For many engineering and construction companies (E&Cs) and their clients, getting to the construction phase more quickly is the aim of the game. With the use of model-based software applications, process designs can be created for re-use in a modular fashion on similar projects and based on varying locations, applications and scale, thereby increase overall project management efficiency.
Breaking the habit of re-inventing solutions associated with traditional engineering methods can be difficult. Onsite build can be time-consuming and costly where there are logistics constraints and unpredictable local labor conditions. Historically, engineers have often used traditional tools, such as Excel spreadsheets to model and calculate their project schedules, costs, risks and scope. However, by using specialist integrated engineering software, the strategy behind standardized modularization offers a different approach and involves dividing a plant into modules that are then re-used multiple times. E&Cs can reduce direct project costs (ie product equipment units, logistics and installation) by 10 percent or more and project engineering, procurement and construction delivery can be significantly expedited.
"E&Cs can reduce direct project costs by 10 percent or more and project engineering, procurement and construction delivery can be significantly expedited."
Project design is the first key area to embrace a modular approach and re-use standardized design modules for oil & gas plants. Many oil & gas companies design and build customized projects to specific locations with geological conditions. A more effective way of working in design is to re-use existing engineering templates, which unitize the work. This is a typical licensor workflow business model that has proven to be highly successful. It has conventionally been thought that upstream oil project had to be custom-designed for a particular oil field and crude oil fingerprint. However, recent experiences with such modular design approaches have proved successful.
The concept of off-site fabrication and modularization in engineering and design can be scalable from small to large-scale projects, such as a floating production, storage and offloading vessels scaled to the oil & gas flow characteristics of the particular well. Something like a compressor module could be standardized because the same equipment design can be re-used on many other vessels. For larger facilities, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants, the focus moves to replicating modules that make up the plant. Another example could be less need for heavy lifting equipment and scaffolding, which would save space and costs.
Many companies have successfully adopted modular standardisation to apply common design specifications and guidelines across each project (ie, a refinery or production platform). The use of libraries containing design templates, which include datasheets, equipment lists and line lists is a powerful way of avoiding unnecessary duplication of data entry and copying, helping minimise engineering time and reducing costly overruns. Key to this strategy is aligning the engineering stages from conceptual design through basic engineering to detailed design. Collaboration across the project teams is essential to leverage important documentation.
Leveraging technology saves time
Off-site modular assembly is becoming the preferred method of construction in industrial development. This highly efficient process alleviates the challenges typically associated with tight project schedules, changing site conditions and availability of skilled field labour and minimises variability in quality of the finished product. The safe and correct assembly of equipment, such as columns and reboilers, is critical to performance and reliability. Units derived from fabrication workshops, (ie, steel casings, stacks and ducts, burners, piping), can be pre-assembled for shipping anywhere around the world and modular construction can be more easily executed with available on-site skills.
As modular design and construction projects become the adopted standard, powerful and integrated engineering tools can help engineers to complete datasheets much quicker and allow the ability to communicate with all stakeholders working on the project.
Modularisation streamlines schedules
With capital project investments under scrutiny, modularisation increases project management efficiency and presents opportunities for trade-offs between on-site fabrication and shop modular fabrication. When modular construction is considered, lead times can be improved and the shop fabricator can efficiently fabricate and then ship. Therefore, early and accurate conceptual design becomes even more important to achieve fast-track designs. Off-site modular assembly is an effective method of construction to help oil, gas and petrochemical companies manage projects more profitably.
Standardised modular design gives E&Cs the opportunity to gain a competitive position and take advantage of the unique characteristics of integrated engineering modelling and analysis software tools. This supports the concept of repeatable designs, which save time to re-enter data and to enable optimisation of a design across the feasibility study, conceptual engineering and FEED (front end engineering design) workflow.
The software tools also help knowledge sharing across the organisation and allow efficient access for project delivery teams to streamline and deliver accurate engineering solutions that meet deadlines. In essence, modularisation expedites project execution by compressing project schedules and integrates global design teams for faster on-time delivery.