GIVEN the job of constructing three liquefied natural gas plants right next to each other, Bechtel has given an insight into some of the challenges it faced on Curtis Island.
In its 40-year life, Bechtel has built more than one third of the world’s LNG production plants.
As one of the world’s largest engineering, procurement and construction companies, the family-run group has been building mega projects for 116 years and boasts more than 57,000 employees worldwide.
Despite that, the company had its work cut out for it on Curtis Island, having been contracted to build three LNG plants for three different operators, sitting side-by-side.
For Bechtel, this enormous task involved six LNG tanks and about 2,300 pieces of equipment.
Together, the three different customers had an end goal of delivering 25 million tonnes of LNG per year to their customers.
Speaking at the South East Asia Australia Offshore & Onshore conference in Darwin earlier this year, Bechtel’s principal vice president and general manager for the Gladstone operations, Kevin Berg, said Gladstone represented the highest concentration of Bechtel projects that the company had anywhere in the world.
In dollar terms, Mr Berg said the company had just under of $26 billion in hard money committed to the three projects.
“We’ve never undertaken anything like this, and the fact it is being accomplished successfully I think is a real attribute to Australia,” he said.
According to Mr Berg, the enormity and complexity of the work that had to be undertaken meant that at a lot of the times the company had to go with the flow.
“You have to learn as you go and adjust direction and the course you might have thought you were going based on the inputs that you are getting from the environment itself,” he told delegates.
Mr Berg indicated that Bechtel was very much in its peak across the three projects, with somewhere around 13,700 employees working across the three LNG projects.
With Bechtel being the common contractor for all of the three LNG proponents constructing the CSG-LNG projects simultaneously, Mr Berg admitted the company had to contend with “very difficult delivery schedules.”
“When we were in the FEED phases for these projects the requirement by each of the three proponents was that they be totally separate and independent of one another with no collaboration or communication between the project teams,” he said.
With each of the proponents having individual intellectual property, Mr Berg also admitted there was a concern among the proponents about the sharing of information.
“So because of that, the three Bechtel teams had firewalls placed between them and there wasn’t to be any communication allowed between those teams as they were doing the front end engineering planning and development for the projects,” Mr Berg said
While the development of the three LNG projects on Curtis Island are taking place at the same time that by no way means they are the same, with Mr Berg indicating that Bechtel had to take three separate approaches.
“There are some unique differences between the constructability application, the sequencing of the modules, the size of the modules and basically the approach to the projects,” he told delegates.
As a result, Bechtel had to adapt its strategies on the ground as the complexities and challenges involved in undertaking work on all three projects started to come to light.
“All of that was fine while it was still in the office but as soon as we begun to mobilise in Gladstone an awful lot of complexities associated with the project and three Bechtel teams not communicating with one another begun to manifest itself and a lot of social impacts and a lot of things within the community that was not making us as a contractor very popular and so we had to re-think that strategy pretty quickly,” Mr Berg said.
While the company will see some of the fruits of its labour this year with the two-train, 8.5 million tonne per annum QCLNG project coming online, 2015 will be the big year for Bechtel as the remaining trains from APLNG and GLNG come on board which will lead to Bechtel stepping up the demobilisation of its workforce.
Out of the some 13,700 Bechtel employees working across the three projects, about 5,000 are local to the Gladstone region.