealed after testing that such hazards have also impacted the integrity of soil or groundwater, targeted remediation strategies will be required to ensure the safety of surrounding ecosystems and communities.

Of course, planning for every eventuality is virtually impossible — not least when dismantling assets the size of a power station, with decades-old infrastructure and often limited documentation. As such, the process must remain dynamic and flexible at all times.

Foster collaboration at every stage

At RVA Group, we’ve long talked about the importance of a tripartite alliance between client, contractor, and someone like us, acting as the independent consultant. Recognising that no single party possesses all-encompassing knowledge, this alliance fosters collaboration and innovation throughout the project lifecycle. However, it’s especially crucial during the remediation phase, where regulators and landowners assess the standard of environmental cleanup efforts before a project can be deemed complete — without incurring unnecessary penalty costs.

By assembling a skilled remediation team and supervising this phase, a consultant will ensure pollution is eradicated and the restoration of land is completed to an agreed state, within budget — paving the way for an exciting future for the site, once again. Meanwhile, a contractor may introduce innovative technologies that streamline the project timeline and enhance safety measures, accelerating the restoration process. Alternatively, they may offer specialised expertise in waste management strategies, further bolstering the environmental sustainability of the remediation methodology employed.

Ultimately, collaboration means ideas are harnessed from the outset, and plans are continually validated and adjusted as needed.

Prioritise safety and compliance until the final hour

Once an asset reaches its operational life, decommissioning, demolition and remediation will form part of a phased programme of closure of works. When complete, the operator will apply to surrender a number of environmental permits — depending on factors such as the site’s former use and local legislation — to confirm that it has been returned to a satisfactory state and is ready for further operational use, where possible.

In cases where the land is leased rather than owned, additional conditions may also be imposed on the remediation process. Meeting ever-evolving and increasingly stringent compliance requirements is crucial to prevent costly fines that could financially burden the project. 

Keeping health and safety in sharp focus until absolute conclusion is vital too — something we’re constantly talking about at RVA Group. Frameworks such as the EU Directive 57/92, as well as the compliance with Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) in the UK, exist to regulate management until the final hour. However, in reality, many legislative requirements only establish the minimum benchmark for site safety protocol. Therefore, regardless of the phase of works, adherence to best practices remains imperative to ensure the safety of personnel and surrounding communities.

Think long-term

It is crucial to be cognisant of the future use of the site during the remediation process, where possible.  If it is going to remain industrial for example, then the remediation regime would be different compared to if it is destined to be developed for residential or leisure use.

With long-term vision and strategic planning in large-scale remediation projects, clients can realise tangible benefits for both industry and society. A decade-long project — amounting to 1.2 million safe work hours — recently drew to a close in collaboration with petrochemical giant SABIC, whereby RVA Group supported six different contractor firms to demolish, decommission, and remediate the firm’s 54-hectare site on Teesside.

A staggering 58,500 tonnes of scrap have been salvaged for reuse or remanufacturing since the project began, achieving a 98% recycling rate, with 44,000 tonnes of additional waste – including 8,750 tonnes of asbestos – managed responsibly in line with the waste hierarchy. 

With the equivalent of 270 football pitches now cleared, the facility paves the way for potential industrial development, contributing to Teesside’s regeneration, attracting investors, and creating job opportunities. SABIC’s dedication to safety also translates into charitable contributions, benefitting local causes and reinforcing its commitment to the community. 


RVA Group welcomes Stephen Andrew as business development director

Decommissioning consultancy RVA Group — headquartered in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, and with offices spanning both the UK and Europe — has welcomed renowned industry specialist Stephen Andrew as business development director, as the firm gears up for further global expansion.

Bringing 45 years of experience within the demolition sector and associated markets, Stephen boasts a high-level, multinational career portfolio, with former roles including asset closure lead for ABB. As such, he is perfectly placed to bolster RVA Group’s senior leadership team — not only in developing and broadening its UK and global markets, but also providing strategic support to the operations and project management teams.

