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Study trip to Ludwigshafen introduced COMBINE partners new logistics solutions

COMBINE project partners visited Ludwigshafen Verbund site, the largest chemical complex in the world.
Participants of the COMBINE study trip at the Ludwigshafen site
Participants of the COMBINE study trip at Ludwigshafen

Dieter Rogge from BASF gave the COMBINE team an interesting lecture on BASF Verbund sites, where production facilities, energy flow and logistics are networked together intelligently to utilize resources as efficiently as possible. With an area of approximately ten square kilometers (10 kilometers in length, 1 km in width), the Ludwigshafen Verbund site, established already in 1865, is the world’s largest integrated chemical complex, where seven of BASF’s thirteen company divisions have their headquarters. About one third of BASF Group’s 122 000 employees work in Ludwigshafen, which has been the model for BASF’s five other Verbund sites that are located in Europe, the US and Asia. These six Verbund sites produce more than 50% of the BASF volumes despite the fact that BASF operates additional 355 production plants worldwide.

The COMBINE team was extremely interested in new innovations and impressive worldwide logistics chains they heard of. Ludwigshafen site is located right by the River Rhein and has its own port as well as an intermodal transport terminal, which has enabled linking together trucks and trains as means of transport in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way. BASF Verbund site in Ludwigshafen has a central role in the multimodal transport network, which becomes clear solely when looking at the figures: 2100 trucks, 400 rail cars and 20 barges take care of the site transports daily. Mr. Rogge highlighted the importance of barges for BASF transports but reminded that the low water level in Rhine has an impact on their business if the water level stays low for a longer period of time. Therefore, a backup solution by rail is essential.

The highlight of the excursion was a bus tour around the site, where the participants from eight different countries had a chance to get an overview of the impressive site: approximately 2000 buildings, circa 200 production facilities, 230 kilometers of railways, 2800 kilometers of pipes as well as 106 kilometers of roads.

Mr. Rogge presented the participants how BASF has optimized logistics at the site by new supply chain solutions. BASF class tank container is an intermodal tank container type that will replace the classic rail tank cars in the coming years and make rail more competitive. Secondly, the fully automated tank container storage yard for dangerous goods enables implementing a significantly faster and more cost-effective rail transportation process and serves as an interface between rail and internal transport. Finally, the automated guided vehicle (AGV), kind of driverless electric truck, is 16,5 meters long and have a payload of 78 metric tons.  With its 32 wheels and eight steerable axles, it is maneuverable and does not cause any damage to roads in spite of its weight. The AGV is steered via transponders embedded in the road surface and it makes the logistics much faster and more flexible.

Finally, the participants had a possibility to observe closely the brand new technology, as well as visit the control rooms to see how the logistics are monitored on site. The COMBINE team was impressed by the use of new technology and happy to hear that new, awesome plans to make logistics even more effective were under development.