The idea behind modularization in industrial construction is simple: take work that is done on site in remote locations and tough weather conditions, break it apart into transportable pieces and build it in the controlled environment of the shop, thus increasing productivity and cutting costs.
The more work that can be modularized in this fashion, the more money potentially saved on a project.
Fluor Canada is pushing the boundaries of what components of a project can be modularized with its patented 3rd Gen Modular Execution approach, which was recently recognized as the 2016 Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) Best Practices Award winner for modularization innovation on the Shell Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project.
Fluor’s new modular approach, which integrated electrical and control elements into modules as well as more piping, equipment and pre-commissioning activities, saved Shell around 15 percent in project costs.
The 3rd Gen approach builds on decades of continuous improvement in modularization, says Fluor VP Chris Vertanness.
“Modularization in Alberta has been going on for quite a while,” he explains. “The first generation was just steel, with some pipe going on as well, and some people are still doing that. The second generation started more than 10–15 years ago when we started putting mechanical equipment on modules where appropriate. With the third generation, we’re putting almost everything we possibly can on modules—piping, equipment, cables, electrical gear, control systems, valves, insulation, EHT, everything.”
But adding more components to modules is only part of the story.
“We changed the way we design and that’s the smart part,” says Vertanness of Fluor’s 3rd Gen approach. “We decentralized the instrumentation and electrical aspects of our projects. We now have process blocks with substations and control rooms on certain modules that feed other connected and nearby modules. Only one home run cable goes back to a centralized electrical substation or control room.”
“We also don’t have pipe racks within units,” he adds. “We’ve changed the way we design to reduce the quantities.”
The Shell Quest Project was the first application of the 3rd Gen approach. Fluor was involved from the project’s early stages, performing preliminary designs, early engineering support, as well as engineering, procurement and direct field labour construction on the capture portion of the project.
The site was adjacent to an existing operating facility, and the project plot plan’s available space was barely adequate under a traditional design basis.
Fluor implemented 3rd Gen Modular Execution in the project’s early phases, with the goal of reducing plot plan requirements, reducing required craft levels on site, improving safety and reducing costs. It designed and built the facility using 69 separate interlocking modules that were assembled at the jobsite.
Fluor was able to reduce the facility’s plot space by approximately 20 percent from initial estimates and eliminate material and labour costs from the project. The peak workforce was optimized from 1,000 to 450, which improved worker productivity and safety.
The team reduced the project’s capital costs through every phase, delivering the project at 30 percent below initial estimates. Around 15 percent of those savings are directly attributable to the 3rd Gen approach, says Vertanness.
And the project was delivered under budget, on schedule, with an exemplary safety record and with no disruptions to the existing operating unit.
From a scheduling perspective, it usually takes 12–14 months after the last module is installed to complete the plant as workers add components to the modules. At Quest, this time was cut to five months due to less fieldwork.
Module inspection walk-downs and documentation handover were done in the yard before modules were delivered to the site, again saving on fieldwork.
And by having Shell operations and maintenance workers involved early in the process, Fluor was able to answer their concerns about how the reduced plot plan would impact their ability to do their jobs—it didn’t adversely impact them at all.
In the five years since Quest began, Fluor has continued to improve its 3rd Gen Modular Execution approach. It now has over 1,000 modules either built or in the design phase.
“We’re getting more and more components on the modules with every project,” explains Vertanness. “We keep looking for ways to improve and optimize designs, such as looking for opportunities to locate the pipe coming off modules in one place so when interconnects to other modules are done, scaffolding is limited and more savings are realized. That’s where we’re moving to—continually driving better and better productivity through advanced workface planning, better designs focused on constructability and enabling the field teams to do what they do best: execute safely, meet schedules and complete the work at the lowest possible cost.”
“The savings available to our clients through our 3rd Gen Modular Execution approach continue to be a game changer,” he adds. “We’re seeing 10–20 percent total installed cost savings on our projects depending on the projects’ specific scope or client business drivers.”