Commenting on the hire, Richard Vann, founder and managing director at RVA Group, noted: “We’re not strangers to overseas assignments — having completed in excess of 900 global projects over our 32-year company history. But as our global footprint expands — in Europe, Middle East, South America, and North and East Africa — we’re excited to leverage Stephen’s demonstrable experience in this niche field.

“Having built an enviable reputation in the demolition and decommissioning space, many peers will have followed Stephen’s career trajectory for decades. Now, we’re pleased that RVA is where he’s hanging his hat. Crucially, Stephen also embodies our organisation’s safety-first, client-focused work ethic. We are confident that we’ve not only secured a most capable individual, but also a guardian of the values that have underpinned RVA Group since day one.”

Specialising in the high-hazard operational sectors of power generation, and chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries, RVA has a hard-earned reputation among major global brands including BASF, Sabic, SembCorp, ENGIE and GSK, to name just a few.

Its multidisciplinary team of experts delivers tailored solutions for complex projects worldwide, ensuring the highest standards of safety and environmental stewardship.


RVA spotlight – meet Richard Vann

Richard Vann, British Demolition Awards judge

Name and role:

Richard Vann, managing director.

How long have you been with RVA Group?

Since the idea was conceived at my kitchen table — at 3:48 pm on 18 November 1992.

What did you want to be, when you were younger?

When I was very young, I wanted to be a pilot like every other boy. That aspiration was short-lived though, after I found out I was colourblind.

Was it always your intention to go into demolition? 

After completing my A-levels, I went on to study pharmacy, but I soon realised I wanted to get out into the ‘big world’ and embrace the challenges and risks of business.

And what are the most memorable things you’ve learnt during your career?

Be honest and always deliver on your promises — seize every opportunity to innovate and try to avoid disappointing others. Make friends, not enemies – life has a way of coming full circle.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

As well as spending time with my family, I like to write and record music in a studio. I’m also a big history enthusiast, with a key interest in the Second World War. Over the last 15-20 years, I’ve studied 20th Century European History and have completed distance learning courses at Cambridge and other universities.

What personal goals do you have for 2024?

Reading is a passion of mine, so I’ve tasked myself to get through one Charles Dickens novel every month in 2024. I’m currently running ahead of schedule but there’s a long way to go and a lot of pages to turn! As a second goal, I’d like to reach my first 100,000 streams for a single track on Spotify. The highest to date is 67,000, so still a little way to go.

Among all of the destinations you’ve travelled to, which stands out as your favourite?

Whilst I love lying by the pool with an interesting book, good food and great weather, I also enjoy long weekend city breaks. A favourite destination of mine is Rome and getting to walk through its ancient streets — I’ve been several times, and each visit is like a new adventure.

If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?

Joseph Stalin — it would have been interesting to try to understand his strategies and thought processes that led to catastrophic consequences for millions of people.

What do you want to achieve with RVA in the future?

To continue to drive the business and consolidate its well-earned position as the leader in its field throughout the global marketplace.

Which one word would you hope colleagues would use to describe you?



Richard Vann joins 10th Annual Decommissioning and Demolition Forum

Richard Vann joins 10th Annual Decommissioning and Demolition Forum

We are delighted to announce that Richard Vann, managing director at RVA Group, will be speaking at the upcoming Annual Decommissioning and Demolition Forum for High Hazard Process Plants. Taking place on 21-22 March at the Continental Hotel in Budapest, Hungary, the TBM Group event is now in its 10th year of celebration.

Having served as session chairman, panel member, and speaker on several occasions, and also attended as a delegate last year, Richard’s involvement spans a decade. Now, he brings his wealth of experience and expertise as an esteemed speaker, adding value to an already compelling lineup of thought leaders and topics, sharing insight on “Procuring Decommissioning — Safely and Securely”.

