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FCC unit turnaround on time and under budget (TIA)

AltairStrickland has completed three projects for Western Refining, an independent US based oil refiner and marketer that owns and operates a refinery in El Paso, Texas, with a total crude output of 128 000 b/d.

Rick Ramirez
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Article Summary
Because of the company’s previous performance with Western Refining, Altair was brought in to work on a major FCC unit turnaround at the El Paso refinery South Plant, a job that was eight months in the planning phase.

It was during this planning phase, known as ‘constructability’, that many of the potential problems that could arise during the turnaround were identified and resolved. Project studies, analyses, lift engineering, and comprehensive rigging studies were engaged to help ensure a safer and more cost-effective turnaround.

AltairStrickland follows the concept and implementation of constructability as “the optimum use of construction knowledge and experience in planning, design, procurement and field operations to achieve the overall project objectives”.

The basis of this concept is that experienced construction personnel need to be involved with the project from the earliest stages to ensure that the construction focus and their experience can properly influence the owners, planners, and designers, as well as material suppliers. This does not necessarily mean that the design or project objectives should be changed to meet constructability only from a cost standpoint. Constructability should be used as a design consideration, so that optimum results provide the best of both worlds.

AltairStrickland used AutoCAD, 3D surveys, and even plywood and other materials to build models to explore every conceivable problem scenario and assess potential constructability issues before they become problems impacting safety, scheduling, and budget.

Although significant discovery work was done on the South Plant (for instance, coke removal in the 
reactor, major shell repair to the wet gas scrubber vessel), Altair was able to maintain costs within 10% of the original estimate. Additionally, the company assumed the role of general contractor, managing and coordinating subcontractors without any schedule delays.

In addition to performing the South Plant turnaround with zero recordable incidents, Altair completed this project on time and under budget, due in no small part to the extensive work done in the pre-planning phase of the project. Thirty-four days were scheduled for the maintenance window; however, Altair completed the project within hours of the target and seven days better than the industry benchmark.

This short case study originally appeared in PTQ's Technology In Action feature - Q4 2015 issue.
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