Two years the minimum to plan integration of large turnarounds with capital projects

An absolute minimum of 24 months is needed to plan for integration of large turnarounds with capital projects, agreed a panel of experts at Petrochemical Update’s Refining, Engineering & Construction conference in Houston.

(Image credit: Maciej Noskowski)

About 40 turnarounds are planned at U.S. downstream facilities between now and 2022, noted panel moderator and Prima Strategic Group CEO Mohan Sharma.

Bobby Singh, President, Project Assurance, said very few turnarounds take place without a capital project being executed alongside them. He and Ed Winston, Director – Refinery Integrity at HollyFrontier, both suggested the respective teams start communicating 24-36 months before a turnaround.

The other panel member, Rich Rashall, Group Head Construction & Turnarounds at Covestro, said his firm mandates 24 months of joint planning ahead of large turnarounds, 18 months for medium-sized turnarounds, and 12 months for small turnarounds.

“We just finished a large turnaround with 1,500 people per shift. It was very successful. The capital piece was the greatest part of the turnaround: 75% of it,” Rashall said.

Planning for the project began with an FEL-2, a stage of front-end loading that typically includes preliminary equipment design and schedules. It was at that stage that the project leaders decided exactly how much of the capital project would be completed during the turnaround window.

“That was way before the turnaround planning started for the maintenance side. So when we got to the kick off meeting, for the turnaround piece 24 months out, the capital piece was already planned, ready, contracts already set in place for that window, (we had) already ordered the material. We were already making the steps way ahead of the turnaround side,” Rashall said.

“This turnaround we just did, falls into the category of mega turnaround. More than 1,000 people per shift, had to be completed in seven days – the major portion of it. I heard people all over the company say it can’t happen. It came off very well. We had 42 small turnarounds on this one capital project inside a major turnaround.”

Prima measures large shutdowns as those that take weeks - rather than days - to complete (Image credit: Prima Strategic Group)

Measuring the results

There are still many more horror stories than success stories in integrating capital projects with turnarounds, according to Singh. He suggested that downstream companies view this as an opportunity to understand why integration is so difficult, and to even consider making integration a key-performance indicator for the turnaround.

“In other words,” he said, “we should get the management involved and have their commitment to ensure these groups are talking to each other. I would go further (and suggest we) make a successful integration one of the KPIs for the turnaround. We want to make sure that the execution cycle for capital projects and turnarounds need to be tied together.”

One thing Singh has concluded from his experience as a consultant is that it is easier for teams to blame each other if things go wrong than to work together to find solutions. “I think we have cultural issues,” he said, “but the bottom line is we can’t succeed on any capital projects or turnarounds unless we do upfront to integrate and break those barriers, and look at areas or opportunities to make it successful.”

Corporate control of process

Winston suggested cooperation was needed at the corporate level for integration to succeed. Winston spent 20 years at Shell Motiva and then served as VP Production at Tesoro before joining HollyFrontier two-and-a-half years ago. While working in the plants, he observed that corporate was demanding things that could not be accomplished.

“In other words, projects were being approved late, they were coming into the scope late, and we could not react in time, and we all felt like they were asking us to do things we couldn’t do. As you get into corporate, (you see that) the drivers are more around profitability, and environmental regulatory projects, and about: ‘Oh, we’ve got to grab these economics because we’re a publicly held company’.”

At HollyFrontier, a decision was made to compile a long-term portfolio of projects based on the turnaround schedules. This was a very different practice from what was done before, according to Winston.

Now HollyFrontier has an executive turnaround steering team in its corporate office. Its members include a process-engineering planning manager, and representatives for the turnaround, maintenance and capital-projects teams, and an additional official as the overall supervisor. This teams examines projects four to five years out, and are not afraid to reject projects before it is too late.

“You’ve got to tie the timing of the turnarounds in with the project approvals. You cannot approve a project within 12 months of a turnaround and expect it to deliver in the duration and cost, no way,” Winston said.

Covestro takes an even longer view, according to Rashall. It has a 10-year global turnaround planning map which its global team oversees. Rashall himself is on the firm’s global team for construction-management process, and he said the 10-year global turnaround plan is being merged with a five-year capital projects plan into one overall plan.

“At corporate level, now that we’re merging them all together, it’s really helping us for the future,” he said.