SRIP – For a business like Petrofac, the handover is a critical phase of any project. Often, it marks the culmination of several years of planning and hard work. And it is the completions teams who are responsible for verifying that everything is as it should be, and the project is ready to be put into operation. Petrofacts caught up with several of the key players from Orpic’s Suhar Refinery Improvement Project (SRIP) in Oman, where this mega project is now in full operation, as they reflected on its challenges and achievements

“For me, working on a big project is a bit like being a parent. You nurture them from a small baby, you watch them grow, and you prepare them for adulthood. The completions phase is a bit like them taking their final exams at university. It proves that they have made the grade and are ready to go out into the world. So, it’s a time of real pride and also some poignancy.”
Project Director Srikanth Nagaraj

This is the view of Project Director Srikanth Nagaraj, who has been living and breathing the details of SRIP for the past four years. Having joined Petrofac as an Instrumentation Supervisor back in the last century (1993 to be precise), he worked his way up through the ranks of the business and has been involved with many of its most prestigious projects. Yet, amongst this deep experience, SRIP stands out – due to its scale, its complexity and also its strategic significance.

“From day one I knew this was going to be a special project,” he explains. “As our first major refinery project, we needed to mobilise many new and different skills. We also had to deliver a vast world-class facility in the shortest of time frames. And, throughout it all, we had to work hand-in-hand with a joint venture partner with a different operating culture.” 

Four years of planning and hard work culminated in the commissioning and completions process.

In the simplest of terms, the commissioning of any project, whether large or small, verifies that it is ready to be put into operation. This point in the project timeline is only reached after a thorough period of pre-commissioning, during which the facility is tested under real-world conditions and certified. In the case of a refinery, there will be a wide range of mechanical, process and instrumentation systems to be checked and tested and put in simultaneous operation.

“Commissioning a refinery is in a different league,” continues Srikanth. “Compared with a conventional Petrofac project, you have much greater variations in temperature, pressure and flow and the controls are more complex. As well as commissioning the new facilities in SRIP, we had to migrate all of SRIP’s existing refinery operations into the new, state-of-the-art control room. And, given the timescales, we couldn’t work through things sequentially – everything had to happen in parallel.”

For any Petrofac project, a specialist completions team is mobilised to handle these critical concluding phases. The scale and nature of their work will depend on the specifics of the project. But, in the case of SRIP, a crack squad of 65 people was involved, and the contract covered everything from the initial pre-commissioning work, through to the eventual start-up of the facility.  

“It was a complex project that had some real challenges, which we overcame with strong teamwork, intricate planning, and sheer determination. For me, the defining moment came when we handed over a fully commissioned, fully-functional refinery to a very satisfied client. I remember holding the very first product sample in a glass jar and thinking to myself, wow, this is the result of US$2.1billion,” concludes Srikanth.

Orpic’s Suhar Refinery Improvement Project (SRIP)

Awarded in 2013, SRIP is a true mega project, with huge strategic significance for Oman’s oil and gas industry – and also for Petrofac’s diversification into the downstream sector.

Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (Orpic)

US$2.1billion – a 50/50 joint venture with Daelim Industrial Co Ltd

230 km north-west of Muscat

Safety – 53 million man-hours LTI-free
Speed – fast-track project with more than 14,000 people at peak
Scale – one of the largest oil and gas deals ever awarded in Oman, lifting SRIP’s existing refining capacity by 70% to exceed 187,774 barrels per stream day (BPSD)
Strategic significance – a breakthrough project for Petrofac, one of the Group’s first refinery contracts, cementing its role as one of the most significant players in Oman 

Lokanadh Reddy Pagala
Superintendent, Completions Management

Lokanadh works on the mechanical aspects of a completions project. Starting his career as a mechanical maintenance engineer in India, he joined Petrofac in 2015 and joined the completions team the following year. Among his responsibilities at SRIP, he had some particularly large steam and gas turbines to vet and verify.

“Although I’ve worked as a mechanical engineer in the oil and gas sector for 15 years, I only moved into the Petrofac completions team in 2016, and SRIP was my first completions project.

One of the characteristics of the project was the tight timescales. Absolutely everything had to be fast-tracked, but absolutely no compromises could be made. I remember one particularly challenging steam turbine which, normally, would have taken two to three months to commission. Yet we managed it in just 20 days. That was a big achievement and a great source of pride. There were many achievements. For example, at one point, we received an official letter of congratulations and acknowledgement from the client, which was another very proud moment for me. Then, at the close of the project, I was promoted and mobilised to work on the final phases of our Rabab Harweel Integrated Project. Overall, it was a very supportive and cooperative environment. The Petrofac team, the vendors and the client were all like one big family. That makes a huge difference.”