Given the growing rate at which power station and even nuclear decommissioning projects are coming to the fore — due to mounting commercial pressures, ageing assets, geographical market shifts, stricter environmental and legislative compliance requirements, technical innovation, and more — it’s a particularly timely topic that will no doubt resonate with professionals grappling with the complexities of modern decommissioning projects.

The event will also feature a diverse range of other topics, including: ground remediation, hazardous waste management, strategies for enhancing local economies post-demolition, and expectations, feedback and lessons learnt from contractors’ points of view.

Beyond gaining valuable insights, attendees can expect to network with industry peers, and contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding safety, sustainability, and innovation in decommissioning and demolition projects.

Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with industry leaders and experts at the forefront of high-hazard process plant decommissioning. Secure your spot today.


Why embracing a culture of safety is non-negotiable in demolition

Why embracing a culture of safety is non-negotiable in demolition

RVA Group’s managing director Richard Vann recently spoke with Demolition Hub about the importance of safety within the demolition sector, and why this is non-negotiable.

In case you missed it, catch up on the article below.

In the demolition space, an alarming number of people believe ‘the world has gone mad’ with safety precautions on-site, suggesting that there might be such a thing as being ‘too careful’ or of creating jobs for the sake of it. 

The reality is, when dealing with the various elements of demolition, there can be no room for compromise. Safety isn’t a matter of excess or choice but is imperative and non-negotiable. And in an arena of such fine margins, it’s important to remember exactly why this mindset is key.

A distressing yet significant read, Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s ‘Work-related fatal injuries in Great Britain 2023’ report puts things into perspective. Headline figures from the national regulator indicate that 135 people were killed in work-related accidents in the year ending March 2023 — an increase of 12 (10%) on the previous year. A total of 68 members of the public also sustained fatal injuries — a decrease of 20 deaths (23%) from the preceding period.

Consistent with previous years, the construction sector overall had the highest number of fatalities too. A growth of 16 fatal injuries saw the figure more than double (55%) since 2021/22, with 45 cases recorded. This makes the five-year average for fatalities in this sector 37. That’s looking solely at the UK statistics too.

While HSE’s Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, stated that Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, we’re also reminded that any loss of life in the workplace is a tragedy and invariably avoidable. As such, a safety-first mindset should always be at the top of the agenda.

Physical safety measures, such as PPE usage and handrail installations, certainly play their part, but that’s as far as many people and companies can see. Perhaps more importantly though, proactive safety strategies — encompassing training, cultural understanding and mindset, risk appraisal, and discouraging behaviours like ‘corner cutting’ — can help emphasise and encourage the collective responsibility and buy-in of all involved.

Convergence of minor lapses could lead to catastrophic consequences. And more often than not, it’s the final oversight of multiple that triggers a major incident, rather than one single wrongdoing. For example, when person A did X, person B didn’t do Y, and person C presumed someone else would take care of Z. We should all embrace the attitude that even so much as a cut in the workplace is one incident too many. Otherwise, where do we draw the line?

A similar logic can be applied to routine activities too. Regardless of whether nine times out of ten there’s never been a passing car when crossing the street, what’s to say the tenth occasion won’t be different? It may seem trivial, but it’s true. Routine tasks, despite their seeming predictability, can introduce unforeseen risks with devastating consequences. Mindset matters, and being attentive at all times is key.

Maintaining open lines of communication from the ‘bottom up’ is equally critical. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all. So, conversations surrounding risks should be constantly revisited — according to the scale, type and number of hazards at play — steered by someone with task related safety management expertise, to be embraced by all parties involved in the project. 

Of course, relevance is key. With some protocols and procedures mismatched to the role of the site visitor, the whole ‘health and safety gone mad’ debacle could perhaps be justified. Inducting a visitor attending the administrative area of a power station will look drastically different to someone maintaining the electricity generation equipment, for example. Or at least, it should. 

