Tag Archives: decommissioning

What does the Principal Designer role mean in demolition?

The role of a Principal Designer (PD) may be familiar territory for RVA Group, as we routinely adopt PD responsibilities on behalf of our UK clients. But for organisations new to the world of demolition, PD is yet another acronym that merits further exploration.

Here, RVA’s operations director and experienced decommissioning engineer Matthew Waller, gives a top-line overview of this extremely important project role…

In the most basic of terms, the appointment of a Principal Designer is a legal and fundamental requirement for UK decommissioning and demolition projects. This duty holder role is set out under the Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations, which exist to help manage health and safety on these potentially high-hazard assignments.

However, the successful fulfilment of PD responsibilities, in truth extends far beyond this regulatory framework. In fact, in our opinion, the role of Principal Designer is   integral to good project management and an essential element of the structure of any decommissioning team.

The role of a PD is to analyse the various potential risks that exist on a given site. Such risks may relate to the demolition discipline itself, but will also extend to include the process-specific hazards relevant to the industrial background and current operational status of the plant concerned. The PD may therefore need to enhance their own process knowledge with that of personnel from the sector, whether that be from energy, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and so on.

The Principal Designer must then understand how these multiple hazards interact with each other, to assist and provide direction that will help mitigate the danger they pose.

In short, this detailed project knowledge and understanding adds demonstrable value to a demolition project. It forms the backbone of advice to the client in terms of:

  • What hazards are known to exist and can therefore be accounted for
  • And where they are located
  • When and in what order the risks should be approached
  • Who should tackle them, once the persons carrying out the works have been fully informed of the risks and the works that have gone before
  • How the process should be executed, in terms of communications between all involved parties, the most appropriate techniques for hazard mitigation, taking into account best-practice procedures, methodologies and ever-evolving legislation
  • And why, i.e. the ultimate rationale once everything has been assessed.

The above naturally relies on robust communication with all parties involved throughout, including the Client, Principal Contractor, CDM Contractors, Designers, etc as well as any other personnel brought in to work on the assignment. But it is this same clear and informed dialogue which will best protect health and safety during the entire project lifecycle. The PD should strive to create a successful safety-first mindset, with the management of EHS considered a joint responsibility shared by all involved.

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on What does the Principal Designer role mean in demolition?

Decommissioning in the Middle East – market challenges and opportunities

Our Managing Director, Richard Vann recently spoke with the editor of
Tanks and Terminals to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with decommissioning in the Middle East .

If you missed the article, you can view it in full here:

As the oil and gas market advances in parts of the world such as the Middle East, all eyes are on what the future could hold for this developing sector. But to move forward safely, economically and with maximum respect for the environment, operators must also think carefully about how to proficiently manage their older assets.

Drawing on more than 30 years’ industrial experience, Richard Vann – managing director of RVA Group and past president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers – explores the challenges and opportunities associated with the clearance of tanks and terminals, and advises how to proficiently move forward with any decommissioning projects that arise…

On a global scale, oil and gas production has a rich and diverse history, and even on more local levels, the sector has evolved differently, from one country to the next.

The story in the Middle East, for instance, dates back to the turn of the 20th century, with oil reportedly first discovered in Iran in the early 1900s. Resource supply from countries such as Saudi Arabia began much later, with commercial quantities not unearthed until the late 1930s. But many would argue that the market became most interesting for this part of the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when the peaking of production in industrialised – and largely Western – countries, presented opportunities for Middle Eastern operators, particularly during the worldwide crises of 1973 and 1976.

There was a major investment in oil and gas during this era. But fast forward to 2020, and the consequence is that an unprecedented number of assets are now rapidly nearing the end of their natural design life, efficiency and environmental compliance. So, the question is how to clear tanks, terminals and other site infrastructures safely, cost-effectively and with minimal environmental impact.

The Middle East is not unique in demonstrating this trend of course, but many countries here now find themselves faced with a fairly notable challenge. Before the aforementioned upsurge in oil and gas activity, the landscape was largely undeveloped. There were no other heavy industries present, which means no industrial demolition history and consequently an absence of a supply chain proficient in this niche engineering discipline. This is therefore the start of a new decommissioning cycle, which has kickstarted a global hunt for expertise.

