Kochi Refinery Project

The rapid progress of the second phase of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited's (BPCZ), Kochi refinery expansion is being backed by high standards of project management. Efficient planning and project design are the other key elements behind the successful expansion programme. Finally, appropriate selection of plant and machinery supported by sound operational practices jointly worked by BPCL along with the project management consultants and contractors for safe deployment, optimum utilization and operation are other key attributes of the project. Lifting & Specialized Transport had an opportunity to visit one of India's mega refinery expansion projects.

Scores of SUV's carrying BPCL project officials keep on hurriedly moving through the trundled path, raising dust connecting the project office of BPCL and the refinery site at Ambalamugal at Kochi, Ernakulam district in Kerala, as hordes of officials along with members of the project management consultants and contractors keep on visiting the project site to carry out routine inspections of the project following long drawn meetings. Unfazed by site temperatures reaching unprecedented high levels, coupled with high levels of humidity, BPCL project officials maintain tight vigil on the drawings and design specifications as they routinely carry out prolonged interactions with representatives of seventy contractors involved in various packages of the project that began on 2013. The vital part of the interactions comprises officials taking stock of the work progress and strictly ensuring that there are no lapses in project execution as per the set design and project requirement.

The reason for thorough vigil to see whether the project is carried according to the design is to ensure that optimization of the mega expansion is fully successful following a colossal capital investment of Rs. 14051.6 crores that will go towards significantly ramping up the capacity of the refinery from the present 9.5 million metric tons to 15.5 million metric tons. However, more importantly it is to ensure that there is no time and cost overruns, a fact that top BPCL project officials concede, the PSU can ill afford.

The Integrated Refinery Expansion Project (IREP) as named, is taking place adjacent to the existing refinery at Kochi. This will enable Kochi refinery to process crude oil with high sulphur content. Further, it will allow it to produce auto fuels complying with Euro IV and Euro-V specifications to fetch higher profit margins. The expansion will also improve the distillate yield between 7-84 percent and also reduce energy consumption.

Capacity enhancement features installation of numerous processing units involves new 10.5 mmtpa crude distillation unit (CDU). The unit will replace the forty years old, 4.5 mmtpa CDU. The new CDU will be the single largest unit among other Indian state owned refineries. The expansion will also include setting up new delayed coker unit (DCU) to process the high sulphur and low value crude. It also entails setting up associated processing units like fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU), diesel hydro treater (DHDT) sulphur recovery unit (SRU), tail gas treating unit (TGTU), and hydrogen generating unit (HGU).

Placing numerous supporting utilities and offsite facilities for the refinery operation is also part of IREP. This consists of a 103.5 mw captive power plant, 250 tph steam generation plant, two 1800 m3/hr raw water treatment plant, reverse osmosis plant, three numbers of 60,000 m3/hr cooling towers and air system. Setting up of pipeline network within and outside the refinery is also under the expansion plan.

BPCL has appointed Indian state owned engineering and project management firm, Engineers India Limited (EIL) as the design and project management consultant for the job. EIL is involved in the residual basic engineering, detailed engineering procurement, tendering construction management, supervision and pre commissioning.

Compact Design & Piling Component

Mr.V.V Kurup, Dy. General Manager (Project-Units) and Mr. Giridharan S, Chief Manager (Projects) BPCL Kochi Refinery, inform, "Space being a major constraint for the mega expansion, we have worked out a very compact design to set all the processing units, supporting utilities, storage and evacuation units on the given compact area of 132 acres. The given floor site area was created following demolition of BPCL staff quarters. After demolition, adequate ground preparation was carried out, followed by soil testing. Since the area earlier consisted of staff quarters, the soil was strengthened by carrying out cast-in situ piling to house the expanded refinery project."

Twenty meters filling was carried through piling each involving 50 mm diameters. The job, officials inform, was carried through deployment of sixteen piling rigs setting up together 24,000 piles. Contractors awarded the separate job packages, and undertook piling separately based on the requirement of the package. 700 piles were put by ThyssenKrupp which was awarded the job for setting 120 meters high coke yard conveyor. 230 piles were put by Driplex; it was given the job for putting the reverse water treatment plant for the refinery. There are seventy main and twenty five sub contractors involved in the mammoth expansion project.

BPCL Project

Equipment Deployment & Operation

With engineering requirement to set up numerous processing units and supporting utilities for enhancing the complexity of the refinery, erection is the major construction component of the refinery expansion. To make the erection of the numerous trains appropriate and safe, planning for right selection of the equipment has been the major emphasis of BPCL. Close to 130 cranes of heavy, medium and lighter capacities, mainly crawler lattice boom cranes, are working at the project.

"We have preferred crawler cranes due to multiple reasons. Deployment of tire mounted mobile cranes, working on outriggers occupies major space. This we can ill afford. Despite space restrictions, crawler cranes come with better capability to lift and place higher loads at longer radius. Safety has also been added as a vital criterion for selecting crawler cranes. Kerala is frequented with torrential rains, which makes the terrain slushy. Crawler cranes can work very easily with heavy loads without slipping as compared to mobile cranes," say Mr.V.V Kurup, Dy. General Manager (Project-Units) and Mr. Giridharan.

Terex Crawler Crane at Kochi Refinery Project

Contractors involved in the expansion project have engaged highly advanced cranes for heavy lift jobs. This is due to tight project completion schedule set by BPCL, the project owner, and the need for very high levels of precision for erecting the processing units.

