New Skyline for ExxonMobil Rotterdam Refinery

On Monday April 3 a new vacuum fractionation tower with a height of 50 meters arose on ExxonMobil’s refinery complex in Rotterdam-Botlek. With the installation of this tallest and largest piece of equipment of the new hydrocracker the refinery again hits another major milestone.

The vacuum fractionation tower serves to separate products under reduced pressure so less energy is needed in the process. The total piece of equipment is about 50 meters tall, – with added platforms – nearly 11 meters wide, and weighs about 400 tons - roughly comparable with a fully loaded Boeing 747 plane. The vacuum fractionator was firstly lifted from horizontal to vertical position and then a crawler crane lifted the tower over a nearly 30 meter tall pre-cast concrete table-top foundation to place it in position

Increased energy efficiency

With the more than a billion euros investment in a new hydrocracker unit, ExxonMobil improves the leading position of the Rotterdam refinery in the European refining sector. The Rotterdam refinery is already one of the most energy-efficient refineries in Europe, and the project will increase its energy efficiency further by five percent.

Safety and efficiency gains

The vacuum fractionation tower was delivered to the refinery in October 2016. Upon arrival of the tower at a so-called ‘laydown’ yard, pre-dressing of the tower began. This allowed the addition of platforms, 13 tons of piping, insulation, 2 kilometers of cable and instrumentation in a safe environment outside the building site. The result is a heavier lift; but safety and efficiency gains were significant, minimizing work at heights (the top platform is over 60 m above the ground) and complexities associated with executing these activities in an active construction site.

Cleaner finished products

The new hydrocracker, when finished, will upgrade heavier hydrocarbon byproducts into cleaner, higher value finished products such as EHCTM Group II base stocks and ultra-low sulfur diesel. The expansion will also enable ExxonMobil’s proprietary hydrocracking technology to produce EHC™ Group II base stocks in Europe for the first time. Base stocks are the primary ingredients used in the production of high-quality lubricating oils and greases.


The refinery employs approximately 650 people and supports numerous contractors and service providers. On average, more than 600 additional workers will be on site daily during a three-year construction period, with workforce numbers peaking at approximately 1,300 workers in 2017, generating a positive economic impact.