A Team Weathered the Storm to Reinvent India's Largest Natural Gas Field in Record Time
BY SARAH FISTER GALE
PORTRAITS BY PARIKSHIT RAO
From left, Kaustuv Bagchi, Subramanian Sarma, Satish Palekar and R. Sathyanarayanan
India's skyrocketing growth is only matched by its surging demand for energy—expected to roughly double over the next two decades. With India on pace to consume more than 10 percent of the global power supply by 2040, producers will need to pivot beyond fossil fuels for the country to reduce its staggering reliance on energy imports.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF INDIA'S OIL AND NATURAL GAS CORP.
Extending the life of the country's largest offshore natural gas field offered one solution, with the potential to supply energy for millions of homes. So in 2015, India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) launched the Bassein Development Project in the Arabian Sea, partnering with L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE) on the US$414 million initiative. LTHE is a subsidiary of Larsen & Toubro, a PMI Global Executive Council member.
“Traditionally, the energy mix has been coal and other fossil fuels. But with global warming and the green initiatives promoted by the government of India … the country wants to move to gas,” says Subramanian Sarma, CEO and managing director, LTHE, Mumbai, India. “Every available gas reserve has to be exploited to meet this demand.”
—Subramanian Sarma, LTHE, Mumbai, India
The Bassein Development Project under construction.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already established the goal to more than double the share of natural gas in India's energy mix by 2030. To align with that objective, ONGC advised LTHE to complete the project in less than 31 months. LTHE could give users access to energy more quickly, help ONGC's customers generate revenues sooner and establish itself as a leader in the hydrocarbon industry.
“It was in many ways a landmark project for us because of the sheer size, complexity and stringent schedule,” says Kaustuv Bagchi, head of India offshore operations, LTHE.
—Kaustuv Bagchi, LTHE
But LTHE had to adapt to one big risk: India's monthslong monsoon seasons. The inclement weather would limit key activities off the coast of the state of Maharashtra—forcing the team to creatively prioritize tasks and work schedules to keep workers safe and maintain progress.
In the Flow
June 2015: Project is awarded to LTHE.
December 2016: Offshore installation begins.
March 2017: Offshore installation is completed—ahead of monsoon season.
July 2017: Brownfield and greenfield hookup integration is completed.
September 2017: Hydrocarbons are introduced to platform. Project is dedicated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
November 2017: Project is completed—86 days ahead of schedule.
The team scoured the plan to identify efficiencies that would accelerate progress—without sacrificing quality of work or the welfare of workers. Project managers took an aggressive and innovative approach to map out ways to shrink the schedule for the design, construction and commission of an offshore platform with one gas turbine generator, three process gas compressors and other processing facilities. They also had to devise plans to rapidly build five large integrated modules while laying subsea pipelines and tackling brownfield modification. For example, the original plan called for three independent gas compressor modules, but the LTHE team optimized them into a single module, which significantly reduced the time to complete offshore installation, hookup and commissioning. The components were integrated on land, which greatly reduced the safety risks inherent in working offshore, Mr. Bagchi says.
The team also built temporary housing on an offshore platform connected to the work site by a bridge. During monsoon season, gusty winds, strong currents and high swells prohibited vessels from approaching the offshore platform out of fear of collision. The temporary accommodations allowed workers to stay at the platform and work safely during the monsoon season. The team instituted a permit-to-work system during monsoon season to ensure no work was done without proper supervision. Project leaders also received detailed weather forecasts every six hours, Mr. Bagchi says, allowing them to adjust plans if rough conditions were expected. In addition, they also designed the living quarters knowing that workers would spend 14 days at a time living and working there.
“The living quarters had to be designed for the comfort, safety and leisure of the offshore work personnel,” says R. Sathyanarayanan, joint general manager, offshore, LTHE.
Both the living quarters and project site were covered with posters and other materials to increase safety awareness. Project leaders conducted frequent safety awareness sessions and job safety analyses prior to the start of every construction activity.
A LTHE design center.
“Offshore projects usually pose a lot of safety issues, and this thought dominates our workspace,” Mr. Bagchi says.
The living quarters also pushed the platform height to a staggering 48 meters (157 feet), making it the tallest platform LTHE had ever fabricated. To mitigate the risks, the team assembled prefabricated sections on the ground, then erected them as modules on the platform.
“That way we minimize the safety issues related to working at height,” Mr. Sathyanarayanan says.
Throughout the project, all team members and stakeholders were authorized to stop work if they encountered unsafe practices or activities. Although some worried those precautions could add delays to the project, they actually helped LTHE meet its accelerated delivery date. In the end, there were no recorded safety issues over the project lifespan—a total of more than 6.4 million work hours without a lost-time injury.
“Performing job safety analysis for all critical operations and implementing the mitigation measures, we were able to manage or contain unsafe practices,” Mr. Sathyanarayanan says.
—R. Sathyanarayanan, LTHE
From left, Kaustuv Bagchi, Subramanian Sarma, R. Sathyanarayanan and Satish Palekar
The schedule overlapped with two monsoon seasons—not only adding safety risks but also the potential to create punishing delays. Storms can make it unsafe to transport equipment or workers to offshore platforms and block some tasks from being completed until after the monsoon season ends, Mr. Bagchi says. For example, the original plan called for commissioning to be completed in January 2018, but with monsoon season running from May through September, the team realized it couldn't install the new structures within the original time frame.
So project leaders made a bold decision: crash the schedule and accelerate the timeline to install new structures by March of 2017 to get ahead of the storms. LTHE had never done this before, but the project team believed it was the only way to deliver the project on time.
As part of the crash, the team relied on systemic concurrency, overlapping the design, fabrication and engineering. Project managers reviewed the crash-related changes with stakeholders and empowered them to accelerate their decision-making processes. For instance, engineering centers fast-tracked approval of deliverables. And as soon as engineers approved a preliminary design, procurement and fabrication began, Mr. Bagchi says. “This enabled all the structures to be ready six months ahead of schedule, which allowed us to install them one season before.”
Accelerating the schedule also created enough float to complete all brownfield integration. “The team was able to complete the project 86 days ahead of schedule, because of the key strategies that we had taken,” Mr. Bagchi says.
Finishing the project early was a record-setting boon:
Source: L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering
MEASURE OF SUCCESS
By empowering project managers and stakeholders to embrace creative decision making, project leaders fostered a can-do ethos. Team leaders were given full authority to regularly coordinate with ONGC stakeholders to review deliverables and resolve issues with suppliers and contractors.
“A clear and transparent communication plan was the key to a good relationship with stakeholders and executive sponsorship, and it maximized their engagement and continued support of the project,” Mr. Bagchi says.
The results were astonishing, helping LTHE establish new benchmarks. For the first time in company history, LTHE installed the last two modules—the thermo generator building module and process gas compressor—on consecutive days and completed offshore platform connections in a company-record three days. By taking innovative and aggressive actions, the project was completed in 28 months. And by finishing ahead of schedule, LTHE enabled ONGC to ramp up production at the site three months early.
“It is all about setting international benchmarks of the highest order,” says Satish Palekar, head of offshore, LTHE. “We are proud, as an Indian multinational company, to have delivered a project of this magnitude and complexity to this level of performance.”
The blueprint for meeting India's future energy needs translates to all projects going forward: Project leaders can inspire teams by providing them with the proper tools, resources and authority, Mr. Sarma says. “It was a challenging project, but I had full confidence in my people, and I just backed them up.” PM