The Oil and Gas Engineering Guide


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Published Tuesday 19/10/2010

The critical path of an Oil & Gas Project


In order to better understand the challenges faced by Engineering to match the construction schedule, it is worth knowing that the critical path of an oil & gas facilities project is that of its pipework.



Piping is indeed by far the most time consuming activity at the job Site.


Let’s look at all the activities coming into pipe works:


Piping comes in small individual items: straight lengths, are 6 or 12 meter long, elbows, flanges etc. They have to be welded together at the job Site.


Some pre-fabrication at a Site workshop will be done to save time. Pre-fabricated partsare called “spools”. Thanks to pre-fabrication, 2/3 of the welds will be done in the workshop and 1/3 in-situ.


This will save much time as in-situ (field) welds take twice a much time to do as shop welds.


Anyway, the time required to do a weld, even when done at the workshop, is already long enough: a full day for one welder for a 24” weld.


Once fabricated, the spools will be blasted, primed, brought to the erection location, erected and fitted-up.

Field welds will be carried out, followed by Non-destructive examinations and post weld heat treatment, if any. Supports also have to be installed and the line pressure tested, flushed, re-instatement done, field joints painted, tracing installed, if any, as well as insulation, if any.


All these completion works take a lot of time.


In fact, contrary to mechanical equipment which are brought already fabricated and tested to Site, piping has to be fabricated, inspected and tested from scratch.



This is why pipe-work is the most likely critical path of any facilities project.


This path is made of the following activities:


- pre-fabrication,

- erection,

- completion,



The start date and duration of these activities determine the overall duration of the Project. Statistical information is available in contractors’ data bases which allows prediction according to historical data for similar size and type (refining/gas etc.) project.


The overall duration of a Project is indeed determined as follows:


First, the start date of piping pre-fabrication is determined.


Piping pre-fabrication activities can only start once both the construction drawings have been issued and materials have been delivered to Site. In contractors’ experience, for pre-fabrication to effectively start:


• 50% of the piping construction drawings (isometric drawings) must have bee issued


• 75% of the materials of all types (straight lengths, fittings, all grades) must have been delivered at Site.


Statistics show that the 50% of piping isometrics issued mark matches an overall engineering progress of about 80%.

Engineering progress has proved to be linear from 20 to 80%, with a slope which depends on the number of manhours and ranges from 6 to 9%/month.


20% engineering progress is known to be achieved 2 months after 50% equipment have been ordered, which itself usually happens 6 months after the EPC Contract start date (provided the FEED is of good quality).


Having this in mind, you can determine the 50% isometric issue date. For a large job, for instance, with a 6% engineering monthly progress at cruising speed, it will be 6+2+(80-20)/6 = 18 months.


Experience shows that 6 months will elapse between the start of pre-fabrication and the time when erection will reach its cruising speed, corresponding to 20% progress (in other words, 20% weight of pipe-work erected).


Erection speed will reach an upper limit on every job, that will depend on the available space on the ground, restricting the number of personnel and cranes. This cruising speed will typically be 6% by month on a large job. This means that progressing from 20 to 85% will take (85-20)/6 = 11 months.


Finally, once erection has reached the 85% progress mark, its progress will stop being linear and will become asymptotic.


Piping completion works, from 85% erection progress to mechanical completion, i.e. all pipe-work installed, supported, tested, insulated, is best modelled as a constant, typically 6 months on a large job.


The project overall duration therefore comes to:


Piping 50% Isos (18 months) + 6 months from start pre-fab to erection cruising + 11 months erection up to 85% + 6 months completion = 41 months.


This is indeed the typical duration of a large size EPC.



Note that the above modelling is made at the ouset of the project, to determine its overall duration and can also be made any time during the project to determine its remaining duration.


In the later case, accurate estimate of quantities (the 100%) is essential.





The above explanation overlooks some underlying requirements, that, if not met, will affect the piping path:


- in order to have 75% of piping materials delivered at site on month 18, orders for all types of piping materials will have to be placed in due time, taking into account the lead time of each type of materials (exotics etc.). his will translate into requirements for engineering to issue the corresponding Piping Material Take-Off.


- in order to proceed with full swing piping erection around equipment:

• at least 60% of equipment will have to have been erected so that their nozzles are there to connect pipes


• the platforms on equipment have to be erected to allow access to personnel for pipe installation


• the underground networks (pressurised pipes, sewage, cables) must have been installed, backfilling – if not paving – done so that cranes can access,


- in order to proceed with full swing piping erection on pipe-racks and structures, the same have to have been released, i.e. erected, bolting and alignment done,


- Piping pre-fabrication does not proceed directly with the isometric drawings issued by Engineering but after some processing of these drawings, by the construction contractor, called “spooling” and resulting in the issue of a “shop isometric”.


- Effective installation of piping will require availability of pipe supports. The latter are very numerous. Their standardization and timely mass production must be properly planned in order to allow concurrent installation with that of the pipe-work.


Raju Makadia   Monday 05/10/2015
Very Good inputs and agree on Critical path analysis and I would like to add one more point to mitigate this critical path is Timely order mechanical items, Get Proper Vendor data (I.e. P&ID, GA, Weight, Support details, Nozzle details), HAZOP/SIL for required Packages which is I experienced most of projects extremely difficult to get inputs on time and get reviewed which is impacting ISOMETRIC Issuance, Material take-off and Spool Fabrication.

I was looking through some of your blog posts on this internet site and I conceive this web s   Wednesday 23/07/2014
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Yasin KASIRGA   Monday 12/11/2012
thanks! Very good work and lots of valuable information along with proven lessons learned experience. The success of an EPC project always relies on the efficient management of each process and having the gist of all which lets you to understand where to aim with the available resources. There is no reason for an EPC project to fail if you know what to do.

Hugo Ruadez   Friday 09/11/2012
Excellent!!! A course for EPC projects can be originated here, if it has not beendone so. Especially for younger engineers so as to understand the overall process of an EPC project from Project Philosophy to Mechanical completion. I'd be interesting to add the chapters related to mechanical completion, precommissioning and commissioning and project delivery ready for startup by Operations and Maintenance Organization and remaining operating company personnel. Thank you, VCongratulations for your book.

Desmond Yuen   Friday 09/11/2012
It is a good reference. After I took a look at the guide book, I started understanding what I had done in my capacity of being a project engineer who undertook a project to construct a sludge treatment facilities in Hong Kong.

Gregg Deemer   Saturday 06/08/2011
One way to provide mre overlay of the piping requirements is to breakdown the plant layout by area where each area is based on the equipment lead time in that area. Receipt of certified vendor data will allow design to proceed. Design releases fabrication which releases construction earlier for that area.

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