E. A. Hernandez, Swagelok, Solon, Ohio
it comes to major petrochemical plant construction projects, logistical complexity
can be one of the biggest hurdles builders face. Sometimes referred to as megaprojects,
these plant constructions typically involve years of careful planning,
engineering and development, and the coordination of dozens of global vendors
and specialists (FIG. 1).
all stages of megaproject development, the owner must remember the critical
nature of optimized fluid system management and planning within the complex.
Small-bore tubing and tube fittings in these facilities are responsible for handling
dozens of chemical processes ranging from simple utility applications to using hazardous
fluids and applications involving high pressures and/or high temperatures. Ease
of future maintenance is also an important consideration. For these reasons, selecting
optimized fluid system fabrication components and working with the right
vendors are priorities from initial planning to completion.
achieve high levels of fluid system quality, consistency and safety, it can be
advantageous to specify a single supplier for fluid system components,
including valves, tubing and fittings. This will help to eliminate the
potential for component intermix across the site. Consolidating suppliers can
also contribute to greater fluid system reliability and maintainability
sitewide, while creating cost efficiencies. Although achieving component
consistency across a megaproject comes with challenges and complexities due to the
project’s large scale, it can be done successfully.
illustrate how, this article will detail the strategies that the owner of a
recently completed $27-B petrochemical megaproject in the Asia-Pacific region used
to achieve standardization of tubing and fittings throughout several key fluid
system applications. The 22-acre complex is set to provide significant
assistance in addressing the region’s growing energy needs in the coming years,
with a projected capacity of 300,000 bpd of crude oil and estimated production
of 7.7 MMtpy of various petrochemical products. High fluid system performance
reliability levels are critical to delivering on those promises.
Anticipated challenges. Massive projects like this commonly involve many global
players and vendors, which can contribute to significant complexities that can
hinder successful project completions.
example, during the construction of the Asia-Pacific megaproject, up to 70,000
people were onsite working on different facilities, applications and projects
at the peak of construction activity (FIG. 2). Ensuring that installers for important
applications were properly trained was a necessity. Language barriers between
vendors from different countries posed communication challenges. Finally,
coordinating stakeholders across borders and time zones was not always easy.
Each critical application involved various engineering, procurement,
construction and commissioning (EPCC) companies in different countries and
required specialized expertise to design and engineer specific applications or
conditions are not unique to the Asia-Pacific project; they reflect major
trends at work in the petrochemical industry. Applications and packages are
becoming increasingly specialized, requiring precise knowledge and dedicated
these different applications and packages and the respective teams,
standardizing critical componentry can contribute to more efficient project
development and long-term reliability.
it is important to consider what is at stake over the long term once the complex
is in operation. No matter where a facility is located, system productivity,
reliability and safety are primary priorities in every application. Many critical
processes involve high pressures or high temperatures and difficult—at times dangerous—fluids that must be contained
within the system. Any leak can pose a safety hazard, whether minor or major,
and may be detrimental to efficient production.
these reasons, standardizing high-quality parts from a single supplier across
important applications and packages is becoming a common practice (FIG. 3). In the case of
the Asia-Pacific megaproject, standardization delivered some significant
benefits, discussed in the following sections.
remained on the same page. With several EPCCs onsite working on different
applications, standardizing a specific make of tubing, tube fittings and other
components sitewide made the project simpler for the owner-operator to manage.
Project managers could validate proper installations more readily due to
standard component familiarity across the complex and avoid incompatibility
between different parts. Furthermore, maintenance technicians will encounter
similar system configurations and componentry in the future as they maintain the
plant’s fluid equipment throughout its lifetime, boosting their efficiency when
troubleshooting systems and replacing parts. Additionally, by specifying one
reliable supplier with a global reach, the owner-operator was assured that all the
global EPCCs involved could achieve a shared understanding of the components’ performance
characteristics. This coordination helped to reduce complexities during the
front-end engineering and design (FEED) stage and set up the remainder of the
project for success.