“I remember one particularly challenging steam turbine which, normally, would have taken two to three months to commission. Yet we managed it in just 20 days.”

Corneliu Jimblaru
Principal Commissioning Engineer, Completions Management

Completions specialist Corneliu has been with Petrofac for almost two years, prior to which he worked on several refinery projects in countries including Romania, Vietnam, Turkey and the UAE. As a process engineer, one of his main tasks at SRIP was to work on the process water and water treatment systems.

“I joined Petrofac specifically to work on SRIP. My role was to commission and start up several of the process systems. This involved coordination with vendors and leading a team of commissioning engineers and operators during the initial start-up. Another important aspect of the work is knowledge transfer from Petrofac to the client – in which we provide on the job training to Orpic’s field operations team.

What makes SRIP interesting is the fact that it is an integrated project, in which the best technology from the entire market is incorporated. A world-class refinery, a utility plant and a power plant are all combined together to deliver the highest standards of fuel quality. From a completions perspective, it was necessary to bring all these units on stream, in parallel, and deliver the project in the agreed timescales.

I’ve worked on several different refinery projects, but nothing was quite like this. What made it particularly special was the opportunity to work with so many professionals. It was a truly multi-cultural project, and you got the sense that Petrofac had scoured the world to find and bring together the best talents – and then empower them to deliver this complex project.”

Ram Prasad
Deputy Director, Completions Management

Heading up the Sharjah-based completions team, Ram has an overview of all the completions projects in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. For SRIP, he mobilised a team of around 65 completions specialists. With a background as a process engineer, this continues to be a particular area of specialism. Commencing his career with Madras Refineries in India, he has extensive downstream experience and, since joining Petrofac in 2011, he has worked on many of the Group’s landmark projects.

“Every completions project is unique. At Petrofac, we’re involved in many different projects, of different sizes, covering different timescales. Sometimes the contract scope requires us to do the bare minimum. More often we are deeply involved in the entire completions process. For SRIP, I led the teams from construction completion, through pre-commissioning, commissioning, start-up and stabilisation. We then ran a complete performance test before handing the finished project over to the client.

Since this was a 50/50 joint venture contract, the completion phase was also conducted on a 50/50 joint venture basis, with Petrofac running the utility-type aspects and Daelim running the process-type aspects. This added to the complexity of the operation.

Everything was run in parallel, and we moved from a static to a dynamic state, with construction and commissioning moving ahead simultaneously, all in the same vicinity.

It was a real pleasure and a source of pride to be involved in this mega project, which is definitely a career highlight for me. The success is attributed to strong teamwork – with thorough planning, timely initiation, perfect execution and disciplined monitoring.”

“More often we are deeply involved in the entire completions process.”

Gustav Vargancsik
Senior Manager, Commissioning, Completions Management

Gustav was responsible for overseeing much of the commissioning process, and also managing the relationships with Daelim, the joint venture partner. Having graduated as a chemical engineer back in the mid-1970s, his very first role was in the pre-commissioning of a large Romanian refinery, and he has remained a completions specialist ever since.

“An interesting dimension of SRIP was its multi-culturalism. As a Romanian, it’s in my nature to be very blunt and direct. But the culture of our joint venture partners was different. When you are working together as a multi-cultural team, you need to respect these nuances, and find different ways to discuss challenges. It’s a matter of building up trust amongst everyone.

Of all of the projects I’ve worked on, this was one of the most challenging. Although it’s not the world’s biggest refinery project, it is certainly one of the most complex, involving an existing facility, a new facility, a state-of-the-art control room, plus some sophisticated water systems and mechanical systems. Consequently, we needed specialists in every single discipline.

Another challenge was the climate. Temperatures were often above 50°C and the humidity was intense. Yet we often needed our people to work on site for 10 or even 12 hours a day. So how do you get that level of commitment from your teams? You need to take a genuine interest in them and what motivates them, and to show how proud you are of their work and dedication.

At the end of the day, it’s about keeping your client satisfied.
If the client is happy, everyone is happy. So, as a senior member of the team, a big part of my job is to try to look at everything through the client’s eyes.”

“As a Romanian, it’s in my nature to be very blunt and direct.”