Increasing our sphere of expertise



How do you insulate a structure that had never existed before in Vietnam? You leverage the know-how of all the experts in the area to work together across frontiers and solve challenges together. Should be simple, right?

The most challenging projects yield some of the best results. That’s what the KAEFER teams in Vietnam and Malaysia found when they joined forces to perform a very special kind of insulation on structures that had never existed in the area before: spherical storage tanks. At the Long Son integrated petrochemical complex 100km south of Ho Chi Minh City, KAEFER Engineering Vietnam won the contract for the insulation of five tanks.

Insulation on spherical storage tanks in Vietnam

Coming round to an idea

Spheres are used to store liquids and pressurised gases and most operate at low temperatures, some of which can be down to -50°C. The main benefit of using a spherical shape comes from reducing stress concentration, as pressure is uniform over the entire surface. Because of the cold inside and the high humidity and temperatures outside, thermal insulation is key to maintain equilibrium within the spheres. To overcome the challenges inherent in the environmental conditions, the KAEFER team used foam glass to insulate the spheres. This is not an easy process, as every piece is different and requires special skill in terms of installation, such as shaping by milling, and cladding fabrication as well.

There was expertise within the broader KAEFER region to do this, but the problem was getting a team to Vietnam to train local staff during a period of strict travel restrictions. This was also a new process and it was not easy to plan something that effectively had never been done before in the country. The KAEFER team in Malaysia rose to the challenge, by liaising with the client and helping to fly in a team of specialists from Indonesia to train local staff.

Keeping the ball rolling

Faced with quarantine times of up to a month and enhanced lockdowns from August 2021, the team soldiered on and managed to train 50 local workers to fabricate and install the foam glass insulation and cladding for the spheres. “At one point, things really did seem desperate, especially when stronger lockdown measures came into force,” recounts Afzal Khan, Managing Director KAEFER in Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam. “But thanks to the efforts of our teams, we were able to leverage our synergies and apply our vast experience and technical know-how in such a complex project. My thanks go out to local site Manager Mr. Hieu and Operations Manager for Malaysia Mr. Jeeva, who put together the team and kept things moving even in these difficult times.”

The teams are making swift progress and the spheres are all on schedule. This bodes well for the future, as the client is very happy with the work so far and can look upon structures that have never before graced the landscape of the Long Son Commune in Ba Ria-Vung Tao Province, let alone anywhere else in Vietnam.

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