Beyond the eye-roll inducing annoyance, if the nature of a worker’s role or areas they will be assessing aren’t considered properly in line with risk assessments, safety outcomes could be severely compromised. Regardless of a plant owner’s genuine commitment to safety, attempting to ‘cover all bases’ might result in the visitor disengaging and overlooking the section of the induction crucial for their personal safety on-site.

So, what about reactive safety strategies? The investigation of an incident, root cause analysis, reporting, the evaluation of learnings, and the implementation of improvements are all crucial. But let’s not forget this reactive process is a result of an incident having already happened. While it would be naive to say you can predict every single eventuality, doing what is reasonable and practicable to prevent them in the first place is key for curbing our sector’s statistics.


Why decommissioning should be considered at the design stage of every project

Richard Vann, RVA Group

Managing director of RVA Group, Richard Vann, recently spoke to Demolition Hub for his latest column, stating the importance of decommissioning, and the key considerations that need to be discussed at the design stage of a project.

If you missed the article, catch up below.

When we’re talking about industrial and high-hazard plants, decommissioning often signals the end of an era. The decision to retire an asset ushers in a complex process of planning, design and execution — a terrain navigated by skilled and experienced professionals. The greater the scale of the site and hazards associated with its operational life, the more intricate the project tends to be.

But the journey to decommissioning success begins long before the first cable is cut or brick dismantled. In fact, it commences at the design stage, where forward-thinking professionals merge vision with pragmatism, acknowledging the inevitability of an asset’s end. So, what are the key considerations that should be made at this stage? 

Safety and expertise 

At its core, decommissioning demands a distinct set of skills that go beyond routine maintenance or occasional shutdowns. Operators, intimately acquainted with the assets they have run and maintained for several years, can add significant value here, with a significant depth of process and plant-specific knowledge.

Handling this element of this phase of the project using internal resources could make commercial sense too — not least if finances are tight. And, in the case of asset rationalisation or complete site closure, involving operators in the decommissioning works that follow could mean extended employment terms for personnel, supporting the organisation’s duty of care if forced to consider redundancies.

Of course, decommissioning isn’t simply a reverse of the construction process. And bringing an asset to the ground involves more than a fleet of wrecking balls. The decommissioning discipline, and the decontamination, demolition and dismantling skill sets typically required for such projects, represent a distinct area of engineering. Involving specialists early in the design process is therefore essential in order to maintain robust safety and environmental standards, prevent abortive effort and cost, and streamline the project from start to finish.

Regulatory compliance

Adherence to regulatory standards is paramount in any project. The CDM Regulations, a benchmark for best practice, advocate rigorous planning and execution. Designing with decommissioning in mind ensures the project aligns with these regulations seamlessly. Allocating a principal designer plays a key role in this respect, ensuring the right people do the right job at the right time. 

While asset owners or operators are not excluded from this statutory duty, the necessity for experience and expertise raises doubts about their suitability. Of course, that’s not to say they can’t take on this role. However, it’s important to consult a well-versed decommissioning team to support with planning and documentation, as well as auditing works throughout, as a minimum, serving as a gold standard roadmap from start to finish. 

Environmental impact

In an era where environmental sustainability is non-negotiable, early consideration of decommissioning aligns with the global shift toward a closed-loop society. Designing assets with an eye on their eventual deconstruction allows for the integration of more sustainable practices and methodologies.

By reviewing hazards relevant to the operational background and current condition of a site, for example, dangerous materials and other complex waste streams, and the extent to which assets are in a known state, can be dealt with in a safe and compliant way. This results in a cohesive output, keeping risk management and environmental, health and safety excellence in firm focus.

Understanding how an asset’s resources can be redeployed when it reaches end-of-life is key too, underpinning what it means to be ‘circular’. Whether it’s dismantling, relocating, and re-erecting an entire structure elsewhere or salvaging individual elements for installation in other processing facilities, an asset should never be designed to one day become completely ‘redundant’.  In other words, resource efficiency should never be an afterthought — not just from an environmental standpoint, but to boost financial advantages too.

