The global hunt for demolition best practice

RVA Group’s managing director was asked to pen a feature for International Construction recently, which explored demolition trends on an international scale. If you missed the write up, you can read it in full here…

As heavy industries continue to evolve worldwide, many assets naturally become redundant. The difficulty, for the operator, is deciding exactly what to do next with these often inherently hazardous structures.

Navigating the associated safety, environmental and fiscal challenges is not easy. However, armed with the right skill-set, experienced demolition professionals can help to ensure the effective clearance of such plant, irrespective of the project complexities that arise around the globe.

When RVA worked on a project for the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), it was the team’s dismantling expertise that was sought.

The global energy leader wanted to relocate a mothballed polypropylene manufacturing facility from Quebec, Canada, to Azerbaijan. But this demanding assignment required the decontamination, laser scanning, match-marking, physical separation, preservation, precise cataloguing and packing of the plant, so that it could be meticulously reassembled. Maintaining the operational integrity of every component was of course critical, as failure to correctly administer this process, could have resulted in this highly valuable manufacturing resource becoming nothing more than scrap metal.

Appointed by European Petroleum Consultancy (EPC), who ran the overall contract, RVA provided project management, technical engineering and EHS advice for the duration of the works.

Safety and environmental standards were paramount from the outset. Whilst most modern countries adhere to similar benchmarks in this respect, there are naturally varying international and even regional nuances to the law. Asbestos removal is regulated differently in Canada to the UK, for example. However, to ensure best practice and maximum peace of mind when undertaking such high-hazard projects, legislative parameters are only ever considered as setting the very minimum criteria. This is because the objective of any responsible demolition professional should be to exceed legislative compliance and ensure the highest achievable level of safety.

Canada was a new geographical territory for RVA and time differences added to the exacting nature of the project. With RVA engineers visiting Quebec – coordinating expertise with specialist engineers back in London – careful planning was essential to maintain efficient dialogue.

However, the effective execution of this complex six-month scheme resulted in 1,000 tonnes of equipment successfully making the 5,000-mile journey for reassembly in Baku.

On other occasions, the recovery of selected plant items, for transfer to an owner’s other site(s), is a by-product of a larger total site closure programme. This was the case for the clearance of a sucralose manufacturing plant on an 11-hectare site on Jurong Island, Singapore. Owned by Tate & Lyle, the client engaged RVA to oversee the decontamination, demolition and dismantling of the facility, prior to it being consigned to sister plants worldwide.

The project was bound by tight timescales, given a commercial driver for the client to exit the site in the most cost-effective way. The work was therefore planned sequentially with designated demolition areas handed over in a carefully phased manner. Potential sources of ignition were subject to strict controls, due to the nature of the chemicals housed nearby and the presence of some units which had to remain operational during the initial stages of the programme.

Here again, local standards were adopted as a regulatory compliance base for this project, however, global industry best practice was the non-negotiable the benchmark for the demolition contractor’s EHS regimes and technical methodologies. But delivering this approach can represent challenges – not least due to cultural differences and language barriers – so effective personnel relations, awareness training and communication were key.

Deciding on the optimum ‘next step’ for a site is far from a straightforward exercise, and a plan is usually devised following analysis of a costed feasibility study. The owners of Eggborough Power Station in Northern England first engaged RVA in 2015, for example, to help them explore the most efficient way to manage the decommissioning works of their 2000MW facility when it ceases generation in the near future.

Faced with various strategic options, the client has yet to decide the exact demolition approach for this major site. However, with eight cooling towers, one stack, significant levels of asbestos and the requirement for explosive demolition techniques as part of the overall scheme of work, the project will have to be carefully managed and executed by a competent team. With the current high level of coal fired power station decommissioning works underway or scheduled in the UK, the regulatory organisations are giving this sector a great deal of attention.

To talk to the RVA team about your own decommissioning, decontamination, dismantling and/or demolition project, please don’t hesitate to contact us.