IOCL Paradip Refinery: An Engineering Marvel

IOCL Paradip Refinery
Processing unit of the mega refinery with the distillation columns.

The upcoming mega Paradip Refinery Project of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) in Odisha is an illustrative example of an oil refinery project built on contemporary international engineering standards. P. P. Basistha had an opportunity to visit the mammoth project site to have a glance of the construction components of the project and most importantly varied segments and capacities of cranes, configured for optimum usage along with deployment of specialized transportation arrangements to move oversized project engineering consignments to the job site to commission, one of India's most complex industrial projects incorporating critical design elements.

The fundamental approach in planning and designing an industrial project is to make it commercially viable across its lifecycle. The larger the capital investment is involved, the commensurate approach is to optimize and to control the operation cost below the profit line. This is what India's refinery project owners and engineers envisage in the proposed new refineries. The process and project engineers of IOCL refinery wing have extremely been successful in incorporating the approach for upcoming Paradip new generation, 15 million metric tons per annum refinery with investment of colossal Rs.30,000 crores. EPC contractors and IOCL engineers work in shifts braving the worst inhospitable weather condition on Bay of Bengal sea coast with temperature reaching above 45 degrees along extreme humidity restricting oxygen levels, to get the refinery ready for commissioning in 2015.

Cranes at IOCL Paradip Refinery
Cranes working at processing units.

The complex process of the refinery is shown in its design for civil and mechanical construction component. Most significantly, it gives a futuristic flair of what possibly could be the exact requirement of number of cranes and application for India's next generation upcoming mega refinery projects planned on the lines of IOCL's Paradip refinery. In addition to cranes, it speaks about the other construction equipment as well.

The Process Complexity & Design

The configuration of the Paradip refinery makes it most complex in the country. Based on the Nelson index, the complexity factor of the refinery is 12.2 which makes it capable of processing broad basket of crude including cheaper high sulphur heavy crude. The design of the complex refinery is being actuated by using 2.8 lakh million tons of structural steel, which, Mr. Ramjee Ram, Executive Director IOCL Paradip Refinery, interprets, "Equal to a height/length of 30 Eiffel Towers or 350 numbers of Rajdhani trains."

According to IOCL, the mega project has been set up on a reclaimed land spread over an area of 2,336 acres created with dredging fills of 27.4 mn m3 of sand (upto 3-4m level). The project has 1,00,000 piles, which is one of India's largest wherein maximum diameter of the piles is 1400mm at a depth of 40 meters. Concreting of the refinery involves RCC and PCC of 11.6 lakh m3, equal to a height of 3 times of Burj Khalifa skyscraper, Dubai.

Lifting & Specialized Transport

"Lifting and erection is the major construction component of the project," says Mr. Ram. Numerous variants of cranes of various capacities have been used in lifting and erection of the structural steel as well as the major components. One of the vital erection components of the project is erection of demountable flare at a height of 131 m, which happens to be for the first time in any IOCL refinery project.

Allcargo Crane at IOCL
Mammoet cranes undertaking tandem heavy lifting operations at the refinery project.

The technology of process units, selected from licensors of international repute, involving, Shell Global, Foster Wheeler US, and Exxon Mobil US, will go on to produce propylene, LPG, motor spirit, superior kerosene oil, aviation turbine fuel, high speed diesel sulphur and petroleum coke.

Mr. Ram informs, "The most critical lifting component of the project is erection of vacuum distillation unit column by Dutch lifting major M/S Mammoet and All Cargo by four heavy capacity crawler cranes of 2000, 1600, 1200, and 600 tons." The cranes were configured for undertaking tandem lifting for the distillation unit column. Apart from the main boom, luffing jib configurations were made into the booms for erecting the VDU. (Paradip refinery's VDU column is the largest one in the world, weighing 1208mt, 57 meters in height with a diameter of 14 meters. Four number of coke drums weigh 630 mt tons each having length of 45 meters and diameters of 10.7 meters). Cranes were also being used extensively for setting up three cooling towers, compressors, and HP compressors.

One of the critical lifting components involved was erection of 102 MW gas turbines for Indian Oil's largest captive power plant of 366 MW being developed by Bharat Heavy Electricals. Mix of 100 + units of mobile, crawler and truck cranes were used to erect the major individual process units. Almost 3,300 numbers of static and rotary equipment have been used in this refinery project, of which 32 are heavy equipment weighing above 300 tons.

Captive Power Plant
Captive power plant for the refinery.