Financial prudence

Decommissioning isn’t merely a cost to be borne at the end of an asset’s life — it’s an ongoing financial consideration. Early collaboration between designers and decommissioning experts empowers clients with valuable data. This data, integrated into the design phase, informs budgeting exercises, enabling the accrual of adequate funds for the asset’s eventual retirement. What’s more, it facilitates periodic assessments ensuring ongoing viability, and aids in decision-making processes, such as retro-fitting or asset divestment.

Closed loop collaboration 

The concept of closed-loop collaboration, prevalent in sustainable product design, finds resonance in the construction and decommissioning industry. By embracing this approach, project stakeholders can create a continuous feedback loop, where insights from the decommissioning phase inform future designs. This cyclical exchange of knowledge not only enhances the efficiency of individual projects but also contributes to industry-wide advancements in safety, environmental sustainability, and cost-effectiveness.

Of course, these conversations are already taking place. But with ongoing supply chain dialogue, we can close the loop once and for all.


Safe demolition pays dividends


In case you missed the news, RVA Group collaborated with petrochemical giant SABIC at its Teesside facilities throughout a decade-long decommissioning project.

Catch up with Tees Business below.

SABIC clears way for potential investment projects as a decade of decommissioning activity draws to a close

A complex 10-year demolition programme across SABIC’s Teesside facilities has freed up swathes of land for future industrial development.

Ten of the global petrochemical giant’s plant areas spanning 54 hectares – the equivalent of 270 football pitches – have been cleared on land that could eventually bring new jobs into the area via other interested parties keen to be part of Teesside’s ongoing regeneration.

Prior to the regeneration of the massive Teesworks site, it was Europe’s largest demolition project.

Now, after more than a decade of dedicated decommissioning work involving hundreds of people from across the North-East and beyond, the removal of SABIC’s redundant Teesside plant and pipeline infrastructure across two major industrial sites will finally be completed by the end of the year.

The vast and complex network occupied huge swathes of the 2,000-acre Wilton International site and included important SABIC facilities at the North Tees site too.

The top priority in completing the work was, of course, the safety of everyone associated with the project, plus those working for companies at neighbouring facilities and not least the surrounding public.

That meant every aspect of the work had to be planned in advance and executed meticulously to ensure that any risk was minimised. With many plant structures the size of multi-storey buildings and pipelines potentially still containing a myriad of hazardous gases and liquids, those risks were many.

Happily, over the course of the decade, over 1.2 million safe hours of work has passed – a truly world class safety performance. 

Despite the complexity of this vast undertaking and the sheer volume of work carried out, the project has remained on track and has been delivered under budget.

Matthew Waller, operations director of the engineering consultancy RVA Group, tasked with designing and project managing the work of the six different contractor firms executing the work, said: “This has been an intricate, extensive, and high-profile demolition programme – part of SABIC’s investment in ‘fit for the future’ operations. We have continued to sequentially remove redundant plant from their footprint to pave the way for their ongoing manufacturing excellence, and it has been a privilege to support them over the course of the last ten years.”

Keiron Mulholland, SABIC’s senior demolition manager, said: “The focus for this entire project has been safe execution by design.  Detailed planning and expert decommissioning engineering have been the foundations for the safe delivery of this project from start to finish – no mean feat given the inherently high-hazard nature of the works and the sheer number of hours invested into the programme.

“The team from RVA worked collaboratively with both the SABIC team and all of the Principal Contractors to meet the project business drivers of an excellent EHS performance, within the sanctioned budget and in line with the agreed schedule – a marvellous achievement and one everyone involved in the project should be proud of.”

