Last week I was speaking to an engineer about modular projects. This method gained popularity in the North Sea oil and gas boom due to its suitability for constructing projects in challenging environments. Some firms have been doing this for a long time, and the modularisation concept continues to evolve. More recently it has become useful in LNG projects, particularly in Australia where some projects have been located in environmentally sensitive locations.
What makes modularisation useful is its ability to replicating modules that make up the plant and allow partial construction away from the main site - in the case of LNG, it is often the compressor trains. A key benefit is cost reduction: if a labour force is offsite it is more likely to be stable, more experienced and able to work faster which of course means less cost than one located onsite. The modular approach has been increasingly adopted by the LNG sector in recent years, and this trend is set to continue and become standard practice for onshore facilities.
So what does this mean for valve manufacturers? Well, those supplying valves in modular projects are confronted with the problem of delivering valves over a staggered time frame, project milestones have to be hit, particularly if they are hard prerequisites for the next milestone. Design and specification will occur up front and after a certain point become ‘frozen’ so each manufacturer can begin working on their “cog” within the project, each with their own specific specifications.
It is also worth remembering that severe service valves can also be unwieldy, reaching large sizes and weights. Such products are time intensive but still need to be turned around very quickly. As once can imagine, modularisation can really disrupt the standard method of work of a traditional project.
Another challenge is how to determine which valves will require more attention in their design and manufacture? More specifically, how does the valve supplier effectively work with the EPC and other parties to select these valves and to ensure the work and specifications are right the first time?
I also wonder how important is it, for example, to invest in on-site cryogenic testing? What are the experiences out there? What further internal processes need to be challenged to increase efficiencies?
In short, what are the critical success factors for modular projects?
I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
Header Image: Photo courtesy of BP