The role of specialized transport was crucial for transporting equipment for the complex and mega refinery project. The massive sized crude distillation columns, coke drums and the vacuum distillation columns were transported to Hazira Port from Larsen & Toubro's manufacturing facility on self-propelled modular trailers. From the port, the equipment were loaded on roll off vessels for further transportation to Paradip Port. On arrival at Paradip Port, the equipment were loaded on self propelled modular transport vehicles (SPMT) for further transportation to the work site. However, shifting the over dimensional units to the site by the specialized transport was quite challenging owing to the inadequate road space between the job site and the Paradip Port involving a distance of six kms. Road was prepared to handle the heavy loads of the SPMT involving the tare weight and payload with the equipment. Internal roads of the refinery and the site was also prepared accordingly to handle the loads. The movement of SPMT was supervised by SPMT and IOCL project engineers.

Extensive Infrastructure Component

Coupled with complex design process, it is the extensive infrastructure components of the refinery which have necessitated the utilization of varied segments and capacities of mobile and crawler cranes. Not to mention largest number of piling rigs in India for 1,00,000 piles.

Tank Farms under Construction at IOCL Refinery
Tank farms under construction.

Paradip refinery project is divided into two parts separated by a creek. The process units are on the south and the finished product tank farms are on the north side. Space on the north side has been reserved to set up petrochemical complex in future. Crawler cranes with longer boom configurations are being used to set crude storage tanks that will hold 60,000 kilolitres of crude oil. Cranes are also being used to set up finished product tanks/mounted bullet/pressurized vessels for 16 lakh kilolitres. The plates for the tanks were casted in-situ. Mostly mix of pick-n-carry cranes, 30 and 150 tons, crawler and mobile cranes were used for the job. Mobile cranes were chosen, for quicker transportation of plates and supporting construction equipment between the tank storage farms facilities located in close clusters. Paradip Refinery has a total number of seventy nine tanks, largest in India, belonging to any refinery project. This includes, fifteen mounted bullet and pressurized vessels for storing LPG and propane.

North Jetty of Paradip Port
Existing North jetty of Paradip port handling oil cargo taken from upcoming south jetty.

Cranes are being utilized for setting up the extensive pipeline network of the refinery as well. This involves, on site battery limit pipelines comprising pipelines for the utilities and supporting infrastructure within the boundary of the refinery. The second network of pipelines comprises outside battery limit pipelines. These are connected within the process units. Dedicated fabrication yard has been set up in the refinery for fabricating the pipes. Post fabrication the pipes were transported to the project site for laying and erection by cranes. Mix of mobile and crawler cranes between 75-200-300 tons were used for the exercise. A total pipe used in the project is 2,400 km, almost the length of river Ganges. The refinery has the distinction of using one of the largest diameter pipes of 104" (8.7'). The immense diameter of the pipe can accommodate a Mercedes "S" class car.

Mega Evacuation Plan

IOCL has laid out an extensive evacuation plan (made according to the configuration of the refinery) for transporting the refined finished petroleum products. It includes, an extensive new cross country product pipeline network separately being taken up by the pipeline division of Indian Oil. IOCL is setting up 1065 km product pipeline between Ranchi-Paradip-Raipur to evacuate 3.75 mmtpa products from the refinery to parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. Another 710 km LPG pipeline is being set up between Paradip and Haldia to the LPG bottling plants at Balasore in Odisha, BugdeBudge, Kalyani, and Durgapur in West Bengal.

Pipeline Connecting RefineryUpcoming captive, South jetty for the refinery.Pipelines connecting the refinery from the jetty.

Infrastructure component of the evacuation also includes installation of additional tanks, truck loading bays and new tank wagon gantry. Adjacent to the marketing terminal, a new LPG terminal with facilities of road dispatch is also being set up.

The biggest evacuation infrastructure of the refinery is IOCL's, 345 meters captive South Jetty, which is being constructed on the land leased by Port of Paradip. Crude oil imported by the refinery, post processing, will be shipped to Asia Pacific, Europe, and US as finished products. Sizeable part of the products will also be shipped to fast industrializing Southern Indian states through the coastal route along India's east coast through the jetty. The South Jetty has been designed, according to the configuration of the mega refinery. According to Mr. Ram, "The jetty, standing on 322 cast insitu, RCC piles, will be able to handle the widest range of finished products, cargo and crude oil."

The captive jetty is first of its kind in India for greenfield coastal refinery. It is located inside the port harbor area, on the sea shore, close to the entrance channel of the port. With construction work of the jetty nearing its completion stage, Paradip Port is presently undertaking dredging to bring the sea water to the jetty. A total length of 400 meters from the shore level with a width of 225 meters will be dredged up to the jetty control room from the shore level.

