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As a follow through to preoperational testing, startup assistance is frequently provided. In our experience, we find that Owners generally prefer starting up plants using their own staff. The startup activity is often then supplemented by outside staffing to fill positions where the Owner may not have adequate or qualified personnel. This approach offers a cost effective means for obtaining highly qualified individuals to staff the startup period. The amount of outside participation will vary significantly depending on the nature of the process, the depth of Owner operating and maintenance experience, the type of equipment and on the time period scheduled for startup.
If not properly planned and organized, plant startup can quickly become a chaotic affair. Everyone wants to get into the act during startup. The plant operating personnel are anxious to discharge their responsibility to get the plant running as quickly as possible. Then there are the Owner’s home office engineers and consultants whose motives and interests may be directed towards process confirmation rather than towards achieving instant production records. On top of this, we have the Owner’s management who, while having the best of intentions, may not be that familiar with the need for timely application of key personnel during plant startup.
When giving consideration to startup of a new plant, it would be useful to reflect on the following factors.
- There is often a significant gap between the available operating personnel skill levels and the startup skill levels required to bring the plant on stream quickly.
- There are significant administrative and procedural elements involved in plant startup. In addition to cost control, other items such as preparation of vendor backcharges, preparation of change orders, procurement, expediting, and the recording of any design changes made during startup need to be considered.
As a cardinal rule, one individual should be set up to direct the overall plant startup effort. We have found that assigning a core of at least four professional startup engineers to this individual’s staff proves to be a very efficient and effective approach. To this core would be added other outside engineers and the plant operating personnel. We normally find that the professional startup engineers carry out the following types of tasks.
- Ensure that startup activities on assigned systems are conducted in a safe, orderly and efficient manner.
- Provide technical assistance to the Owner operating personnel during initial operation of equipment and systems.
- Assist in completion of vendor performance tests, working in concert with Owner operating personnel.
- Coordinate any necessary design and construction changes between the contractor and the Owner.
- Complete startup documentation as appropriate. Included could be such items as preparation of vendor backcharges, recording all changes made during startup, and preparation of markups for “as-built” drawings.
It should be emphasized that startup is not an easy task. It is a team effort requiring individuals with lots of initiative who are enthusiastic and flexible. People who like to figure out how things work and them implement corrective action make ideal startup engineers. The individual must also be willing to work long and unusual hours as much as seven days a week. But if properly planned and organized, even the seemingly insurmountable problems are quickly defined and solved. We hope that the thoughts and opinions offered in this paper will prove useful in your planning of a future plant startup.
911 Metallurgy can provide training for your staff. Our training specialist’s knowledge and experience provide your employees with the opportunity to improve their skills and understanding of a process. Training typically includes a detailed review of the unit processes, and the parameters that affect it. After trainees have developed a better understanding of the process, our experts teach them the best practices to maximize performance, solve performance issues, run benchmarks, and optimize your process. 911 Metallurgy helps your employees learn the right skills, so that your project will be a success.
During the course of his work, the preoperational test engineer becomes intimately familiar with the plant equipment and associated systems. As a matter of fact, by the time the plant is ready for startup the preoperational test engineer is generally as knowledgeable as anyone about the intended operation of the plant.
To provide the Owner’s operating personnel an opportunity to share in this knowledge, it has become common practice to include a few selected individuals in the preoperational test crew. This approach has come to be referred to as “hands-on” training because the trainee becomes directly involved in all facets of the preoperational testing program. The preoperational test engineer guides the trainee in the check-out of installations, conformity with design and testing of equipment. In this manner, the trainees are advanced to a state of readiness for plant startup and acquire excellent on-the-job troubleshooting experience. Use of this approach demonstrates that the subsequent plant startup proceeds much more smoothly.
It would be useful to note that, in addition to this training, more formal operator training programs are often instituted. Also, plant operating manuals are frequently prepared and maintenance programs are established. In Bechtel, this activity is sponsored by our Mine and Plant Operations Group.
Startup of a new plant is a very interesting time. It generally is also a very demanding and often frustrating period. Startup problems can become serious if they impede the early achievement of full plant production. Raw materials are wasted, manpower is unproductive, field modifications can be extremely expensive and market commitments may not be met.
This paper outlines a well proven and highly successful approach to eliminating many of the problems and frustrations often experienced in plant startup. The procedures and methods summarized in the following paragraphs have been developed over a period of years during which several plants were started up.
To acquaint you with the Bechtel Mining and Metals startup department, it would be useful to take a moment and briefly outline the department’s background. Historically, construction loose ends including items sometimes overlooked in the final construction effort were carried over into the plant startup phase. Equipment problems added to the usual startup type problems created additional difficulty. This type of experience resulted in the introduction of a preoperational test program near the end of the construction phase prior to plant startup. A separate department was established to carry out this functional check-out. As it developed, the department’s role was eventually expanded to cover the following areas:
- Schedule the final construction completion effort to allow sufficient time for preoperational testing.
- Provide operator training services to the Owner.
- Turn over the completed and operational plant to the Owner.
- Provide subsequent startup services.
It is important to note that the organizational concept of the department complements the construction and the design engineering activities. Operating as an independent organization, the department verifies construction’s interpretation and conformance with engineering requirements as well as highlights any design questions which might develop. Overall, the department plans preoperational test services, established quality assurance, provides hands-on training services to Owner’s personnel and provides startup services as appropriate.