component quality in every fluid system application. For critical
applications, it is important to remember that not all tubes, fittings and
valves are created equal. Components designed to maintain leak-tight
performance and made from higher-quality alloys to better resist corrosion can help
owner-operators minimize the risk of leaks, maintenance issues and potential
safety hazards throughout the lifetime of their assets. When all fluid systems
are made up of such components and materials, owner-operators can expect high
performance for the lifetime of their operations. Standardizing high-quality
components can help reduce the potential for substandard parts being used in
certain areas of a major complex. The owner-operator of the Asia-Pacific
megaproject heeded this advice and specified a single brand of components for
all fluid system packages in the complex, helping to ensure quality and
performance in each application.
Standardizing components across the Asia-Pacific megaproject’s fluid systems also
helped create labor efficiencies for the owner-operator. First, the practice
eliminated the need for crews to be familiar with different systems and components
from various manufacturers. Working with the same components from a single
source helped offset a lack of installation, maintenance and operation expertise
while reducing training needs. Once contractors learned how to reliably install
one type of tube and fitting, they could apply those principles to every
application throughout the complex. Consistent installation, operation and
maintenance protocols also reduced rework needs after testing systems.
megaprojects, potential construction delays can lead to significant financial
consequences, so the stakes are high. During the Asia-Pacific megaproject
development, the potential cost if just one EPCC did not have the needed materials
on hand to continue construction was approximately $1 MM/d. If those delays
impacted all EPCCs, the cost could reach to $25 MM/d.
conditions make the seamless delivery and installation of components across a project
critically important, even as projects continue to be subdivided into packages
involving different EPCCs. For the Asia-Pacific project, standardizing fluid components
from a single reliable supplier that offered on-time delivery from regional
locations helped avoid costly delays (FIG. 4).
Collaborating with your supplier.
In addition to delivering high-quality
fluid system components throughout a megaproject, the right supplier can
provide holistic assistance through various process stages (FIG. 5).
Asia-Pacific megaproject provides a good example. The owner-operator specified
a certain brand of fitting, valve and tubing for the project's fluid system
applications and packages. This allowed the supplier to become deeply familiar
with the owner's established best practices and project requirements. This was
beneficial throughout the early design stage for all EPCCs, particularly those
new to working with the owner, allowing the overall engineering and installation
process to proceed efficiently. In addition, the supplier was able to help EPCCs
navigate all relevant industry requirements, permitting and certifications—all of which were highly
beneficial for overall project management.
supplier was also able to apply its skill and experience to EPCCs on
applications requiring specialized knowledge. For instance, analytical sampling
throughout the megaproject—often
require specialization to ensure the systems, once completed, will function efficiently
and safely. To those ends, the supplier helped contribute to heightened quality
control throughout the installation of all analytical sampling systems.
analytical sampling systems, the owner-operator wanted to be sure that all fluid
systems were installed correctly the first time to ensure long-term
reliability. Here, the supplier provided certified installation training for
all its components. Training included product installation and maintenance
training to keep associates and contractors safe, competency and skills
development to minimize errors and streamline operations, and standardized
education to encourage consistent performance across all fluid systems.
Ensuring successful outcomes. The successful completion of the Asia-Pacific megaproject
required the highest levels of coordination and collaboration to execute
successfully, mandating teamwork on a massive scale among numerous global
players. For all fluid systems involved in the project, the impact of selecting
the right supplier was significant, helping the owner-operator manage resources
and components throughout all construction areas via in-depth knowledge of the
industry, customer specifications and government regulatory mandates.
demands are similar for any of today’s new major petrochemical projects. Owner-operators
should look for agility, collaboration and accountability when choosing a
supplier of critical fluid system components. A global presence—with the logistical
capabilities to supply massive numbers of the required components on schedule—is also an important
quality to seek. Finally, a supplier that can provide consultation and training
to solve problems onsite as they may arise can help contribute to improved project
efficiency and on-schedule completion. A supplier that can deliver on each of
these needs for owner-operators can contribute to a successful project. HP
is the Global Sales Manager of Global Construction for Swagelok Company. Hernandez
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.