A global supply chain?

In many respects, despite the maturity of the demolition industry in countries such as the UK and USA – and consequently the level of specialist expertise which ought to be available – this worldwide search for a suitably skilled supply chain will not always be straightforward.

There are several capable contractors in the market. However, I have previously spoken at many international events about their unfortunate yet apparent reluctance to take on jobs outside their own borders, despite the opportunities this could present for the growth of their businesses. Assignments closer to home feel far more comfortable, for many.

This therefore narrows down the number of potential demolition teams able – or willing – to tender for work in Middle Eastern countries, among others.

Consultancy support and advice is undoubtedly even harder for asset owners to procure, as independent, strategic partners are rare. This has little to do with geography and is more a reflection of the makeup of the industry. Compare decommissioning to the world of building and construction, for example, where clients have a wealth of guidance at their fingertips, plus a variety of industry specialists to choose from when assembling their project team, and it is and always has been starkly different.

 

That is not to say, however, that it is impossible to form a proficient supply chain for Middle Eastern decommissioning projects.

Tank demolition

RVA Group has recently been appointed to help a Middle Eastern oil and gas company demolish a large floating roof storage tank.

The 106m diameter, 22m tall carbon steel fabrication – with a shell up to 50mm in thickness – has long been used to contain crude oil. But the tank was recently subject to an operational failure which resulted in a major fire, leaving it both structurally distressed and contaminated with residual hydrocarbons and other products of combustion.

This inherently high-hazard environment has therefore emphasised the need to plan for the adoption of cold-cutting demolition techniques only, to help ensure the strict control of sparks and any other possible sources of ignition generation. The continued monitoring of this potentially explosive atmosphere is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, paramount.

The project is of added complexity as all works are being carried out within a live crude oil stabilisation plant and long-distance pipeline pump station, with an operational ‘sister’ tank also lying adjacent.

Identified as a result of informal word of mouth recommendation, validated by initial remote research, RVA was then engaged by the client following several months of more detailed dialogue. The team’s first task was the development of a pre-tender safety plan to act as the backbone of all ensuing works. RVA has subsequently  been retained to provide specialist project management and HSE advice for the remainder of the project, and will assist the local contractor – an oil and gas engineering services supplier who has procured resources and equipment from the established global decommissioning sector – in the works execution. RVA has also supported the contractor in sourcing specialist UK personnel and equipment, for shipment to the Middle East.

At the time of writing, the team is three months into a six-month schedule.

Mounting demand from the Middle East

Having completed almost 800 decommissioning projects globally, RVA is no stranger to working on complex international assignments on virtually every continent worldwide. But enquiries from the Middle East are certainly at an all-time-high.

The team has recently worked with another organisation, for instance, to write a detailed specification of works to facilitate the tendering for the decommissioning and eventual demolition of a 1960s-built oil refinery in the region. Having supported the client with the devising of various corporate environmental, health and safety procedures, plus the procurement and management of a hazardous insulation materials survey specialist, before the next-step decommissioning activity can begin.

A stretched supply chain?

Sometimes, when a project team is formed of personnel from varying locations, a level of anxiety – or at least a degree of caution – exists surrounding the management of cultural differences. To a certain extent, this air of apprehension is understandable, as additional project considerations may of course present themselves. However, the thing for all parties to remember – because sometimes the appointed engineering teams also share such concerns – is that no two decommissioning assignments are ever the same, irrespective of their geography. To attempt to approach any works with uniform methodologies in mind, or rigid attitudes towards others for example, would not only be extremely foolish, but incredibly risky too – as far as decommissioning goes, there is no ‘one size fits all’.

Responsible partners in the supply chain on the other hand – RVA included – acknowledge the need to carefully and flexibly consider all project parameters on their own merit, so that a best-fit team, approach and schedule can be formulated on a case-by-case basis. As a result, such organisations and specialists are unlikely to be fazed by a demolition brief in the Middle East. Admittedly, it has the potential to create some additional criteria for consideration, but often a complex assignment in the consultant or contractor’s own country of origin generates unique challenges too.

