Today’s turnarounds (or TARs) are large, complex and expensive. A recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) report indicated a 29-day fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) turnaround at Valero’s St. Charles refinery could cost $39 million and use 1,800 contractors. Furthermore, it was estimated Valero could lose between $1.2 million and $3 million for each day the turnaround went beyond the scheduled outage. We all know planning is important but this report shows just how important it is in dollars and cents (sense, as well).
The frequency of major turnarounds varies from unit to unit, but usually must occur every three to five years. Major turnarounds often require up to three years of planning and preparation. The planning and preparation process includes determining the scope of work, securing skilled manpower resources and placing orders for the materials and equipment required. The actual turnaround will usually last 30 to 60 days. Because a refinery has many units, it frequently will require turnarounds for different units in different years, although some units may be “turned around” concurrently depending on the effect an outage will have on other operating units as well as any special circumstances.
The size and complexity of a refinery turnaround leave little flexibility for a significant change of plans even when market conditions favor keeping the refinery running. A major FCCU TAR often requires an increase in manpower resources to more than three times the number normally present in the refinery. The materials and equipment necessary to execute a turnaround often require several months to engineer and design, and, as much as a year to procure.
Even with all this planning and preparation, it is not uncommon for the cost, scheduling and safety impacts of a major TAR to spiral out of control for an operating company. A recent EIA survey of FCCU operations summarized the operating experiences of 28 FCCUs. While 22 of the units targeted four to five years between turnarounds, only 16 actually achieved these targets. Turnaround durations also tended to be longer than planned, with an average slippage of five days. For each day a TAR exceeded the scheduled outage, the average cost was $2 million (per day) making the average additional cost per FCCU TAR of $10 million — just from schedule overruns alone!
Another way to quantify the effect of prolonged outages on refinery profitability is the impact on refinery yearly production (see Figure 1). In this illustration, production losses (due to outages) are reported for the refineries with the best TAR performance versus the refineries with the poorest TAR performance. The “Best Performing Refineries” experienced a 9-percent decrease in yearly production associated with efficient execution of the TAR Scope (minimum outage). The chart showing data for the “Poorest Performing Refineries” reports an additional 24 percent in yearly production losses due to prolonged outages. This comparison clearly demonstrates TAR performance can be the difference between the operating company making money or losing money in a TAR year.
With the penalty for overrunning the schedule this high, relying on traditional methods of dimensional control and crossing your fingers is no longer a prudent turnaround execution strategy. TGC Engineers’ dimensional control services provide a “New Precision Standard” that delivers a zero-rework project while preserving your project schedule and budget from what operating companies and TAR professionals agree are the three leading causes of turnaround overruns:
• The need to perform dimensional rework of piping, equipment and structural elements
• The mid-TAR discovery of unplanned work
• The inability to obtain sufficient numbers of skilled industrial craftsmen
TGC Engineers: Leading the industry in turnaround risk mitigation
Responding to the known and unknown challenges that occur on every TAR is the highest priority of any risk mitigation effort. TGC Engineers’ technology alone can eliminate or reduce the impact of all three of the leading causes of turnaround schedule and budget overruns.
Dimensional rework of piping, equipment and structural elements
There are three distinct project phases where dimensional errors and tolerance accumulation occur:
• Design: These are errors that occur in the measurement of existing equipment and piping. When such errors are incorporated into the design documents, fabrication will not, by definition, be compatible with existing piping and equipment in the field.
• Fabrication: Such errors as fabrication of a left hand, instead of the right hand that was required, are common in every project. Owners typically do not perform extensive dimensional QA/QC in fabrication shops. Errors in interpreting and following fabrication documents frequently go undetected resulting in the need for rework in the field.
• Installation of field-fabricated elements: The layout of equipment foundations, supports and structural steel is a common source of error. Layout of cut lines on piping and equipment also can be challenging. When these errors occur, the results are usually systemic and pervasive.
TGC Engineers has developed a comprehensive, proven work process for eliminating the need for rework due to fit-up problems regardless of the root cause. Our work practices are proprietary and were developed in the field while working in refineries and petrochemical plants with other engineering and construction professionals. The high level of detail and precision delivered by our measurement methodology allows TGC Engineers, in conjunction with the turnaround team, to provide a zero-rework turnaround. No other work process, including the laser scanning technology utilized by the major engineer companies today, can make that claim.
Discovery of additional unplanned work during TAR
When unplanned work is discovered, it is important to expedite all phases of the work to minimize the time required to execute the additional work. TGC Engineers uses noncontact measurement techniques to generate fast and accurate fabrication drawings while the turnaround is still underway. TGC Engineers also can supply engineering and design manpower for every activity associated with unplanned work with no handoffs.
Insufficient number of skilled craftsmen
When traditional construction techniques are utilized, components are fabricated with extra length to allow adjustments in the field for fit-up (i.e., leave-long field fits). Craftsmen must modify these components during the construction phase by cutting and grinding until fit-up is achieved.
Many times a fit-up will require more than the adjustment of a leave-long. Major dimensional problems regularly occur due to a design or fabrication error. Only the most experienced craftsmen have the skills required to fit-up a large or dimensionally complex component with fit-up problems due to dimensional error.
TGC Engineers can ensure all components are error-free and ready to install without leave-longs by verifying the fabrication of equipment, pipe spools and structural steel before shipment to the jobsite. This reduces the craftsman’s work scope to welding and bolting because no modifications are required. If components fit-up without modification, productivity increases — especially from today’s less experienced work force.
TGC Engineers’ Advanced Integrated Measurement System (AIMS) technology provides a low-cost solution to the three leading causes of TAR schedule and budget overruns. Traditional methods do not offer real solutions but can only rely on field adjustments and modifications as required for fit-up. Do not let dimensional uncertainty relegate your turnaround preparation and planning to chance. Contact TGC Engineers today.