The scale and complexity of the job is apparent in the statistics:

  • The demolition of two of the largest distillation columns in Europe at 110m
  • The dismantling of a further 25 columns and three chimney stacks reaching up to 125m
  • Removal of 11 cooling towers pulse 50 furnaces, six spheres and more than 100 storage tanks
  • Demolition of a jetty on the River Tees – a job which required huge environmental care with the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve – home to a variety of protected bird and river species and designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest – close by.
  • The retrieval and salvage of 58,500 tonnes of scrap metal
  • The removal of 44,000 tonnes of additional waste including 8,750 tonnes of asbestos
  • All waste managed responsibly and in line with the waste hierarchy resulting in an overall project recycling rate of 98 per cent  

For SABIC, the benefits in carrying out the work were obvious. Continuing to manage redundant infrastructure was a time consuming and costly exercise and with assets slowly deteriorating year by year the chances of safety, health or environment issues increased.

However, there were other spin off benefits that meant the success of the project had wider implications.

In terms of the continued economic health of Teesside, the work not only created work for those involved in the various aspects of the job, but also freed up valuable land at Wilton and North Tees for future industrial development – land that could eventually bring new jobs into the area via new investors.

The attraction of the land to those investors is obvious and few locations in Britain compare with Teesside as a location for heavy industrial development. Reliable and easy to access supplies of low carbon energy and raw material feedstocks combine with our unparalleled industrial infrastructure, the “jewel” that is our deep water port and not least the area’s engineering and process expertise to tempt investors.

Not surprising then that the existing industrial sites on Teesside have seen an upsurge of enquiries from potential investors in recent years with many keen to bring multi-million pound developments to the sites that will boost Britain’s desire to move towards a net zero carbon future.

The benefits of the work extend to the wider community too.

From the start one of the ways SABIC tried to ensure that safety remained the top priority was by implementing a scheme that ensured that every safe working day completed would benefit a local charity or good cause.

As a result, thousands of pounds have been distributed across the Teesside area, adding to the tens of thousands that SABIC donates to charities and causes in the area annually.

That aspect of the business will be explored in a future edition of Tees Business.


RVA spotlight – meet Jack Pierce

RVA spotlight - meet Jack Pierce

Name and role: Jack Pierce – project manager.

How long have you been with RVA Group?

Approaching six years.

Describe your career journey before that:

I worked for multi-discipline industrial services companies on petrochemical sites and a Naval dockyard. Before this, I worked as a project engineer for a steeplejack company, working on multiple shutdowns in various countries.

What did you want to be, when you were younger?

I wanted to be a fireman or in the Royal Engineers.

And what do you think is the key skill you need to be a successful project manager?

You need to have an in-depth understanding of the project and the client’s requirements. Also, being approachable and adaptable to ensure the project is completed successfully.

What’s your biggest RVA achievement to date?

The successful completion of my first demolition project on Paraxylene 4 & 5.

And the most memorable thing you’ve learnt during your career?

Treat people with respect and be truthful to your word. 

Describe your dream project:

A project that is planned thoroughly and executed on time, within budget and with no accidents or incidents…. in a warm country.

RVA Group is celebrating 30 years in business, with a truly global reputation for decommissioning excellence. Why do you think the company has earned such a stand-out position in industry?

RVA put safety as their main priority. Over 30 years in business, the knowledge and experience of the people who have worked within the company have helped develop a robust IMS, which aids the project managers in executing projects efficiently. 

Of all the sectors RVA operates in, which is the most exciting right now?

Each sector has its own unique challenges so it’s hard to pick just one.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an organisation preparing for a decommissioning project?

Take time in the planning of decommissioning activities, know the systems inside out, and use the knowledge and experience of people who have worked on the plant.

What makes you tick outside of work?

My time outside of work is mainly taken up being a taxi driver for my daughter, taking her to and from dance lessons and competitions. For the past three years, I have coached at Middlesbrough Rugby Club with the same team from U15s to U18s and I also enjoy playing golf.

If you could be given a plane ticket for any location, where would you choose?


Which one word would you hope colleagues would use to describe you?



Decommissioning: the end, or the start of a new beginning?

