Interface management in 
complex projects

Managing the interface between contractors, owners and a host of authorities and affected groups is vital to the success of large and complex energy projects

Richard Collins and Robert Durham, Foster Wheeler
Raafat Fayek and Walid Zeid, GASCO

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Article Summary

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been progressively expanding its oil and gas production for decades, and has ambitious plans to continue to do so. However, as projects have become larger and more complex, and some of them are extensions to existing facilities, there has been a vast increase in the array of interactions between the respective projects, the existing facilities and the infrastructure and third parties upon which they both depend and on which they impact. These interactions, if not managed effectively, can lead to major difficulties at both macro and local planning levels.

Foster Wheeler, an engineering, procurement and construction contractor (EPC), is active in the design and execution of major projects throughout the Middle East region and globally, and has provided management services to several of the larger projects in Abu Dhabi at Habshan, Asab and Ruwais. This article outlines some of the challenges with key inter-faces and interdependencies that were encountered in Abu Dhabi, together with the actions taken to manage them during the implementation of these large and complex projects.

Working closely with the GASCO management team, interfacing activities with parties such as Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for health, safety and environment (HSE) studies approvals, the Supreme Petroleum Council to obtain project approvals, and working with ADNOC manage-ment, other ADNOC operating companies, EPC contractors, Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority (ADWEA), municipalities, forestry commission, local highways authorities, the Petroleum Port Authority at Ruwais, Port Zayed at Abu Dhabi, Critical National Infrastructure Authority, police, and so on, have all had their challenging moments. This experience has provided an extensive insight into the way in which these interactions work in Abu Dhabi, and lessons learned regarding the critical success factors in making these interactions function well.
In summary, this article provides a case study which demonstrates that good interface management is vital to the successful delivery of large, complex projects.

GASCO projects
In 2001, as part of its ongoing development programme for oil and gas production in Abu Dhabi, ADNOC instigated a major project to recover and process additional quantities of oil and gas from its existing reserves. The project was known as OGD-III/AGD-II.

A pre-feasibility study resulted in the definition of a suite of five separate, but closely integrated, projects interconnected to existing facilities at Habshan, Asab and Ruwais (see Figure 1).

While the five new plants would ultimately be owned and operated by three of ADNOC’s subsidiaries — namely, Abu Dhabi Gas Industries (GASCO), Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) and Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Company (TAKREER) — GASCO was given the lead role in developing and implementing this overall project, with support from its two sister companies. Package definition was allocated on a geographic basis, taking account of eventual asset operatorship. The final split of major packages is shown in Table 1.

Together, these projects repres-ented a total investment in excess of $5 billion on a 2005 cost base. A contract was awarded to Foster Wheeler in December 2001 for the provision of project management consultancy (PMC) services to assist GASCO in developing the OGD-III/AGD-II suite of projects.

The feasibility study was undertaken by Fluor in the US, and the front-end engineering design (FEED)/project specification was completed by Bechtel in the UK. Throughout these early stages, staff from GASCO and the PMC were based in the respective contractors’ offices to provide management and general review/approval of the work as it proceeded. Support was provided as required by visits from ADCO and TAKREER management teams.

FEED stage development
Identified need for an interface manager

As can be seen from the highly integrated flow scheme and multi-operator scenario, there are substantial technical, physical, logistical, commercial and organis-ational interfaces between the various elements of this project. Management coordination of the extensive and diverse nature of these interfaces was recognised as being critical to the overall success of the project. In May 2003, the position of interface manager was established to provide a single 
focal point.

In addition to inter-project interfaces, it was soon perceived that each of the five individual EPC project packages not only had its own intra-project interfaces, such as tie-ins to existing facilities, but each also had extra-project interfaces in relation to other independent projects in their vicinity, including local infrastructure systems. Local and national approvals were progressively required to document and sanction the identified impacts at every stage of each project’s development.

While the general requirements for the function were known by many, the initial task for the interface manager was to define the role and optimum strategy for its successful implementation. With such a range of possible strategies, it was important to agree and document the balance of scope, responsibility and resources to be provided to support the position of interface manager within the established project teams. Alternative strategies were defined, complete with resource assessments, for review with GASCO. The selected strategy required that the interface manager would work within the overall project team and utilise existing personnel and services to support his work.

Interface execution plan
The project execution plan for both the FEED and the EPC stages had already been defined. However, specific considerations relating to planning of, and responsibilities for, interface coordination within, between and external to the various projects were incorporated. These related to all project phases, from initial site surveys through commissioning to operation and final plant acceptance.


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