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How to quickly construct an ethylene glycol plant

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

MEGlobal’s new 750 000 t ethylene glycol production site is the first major investment made by a Kuwait-based company, the EQUATE Group, on the US Gulf Coast.

Located in Freeport, Texas, US, it takes advantage of competitive US shale prices. It is also near to Port Freeport for global shipping routes, which means it can service the fast-growing demand for ethylene glycol-based products. These include polyester textiles, packaging, and construction materials. The site will contribute around US$24 million/yr to the local economy.

The site uses state-of-the-art ethylene glycol process technology. Through a streamlined process design, this results in lower capital and energy cost and higher raw material efficiency. The world-class facility is also next to a cracker, which supplies the plant with ethylene.

A daring feat of construction

Construction of the 110 acre site took under two years. Projects of this size usually take at least two and half years. The project achieved mechanical completion and began producing ethylene glycol ahead of schedule.

Worley was involved from day one through all project phases, from planning, front-end engineering and design (FEED), engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) through to commissioning, start-up and initial production.

At peak construction, more than 2100 trade and craft workers were present on site. Combined with 400 supervisory personnel, they achieved 3.7 million consecutive safe work hours. Over 600 Worley engineers and designers supported the construction. The engineering team worked around the clock from offices worldwide, including Houston, Mumbai, and Reading.

Focusing on a construction-centric approach

To achieve the construction in such a short timeframe, it was vital that engineering activities kept to schedule. The project team agreed that delivery would be construction centric, which meant that the engineering team often needed to be flexible and focus on those elements that needed to be completed ahead of construction.

Vendors and contractors were also required to strive towards this goal and maintain a collaborative approach. Not an insignificant challenge with over 200 vendors to coordinate. It was helped by an incentive scheme and regular visits from key executives to review the vendor’s progress and adherence.

Beginning with the end in mind to remove constraints

Worley introduced advanced work packaging to align engineering, procurement and construction to support the team in keeping one goal in mind. Each aspect of the build was planned to remove constraints and improve overall project execution.

For example, early on the team identified that the major pipe racks and more than 700 critical pipe spools needed installing as part of early construction to allow accelerated work. Worley worked with its major piping and steel vendors to focus on these aspects of the project, allowing more time for the rest of the construction.

It was also critical that the 2500 t crane brought onsite to perform large lifts was used continuously with minimal need to move it from point-to-point around the site. To achieve this, the team were meticulous in the sequencing of the work packages and in turn the materials arriving onsite. Any delay meant repositioning the crane, a time-consuming job. However, relying on advanced work packaging, the work was so well planned that all major equipment arrived and was lifted into place in two months.

The continuous supply of materials also meant that work crews could be deployed to a different location should any issues in a work package arise. This focus on plotting the best path to construction had several overarching benefits, including keeping to schedule, lowering costs, minimising temporary work and contributing to an exceptional safety record.

The project team reviewed the engineering models throughout the entire design process. This meant that drawings were delivered to vendors in the right sequence and with very few revisions to issued documents as teams had fed back comments and adjustments in real-time. This created buy-in and agreement before document issuing. In the instance of the pipe fabrication, the vendor was able to optimise its pipe production and produce about 19 000 pipe spools in a six-month period.

Working round the clock as a cohesive team

With high numbers of staff working on the project’s engineering at any one time, integration between the global offices was vital. The Mumbai and Houston office adapted their hours to allow a handover period each day, so that engineering could continue 24 hours a day. All offices used document control and 3D modelling tools to support this.

Several experts from MEGlobal, including engineering and manufacturing personnel, rotated into Worley’s Mumbai office to lend insight to the project. This customer commitment reduced the time it took to troubleshoot issues and agree a way forward and was a key part of engineering being able to meet their schedule targets.

The one team approach to the project, along with the use of digital construction technologies meant that Worley delivered a best-in-class project for MEGlobal. It also earned an award of merit at ENR’s Global Best Projects awards, and ENR’s Regional Best Project in Texas and Louisiana for the Power/Industrial category.

Written by Worley.

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