Richard Vann, British Demolition Awards judge

RVA Group’s managing director, Richard Vann, recently spoke with Demolition and Recycling International (D&RI), reflecting on the past four years working with the publication, the topics discussed, and what he has achieved in recent years within the industry.

In case you missed the article, you can catch up below.

Throughout the 40 years I’ve spent within the demolition industry, and life in general, I’ve never, ever stopped learning. Gaining new skills is, of course, a big one; but sometimes it’s been a simple shift in perspective that’s delivered the most impact.

Many of those mindset shifts have been triggered right here, through the pages of this magazine.

Whether that’s been learning from the experiences of other thought leaders or reflecting upon my own thoughts and opinions as I collate this column.

As we know, our industry is one of a kind. It’s a sector seldom understood by those outside of it, and we have become an ever tighter knit community as a result.

During my time as caretaker of this page, a role that’s spanned four years, I’ve relished in bringing to life and exploring a range of topics — from ‘the role of decommissioning in design’ to ‘the stigma surrounding safety’, and even ‘does 30 years of a role become boring?’.

This passion for sharing knowledge has seen me speak at dozens of international industry conferences, taking the role of keynote speaker at the World Demolition Summit in 2017. I’m also incredibly privileged to have served as a fellow, and past president, of both the Institute of Demolition Engineers and the Institute of Explosives Engineers.

I’ve been a judge for the British Demolition Awards; and now I’m pleased to share, with much pride, that I was recently made an honorary fellow of the Institute of Demolition Engineers. These achievements are forever interwoven with my time spent as caretaker of this page, and in conversation with you, the readers.

I hope I’ve been able to offer readers a sense of encouragement to pursue their own passions, to stand by their convictions and, above all, to promote the unswerving levels of safety that I’ve staunchly advocated for throughout my career. My mission to see decommissioning schemes given equal status to the construction efforts which precede or follow it is, and perhaps always will be, a work in progress — but it’s an area where awareness is advancing rapidly.

The fact is, the potential for danger — and more than that, catastrophe — during decommissioning projects is, as we know, ever present. And this is only exacerbated by a lack of perceived commercial benefit from ‘knocking things down’.

But what many fail to consider, is the level of personal tragedy and professional ruin that could ensue from a poorly managed, insufficiently budgeted, time-limited project — and a complete disregard for the potential consequences. This is something the public does not easily forget and just one mistake can indeed cost dear.

As industry professionals, our knowledge and commitment to the safety aspects of a decommissioning project is what sets us apart from what many, less experienced in our line of work, choose to see.

Often, they recognise only the physical act of demolition — the finale, as they see it. But, for us, the main event comes in the preparation. The many hours of care and attention that ensures everyone involved in a decommission can return safely home to their families.

This is a message you’ll continue to see me champion, as I close this chapter and move aside for up-and-coming sector voices from across the world; people who will, too, help shape the next generation of demolition professionals, as they navigate the complex and ever-changing regulatory landscape of a career within this field.

I look forward to learning from them, just as I hope they did from me over the years of collaboration with D&RI. To those who have kept these pages alive with your interest and interaction over the years, to those who have played a role in my professional journey and have no doubt inspired my written contributions, and to those who still have their role to play in our industry – perhaps we will cross paths, professionally, once again.

Looking towards the new year, I have big plans for RVA – and I’m looking forward to continuing on into the next decade of demolition. Because 30 years in demolition definitely isn’t enough, and you can read more about that here.

So, as I prepare to pass on the baton – my perspective is focused not on the end, but on the magic of new beginnings.

Over the years, Richard Vann has been devoted in his efforts to championing the demolition industry and the expert skills and knowledge of those in the industry, both in the UK and oversees.

In sharing his experiences and expertise in the pages of D&Ri, he has thoughtfully and skilfully provided great insight into the outstanding work that the industry does and into how it benefits communities everywhere, and D&Ri wishes to express its deepest and sincerest thanks to Richard for his contribution to our publication.