FAST – preserving the future

Although Fawley’s FAST project has been temporarily postponed, work continues at pace to ensure the project is well placed upon restart. Newsline has spoken to Yuri Cordy, project manager to discover what’s been happening to store and preserve the equipment already procured.

FAST – preserving the future

Yuri has been working on the FAST project since May 2018, and now oversees the team managing equipment preservation and restart planning. To ensure its restart is a success, Yuri and his team have been working hard to ensure that the equipment is preserved in the same state as when first manufactured.

“Fairly soon after halting work on the construction site, we quickly moved onto finding ways to store and preserve all of our equipment,” he says. “This included small components such as pumps and valves to very large items such as reactors, towers and compressors plus everything in between.

Equipment that has already been delivered has been accommodated at an adjacent site in Fawley, or on the refinery itself including a new reactor and some very large columns. “Whilst the initial plan was to leave the columns at the supplier in the North of England, we have now managed to store these at Fawley in order to save costs,” says Yuri.

But with logistics constraints and the decision to defer certain activities such as refractory installation, Yuri and his team spent the second half of 2020 sourcing new storage facilities, negotiating storage with suppliers and devising preservation and inspection processes. “With items being procured from all over the world, we’ve even created a global map to show where all the equipment is located,” he adds.

Yuri explains that some equipment yet to be delivered is being stored with vendors at their manufacturing plants. “The modular part of the project is constructed in China, so we’ve had to arrange for the module equipment to remain in storage there. The same has applied to equipment procured from vendors in other locations such as Spain, Germany, Greece and Italy, where for example, large reciprocating compressors featuring very sensitive components, measuring 15 metres x 6 metres and weighing 165 tons each, have been engineered and are now preserved and stored under the responsibility of the supplier.”

But the story doesn’t end there, as the project team needs to regularly assess the condition of the stored items to ensure they do not deteriorate. A team of four are staying on the project to oversee this, working to a tight programme of inspections, and regular liaison with suppliers. As COVID-19 has made international travel difficult, external intermediaries have also been appointed to undertake inspections overseas on ExxonMobil’s behalf.

When asked what the main challenge has been during this unprecedented time, Yuri says, “renegotiating with vendors to ensure value for money” and “gaining a clear understanding of how they might store equipment” has been difficult without face-to-face meetings. “We’ve had to start from the bottom up and look at every single piece of equipment, continuously taking risk-based decisions around preservation,” he replies.

The FAST team has reduced in size but the current team is now fully in project restart preparation mode. “We want to use the duration of the construction pause wisely and continue to pursue initiatives that will reduce the cost and increase the value for money the project brings to Fawley.” A re-evaluation of the project has allowed the team to remove some facilities such as a storage tank from the scope, while further integration of the project team with construction and refinery partners can deliver a lower cost but more efficient project. The FAST project was one of a number of projects to be postponed in 2020. “This is a situation where we just don't have a playbook,” reveals Yuri. “Many lessons are being learnt along the way and we are sharing our experiences with other project teams facing similar issues. But thanks to the hard work and commitment of my team, we are confident that when we restart the FAST project, the equipment we have purchased and stored will be ready to go.”

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FAST – preserving the future