Factors to consider

When assembling a multi-cultural project team, there are language barriers to navigate, as well as variances in everything from cultural beliefs to working hours and days. The time difference must be accommodated when planning dialogue between RVA’s personnel in the Middle East and resource at the UK HQ, for example, and with the weekend starting on Thursday evening and Sunday being a normal working day in this part of the world, further thought is required to ensure this does not ever cause any on-site disruption or delay. There is a need to adapt to and embrace local customs.

Some decommissioning teams less familiar with working abroad may even need to think carefully about the climate, as both hot and cold extremes can also influence on-site behaviour. The procuring client should ensure discussions take place around all of these factors, for utmost peace of mind that they will not cause any unexpected problems.

Legislation also varies significantly from country to country, which can set the tone regarding project expectations, unless carefully managed from the outset. A scrupulous decommissioning specialist will never knowingly put the wellbeing of an individual at risk, nor will they wish to jeopardise the commercial or environmental integrity of the project by taking an action which – in their eyes – could be seen to be cutting corners.

However, there should be one common law irrespective of culture, geography or the scope of works – respect. Respect for the client, colleagues, the environment, wider stakeholders and of course the engineering discipline itself, will help set the project barometer.

Establishing this respect naturally takes effort, but this is usually easier to attain with strong levels of communication, consultation and clarity. The corporate minimum standards for the project – however large or small – should be outlined and agreed from day one. Globally-respected European standards are often the starting point, but where higher levels of quality are known, they should always be the benchmark.

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Decommissioning in the Middle East – market challenges and opportunities

Do modern economics mean the sale of redundant plant is impossible?

In the latest of his regular columns for Demolition and Recycling International, RVA’s Managing Director Richard Vann gave his thoughts on whether modern economics make selling redundant plants impossible.

If you haven’t read the full article, you can catch up here….

Impossible is a strong word. By definition, it means something that is completely out of the question – it cannot be done.

But of course, this statement is not true when it comes to the sale of redundant plant. There are occasions when assets that have reached the end of their useful life for one operator, can still contain inherent value in the eyes of another. A sale therefore can go ahead.

Consideration of this route is understandable. The goal – for any soon-to-be-decommissioned facility – should always be to maximise the return on assets where possible and safe to do so. However, factors such as plant age, former processes, recovery cost, testing, market forces and commercial competition, will all form part of the decision as to what should happen next.

As my dismantling for re-erection column stressed in the last issue of D&RI, the sale of redundant plant should be realistically viewed and often not prioritised as the ‘plan A’ for an unwanted facility, as the challenges likely to obstruct a sale are significant in both scale and quantity.

Supply and demand

Firstly, there are the basic economics of supply and demand at play.

In developed parts of the world – across virtually every heavy industry – operators are seeking ever more efficient processing technologies. Sometimes this is to stay on the right side of the law, if the ageing plant risks breaching necessary legislative or EHS standards. But there are capacity, ecological, financial and innovation advantages associated with investing in smarter and more modern equipment too, which, collectively, can prove the catalyst for operators looking to proceed with an ‘out with the old’ strategy.

This widespread availability of redundant assets means that from a resale perspective, the market is becoming saturated with standard and off-the-shelf kit, and such plants – or component parts of them – are consequently becoming harder to sell.

Copycat technologies

Processing markets are becoming further saturated because – as markets are maturing and operators’ expectations are becoming increasingly sophisticated – all eyes are on the latest plant and equipment. But many countries are so proficient at designing and manufacturing ‘copycat’ technologies – often for very affordable investment levels – that any ageing assets would need to be extremely advanced to justify purchasing something ‘second hand’ as opposed to brand new.

Could you sell a ten-year-old laptop on eBay, for example, when so many better, more current models exist – often without breaking the bank? It would probably be a struggle – especially if the laptop is shipped in hundreds and thousands of component parts that require re-assembly before it can be used.

