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Chemical Plant Construction and Start-Up

Although an effective project manager should be assigned during the planning stages of a project, this example involved a Kaleidoscope staff member who was called in at the last minute to get a delayed project back on track. The project consisted of the construction, installation and start-up of a cyanide destruction system which was also well behind schedule. The original schedule called for completion in less than two weeks from when our project manager was first assigned, and final engineering drawings were not yet issued. With a preliminary forecast of 6 weeks for construction, it was a certainty that the project would be late. Tempers and emotions about the project were running very high.

The project's other complicating factors included a constant state of design changes and a reputation of previous design failures, which bred angst, apathy and avoidance of project stakeholders. Although the owner had unsuccessfully installed cyanide destruction systems at three other plants, the equipment was in a constant state of breakdown. Each time failure occurred, design change orders were issued, and each plant was expected to comply. Since the system had been unsuccessful at three other facilities, individuals were reluctant to have their name associated with it. This lack of confidence made it difficult to get necessary approvals from what should have been cooperating departments.

The solution was found in these major areas:

  • The design was "frozen". Any changes after engineering completion would be recorded and saved for a future one-time, all-inclusive upgrade. This allowed the subcontracting trades to focus on construction rather than re-planning work and filing numerous change orders.
  • Negative feedback was eliminated by only accepting comments in written form. Since most persons didn't want to be associated with such a risky project, they were not willing to have written comments with their name documented. This not only stopped much of the "noise" associated with the project, but provided a better forum to document, address, and resolve issues and get buy-in.
  • Input was solicited and comments addressed. We solicited input from parties that were interested in voicing their written concerns, created solutions, and received "buy-in" prior to implementing changes. Many of the issues involved minor design changes that were incorporated during the one-time final upgrade.
  • Design was improved and thoroughly reviewed. We utilized our past chemical process plant and refinery experience to make design changes that would better "bullet-proof" the system. We also performed a formal Process Hazard Analysis and chaired meetings that included designers, Environmental Health and Safety personnel, and operations and maintenance staff to make sure critical potential failure modes were not overlooked.
  • The schedule was revised and an interim contingency plan implemented. Since a realistic completion date was at least two months beyond the original completion date, a contingency plan was formulated so that main factory start-up plans could resume at the original completion date. The contingency plan added an inexpensive pipe and truck connection station so that the waste by product could be loaded into tankers for off-site processing and disposal until the project was completed.

Over time, the rewards of this project design and management were clearly seen, as the system earned a company Divisional Recognition Award in its third year of operation. While the other company facilities continued to experience failures, the system that was installed by this team had a perfectly clean three-year record with ZERO environmental excursions, ZERO personnel safety incidents, and ZERO production interruptions! Operations staff clearly deserved much of the credit for their care and stewardship of the system, but we also like to think that the original design and construction also played a huge role in this success. What was once deemed a "nightmare project" was successfully sorted out and completed.

Kaleidoscope - We have the solution!