One Terex CC 8800-1, 1600 ton crawler crane is working at the site erecting 250 tons, 139 tons and 218 tons hoppers and separators. The crane would now erect 490 tons reactor. The heaviest lifting job performed by the crane was erection of the 700 tons regenerator. Two 200 tons Link Belt, one 150 tons, two eighty tons and one Kobelco, CKE-250, 250 tons crawler cranes are working in the FCCU package. CKE-250 is placing flu gas duct piping on racks connected to FCCU. The job is part of erection of reactor and regenerator in the FCCU. The crane is erecting six meters pipe weighing 38 tons.

One of the heavy lift jobs involved deployment of a Demag CC 6800, 1200 tons crawler crane and a 550 tons tailing crawler crane for erection of 650 tons reactors.

One LR1350-1, 350 tons and LR 1750, 750 tons Liebherr crawler cranes have worked at the site for erecting 213 and 200 tons vessels in the ongoing expansion project in the earlier phases. BPCL, through the contractor, has now deployed one 2009 acquired, Liebherr 1070, 70 tons tire mounted truck crane at the site. The crane is erecting tie members between 2 tons -600kg.

Sany crawler cranes between 80-150 tons are working for erection of alloyed, stainless steel pipes and carbon steel pipes weighing 6-7 tons at a height of 30-50 meters.

Heavy lift jobs are being carried out by Demag CC 64400, 1000 tons crawler crane and Demag CC 2600, 550 tons tailing crane. The cranes are lifting stripper columns weighing 696-440-297 and 180 tons.

BPCL Refinery Expansion
To ensure targeted project completion by the end of this year, safe operation of cranes is of topmost priority by BPCL. Explains Mr. Giridharan, "Since project space is very tight, contractors have to prove that the cranes are able to perform optimally during critical and all other lifts at given angles, with safe load indicators, winches and all other critical components working correctly. The crane is then certified by the third party agency and vetted by EIL. The lift plan, given by the contractor, is also examined and vetted by taking into consideration various external factors like wind, and other climatic conditions by EIL." Adequate ground conditions were created to add stability to the working of the cranes.

Transportation of the refinery components was a major challenge. The entire task involved moving the consignments from Tarapur to Mumbai and JN Port at Maharashtra in western India through road in multi axle hydraulic trailers. This was followed by further movement on barges through sea to Kochi Port and forward movement to the site again on trailers. There were numerous hindrances for moving the cargo from the port to the project site. One of the major obstacles for moving the large heighted cargo was through the road toll tax booth structure at Kochi. The roof of the structure was too short to accommodate the trailers with loaded cargo. In order to make way for the trailers, the roof was removed with two telescopic cranes.

Other challenges were extremely narrow road space dotted with commercial and residential buildings at Kochi and large numbers of cables and high tension wires traversing the city. To enable the cargo to make way, power shut down was carried along with dismantling of the cables for movement of the shipments. Permission for movement of the ODC was only on Saturdays and Sundays from midnight till eight a.m. in the morning. Road transport of the over dimensional cargoes was made through hydraulic multi axle trailers.

Project & Material Management

BPCL Kochi Refinery
Mr. Johnson. K, Senior Manager (Projects) and Mr. Philly Cherian Chief Manager (Projects) IREP, inform, "Since the expansion project is highly complex in nature involving high levels of capital investment, topmost priority has been given by BPCL towards procurement of raw materials. EIL was given the task of certifying the raw materials procured and quality checks are being carried out by the agency followed by test certification. Only products from approved BPCL vendors are procured for the job."

The duo add, "Piping material being the most costly component has been procured directly from the vendors so as to ensure the appropriate quality and standard. We have also procured the pipes because procurement of large amounts by the contractors would have curtailed availability of capital for the project." There are close to 100 suppliers of raw materials for the expansion project.

To ensure that the project is on schedule, adequate thrust has been given on project management. A master schedule has been set up based on which daily 'container meetings' are undertaken between BPCL officials and contractor representatives to review the progress made, is followed by weekly reviews, and based upon these there are monthly reviews between senior most management of BPCL and the contractors.

The reviews primarily address the cause of slippages in project execution and remedial action that needs to be undertaken. Mr. V.V. Kurup points out, "As remedy from slippages, the job was awarded through shadow contracts to other contractors. The period when the expansion job commenced, there were serious issues of cash flow with the contractors. To neutralize the impact of the same, 'letter of comfort' was given by BPCL to banks and financial institutions. This has facilitated the contractor's execution of the awarded project packages on schedule."

Optimum labor force utilization is another key attribute of the project. Since a mass section of the almost 20,000 labourers, working at the project are migrant laborers, mainly from the east and north eastern part of India, there used to be a major issue of frequent exodus. This happened usually with the onset of agricultural harvesting season. This had a negative bearing on the progress of the job. To address the issue, laborers were selected with high productivity and awarded in cash. This helped in ensuring higher morale and commitment by the laborers, and in preventing their frequent exodus. Mr. Kurup points out, "There have been laborers who have earned cash award as high as Rs.20,000 from us."

Higher utilization of laborers was ensured through putting up almost forty biometric gates. This drastically reduced timings for attendance. Mr. Kurup says, "The initiative ensured that the project contractors do not furnish us improper information on availability of laborers. All the initiatives have been taken up as a team with coordination from our end-EIL and contractors, so we are able to meet the time schedule of commissioning the project units by the end of the year."
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