Finding a ‘buyer’

The sale of a redundant asset is – perhaps unsurprisingly – far easier if the facility is to be transferred to an operator within the same group as the seller.

When RVA was engaged to oversee the decontamination, demolition and dismantling of a manufacturing facility on an 11-hectare site on Jurong Island, Singapore, for example, selected plant items were carefully recovered so that they could be transferred to the owner’s sister plants worldwide.

This project was bound by tight timescales, given a commercial driver for the client to exit the site within defined lease and permit parameters. 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.

Had this shipment of assets been dependent on the involvement of a third-party buyer, the project specifics may have been quite different, due to the complexities involved. In-house transfers are often easier than external ones, as the ‘owner’ has control at both ends.

Sometimes, sadly, deals also fall through. And the longer a plant lays idle – whether comprehensively mothballed or not – the greater the chance, on the whole, that an eventual sale will prove difficult. The condition of the asset is likely to deteriorate, and with the passage of time there is usually an increased risk that EHS and legislative compliance will no longer be guaranteed. In addition the cost of keeping an asset in saleable condition increases exponentially with time and can erode any potential commercial gain.

What is financially viable?

Acknowledging that the operator will undoubtedly wish to proceed with the most financially advantageous – and hopefully safe – route map for their decommissioning project, a feasibility and options study will prove an extremely valuable modelling exercise before any works begin.

It is crucial to explore all possible project scenarios because, sometimes, the route eventually selected may not have initially been considered or deemed possible, due to false perceptions of the associated financial burden.

The complete clearance of a plant is often the most straightforward and cost-advantageous exercise overall, for example. This is because, from a technical perspective, a full clearance usually only requires a global or battery limits isolation strategy. In simple terms, the plant is usually rendered ‘cold and dark’ so that, once residual hazards have been removed, all structures can then be demolished for scrap and the site taken back to flat slab. This then paves the way for the construction of a new facility, or the sale of the site ‘as is’. In many instances the net cost/gain of such a project could be far more attractive than that to facilitate the sale of a redundant plant.

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Do modern economics mean the sale of redundant plant is impossible?

Murco Milford Haven

Murco had the required skill to plan and execute complex construction projects but we recognised early on in this process that our understanding of the consequences of embarking on a demolition project was limited…….

RVA were able to provided the detailed knowledge and experience of high hazard demolition projects we required in our decision making process……..

RVA were also engaged to manage our interaction with the contractor supply chain for demolition and run the demolition contract tender process.  They did this in a thorough and rigorous way….

Posted in Testimonials - Oil and gas | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Murco Milford Haven

RVA to present redundant asset management seminar

RVA Group will be exhibiting at the 2014 Plant and Asset Management show at the NEC later in the spring. The event, which expects to attract over 40,000 visitors, takes place at the NEC Birmingham from Tuesday 8th until Thursday 10th April.

One of the highlights of the plant, works and maintenance calendar, the exhibition also includes an extensive seminar programme covering a broad spectrum of engineering developments and issues presented by a selection of industry experts.

RVA’s MD Richard Vann will lead a seminar session exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with redundant asset management planning. He will highlight best value strategies giving examples of projects ranging from a complete site exit to the removal of a single redundant asset from a large-scale, high-hazard, operational site.

If you wish to discuss your specific asset management planning issues during the show please visit RVA in Hall 3, stand P412.

Bookings to attend Richard’s presentation can be made via the show’s website www.maintenanceuk-expo.com

 

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Total Petrochemicals UK Ltd

The Polystryrene Plant of Total Petrochemicals UK stopped production in 2013. The site was to be demolished and a small team of employees were retained to oversee the project. After some initial training in demolition it became apparent that specialist assistance was required to help our staff but also in order to comply with legislation in terms of competence and CDM regulations.

After competitive tender, RVA were appointed to the role of CDM-C for the project.

RVA provided a very competent team of staff to see us through the hazards, they worked alongside our site knowledge with their demolition expertise. RVA ensured that the demolition contractor followed appropriate method statements and completed risk assessments.

I would recommend the use of RVA in the role of CDM-C.

 

Posted in Testimonials - Chemical and petrochemical | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment