Mega projects under the spotlight

Mega oil and gas projects will play an increasingly important role in the industry as it attempts to match global energy demands that are predicted to soar 35 per cent as the world economy and its population grows.
That was the message highlighted at Wednesday’s fourth panel session at ADIPEC 2010.

Mega projects are planned and under execution around the world as the race to meet those growing energy demands heats up.
Delivering mega projects in the most efficient way, while weighing up the concerns of affected communities and the global push to mitigate CO2 emissions, was the focus of the session.
That complex balancing act is one that Saudi Aramco claims to have pulled off at the Khurais mega oil project in south east Saudi Arabia.
“The Khurais increment is the largest increment developed in the history of the oil industry,” said Waleed Al-Mulhim, Saudi Aramco’s reservoir engineering department manager.
Al-Mulhim said this vast project involved the construction of more than 1,000 km of additional seawater pipelines, 4,000 km of cable, 145,000 metric tons of structural steel, 470,000 cubic metres of concrete, 1,000 km of overhead power lines and 2,900 towers.
At the peak of the project – which took place at a time of significant volatility in the oil market - 28,000 people were working on it. Three hundred and seven wells were drilled in 36 months.
And despite those huge numbers, Saudi Aramco, in coordination with dozens of international subcontractors, was able to complete the entire project in less than 38 months – 10 months ahead of schedule.
Al-Mulhim said that was in large part down to Saudi Aramco’s decision to set up an interim headquarters on location, and a centralised management system. “We focused on interface coordination with the contractors,” that saw everyone working together in “an efficient and effective way,” he said.
Bruce Ference, project executive at ExxonMobil, said that combining that kind of coordination with new technology, a robust local workforce and a focus on environmental considerations, was the key to running successful mega projects.
ExxonMobil currently has more than 130 active projects being carried out across the world. “The key to turning energy challenges into energy solutions is integrating all those elements,” he said.
John Cheesebrough, Maersk Oil’s senior project manager, said nurturing industry talent was also an essential component to mega projects. He sounded a note of caution, warning that the industry had a long way to go in its attempts to attract and nurture skilled workers who can see those projects through to completion.
“This issue is not being handled adequately by the industry,” he told delegates. “The coordinated action to bring people into the industry is not enough. It’s going to be a serious problem in the future.”
Cheesebrough pointed to a “dearth of project managers” in the industry. “Companies must start properly nurturing talent, not only because mega projects are coming online but also because marginal projects are coming online. Unless we have project managers on board we will suffer the consequences.”

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