Paradip Port will dredge a massive 2.3 million cubic meters of sand to create draft of 17 meters at the jetty. This is being in parallel proceeded through undertaking deep excavation to level the reclaimed land at the jetty site, so as to bring it to the sea level. Required draft will facilitate IOCL to handle crude and finished product tankers between 1,20,000 dwt-2,00,000 dwt at the jetty.

Pressurized Bullet Tank at Refinery
Pressurized bullet tank at the refinery for LPG storage.

Pipeline work for the jetty has been executed by Turkish firm Fernas. Civil construction work of the jetty has been carried out by Indian contractor DB Mahajan. Project Management Consultant for the jetty construction is Indian state-owned EPC firm, Engineers India Limited.

Being constructed in accordance with the guidelines of Oil Industry Safety Directorate of India, the jetty has elaborate fire fighting arrangements in place. This includes four fire tower monitors of 20 meters with water pumping pressure of 1000 gallon per minute (GPM), four jumbo water curtain of 0.6 meters with 6000 liters per minute, four base monitors of 1.6 meters of 1000 gpm, and seven double headed hydrant of 1.6 meters of 1000 gpm. Further, to prevent fire hazard at the jetty, there are two fire stations - one on the south side and the other on the north side of the refinery. Fire hazards will be controlled by RCC construction blast resistant control room with blast load of 3psi. Contractor for the fire water system is a Western Indian firm, Mather & Platt Pumps, Mumbai.

Lifting Challenges & Project Management

No complex lifting arrangements were possible without challenges. According to Mr. Ram, "For efficient erection of the heavy equipment, we have formulated an appropriate lifting plan. Prior to getting the cranes, we put in place higher safety norms in the bidding structure. Whether the norms were being followed was reviewed in our daily meeting with the EPC contractors. Moreover, the project management consultants further ensured that the safety norms were put into practice with functioning of the cranes. Making the soil condition suitable for setting up the cranes, precisely those which were deployed for heavy lifting were challenging owing to the sandy character of the soil." However, soil was stabilized with required bearing pressure for the cranes.

Safety was accorded top most priority for working of the cranes, so as to avoid any time overruns. Foster Wheeler, the main project consultants, prepared a detailed check list on the required operating features of the cranes along with quality assurance plan for the cranes. This was reviewed by IOCL followed by incorporation of the same into the cranes for their safe operation during the course of lifting. Crane operators' credentials were reviewed by the consultants and IOCL engineers. Lifting plan was put up by the consultants and IOCL where aspects like wind direction movements were studied as project is close to Bay of Bengal open sea. Following which appropriate placements of cranes and booms were undertaken.

Cranes Configuredat Processing Units
Cranes configured for working at the processing units.

Bulk of the cranes working at Paradip refinery was crawler and mobile units belonging to the contractors. M/s Independent Project Analysis of Netherlands, an independent project assessment agency was appointed by IOCL for bench marking of Paradip Refinery project with respect to global statistics in order to provide feedback on front end loading activities, and also for bench marking the schedule and cost to improve effectiveness of project execution.

One of the main challenges towards executing the project was dearth of skilled labourers for the project. Construction work of the refinery was divided into packages. This comprised construction through LSTK, engineering procurement and commissioning (EPC) and Build Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) mode. LSTK agencies were employed for construction of AVU, SRU, Alkylation, Butane Isomerisation units and for the captive power plant. Ensuring appropriate coordination among the major contractors, which comprised Essar, L&T, and Punj Lloyd, KSS involved in the main refinery project was also a major task. This is because the process of the refinery was critically interdependent among themselves with various process licensors for each process systems. IOCL appointed Foster & Wheeler of UK as main project management consultant (MPMC) to ensure proper interface and appropriate coordination amongst contractors, and also between the project owner and contractors.

The large scale initiatives for setting up and commissioning of Paradip refinery will be history, however, not at all to be forgotten by the project stakeholders and the beneficiaries when India's largest oil refining company IOCL, backed by the fresh capacity of the greenfield refinery will add 15mtpa refining capacity on 65.7 mtpa at present, it's refining . But most importantly, the complex project will be an icon as it will enable high self-sufficiency in production of value added petroleum products thereby resulting in reduced dependency on costly imports and substantial savings in foreign exchange. The additional benefits, the project will deliver, include steep minimization of heavy transportation costs for moving petroleum products to Eastern region from other locations incurred at present.

NBMCW May 2015

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