End user Interview: Knowledge Transfer Essential Following Large Projects

An interview with Mr. Bhaskar Shitolé, who is the Deputy Discipline Manager of Piping with the global EPC company Amec Foster Wheeler. Amec Foster Wheeler is a multinational consultancy, engineering and project management company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. Focusing on the oil and gas, minerals and metals, clean energy, environment and infrastructure markets, the company has offices in over 55 countries worldwide. Written by Joanne McIntyre and Sarah Bradley
 
With over 26 years of experience on oil and gas and hydrocarbon projects, Bhaskar enjoys the challenges he faces in his current role with Amec Foster Wheeler. He thrives on the demands of complex projects and the technical challenges he encounters in ensuring his projects meet environmental compliance and safety requirements, while guiding his engineering group.

“For the past seven years I have been Lead Piping Engineer and worked on different oil sands projects engineered by Amec Foster Wheeler,” Bhaskar begins. “Throughout that time my role has been to manage a large team of piping designers and engineers.”

A typical oil sands project has many facilities like Ore preparation plant, an extraction plant, a froth Recovery unit, an utilities plant and a tank farm. All this is joined by extensive network of piping and pipelines. Oil sands projects also have an extensive network of slurry pipelines for feeding to the product to the extraction plant and to take the tailings back toTailings pond.

Wide Variety of Valves
Thus any oil sands project utilize a wide variety of valve technologies on valve types for different services. “The severe service Ball valves and Knife Gate valves in slurry service are definitely a challenge. One of the challenges in specifying some of these valves are the requirements for corrosion and erosion resistance which led us to select specific combinations of body materials, seal and packing materials, and lining types. There are some other valves, like the large 56 inch diameter butterfly valves in process water service, large 42 inch Knife Gate valves in slurry service, etc., where the challenge is in achieving a certain leakage criteria for the valve across different service fluids, valve positions, etc.”

Bhaskar explains that in any project, bridging the gap between the expectations written in the datasheet versus what a supplier can deliver, versus the actual valve performance over its life, is often a major challenge. “There are at least three parties involved during a project,” he says. ”Firstly, there is the EPC engineering company rep like me who actually specifies the valve, there is an owner/user, and then there is a supplier who actually makes the valve. Close communication between all three parties will help deliver the correct product within the expected cost and schedule.

Implementing lessons learned
Bhaskar brought over twenty years of experience in oil and gas and hydrocarbon projects to the many oil sands projects, making him ideally suited for the task. “Having worked in this sector for over 26 years, I personally find it very satisfying to be involved in challenging, complex projects. These types of projects present a multitude of technical challenges which need to be overcome. Obviously, there is a lot of information included in the standards and each team member contributes their own experience, however there are always new issues and unanswered questions that arise. It can be a great opportunity to apply new knowledge gained at conferences or through discussions with peers.”

“Everybody is doing their job well but inevitably there will be times when we think ‘maybe next time we will try it this way’. It is important to keep striving for excellence and to continually improve communication. We at Amec Foster Wheeler do this by our ‘More4Less’ approach, beginning with the end in mind. To achieve this, we talk to our suppliers, and they in turn feel they can come to us to explain what they can do, and what they cannot. Our specifications are exacting, our datasheets are as detailed as they can be, our factory acceptance tests are vigorous, so together, we keep striving for continuous improvement.”


Ensuring Knowledge Transfer
Bhaskar anticipates a bright future for EPCs. “The market is certainly going to improve. It is just a matter of time before oil prices increase and new projects will start again. The important thing is to focus on learning and implementing this knowledge in the next round of big projects. The industry should not miss out on the knowledge transfer and learning from one project to another after an intermediate downturn because experienced engineers have moved out to other industries,” he concludes. “When you start work- ing on a project, the first thing you look at what is available in the form of theoretical books, codes or specifications. If that knowledge has not been updated with the latest trends from the past few years then you miss out on those improvements. It is the responsibility of the valve manufacturers, the people like me who specify the valves, and the users who make the specifications to implement those improvements and ensure that knowledge and experience is passed on.”
 

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