Published here October 2004.

Introduction | Why Revamp
Assessment | Assessment Outputs and Initial Planning
Sequencing | Layout | Scope Changes

Tim Corman is a 15-year employee of The Dow Chemical Company where he has been responsible for leading the piping design effort and resolving plant layout issues on several capital projects in Europe and the US. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Engineering Technology from the University of Houston - Downtown and is a Project Management Professional.


New projects are becoming increasingly geared towards revamping their chemical processing plants. There are very few green-field plants (a new plant built on virgin ground) or brown-field plants (a new plant project within an existing facility that usually requires some demolition or remediation.) Instead, our projects tend towards a mixture of new work with modifications to existing facilities. The challenge is to keep production downtime to an absolute minimum.

For our company, a revamp project is one in which there is some new work but the majority of it involves extensive modifications to an existing unit. An example would be the revamp of a process train in which an existing process tower is to be replaced. The new tower would not simply be a like-for-like replacement but rather one that incorporates the latest design features. Consequently, installing it in all likelihood calls for considerable pipe and instrument modifications.

Since only the briefest time possible can be allowed for the existing unit to be shut down for the installation of the new tower, careful and detailed sequencing of the work is essential. Our approach is to group each of these types of needs into Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) work packages and then gather all the work packages together to represent the WBS for the total revamp project.

A revamp project of any size is a daunting task. The project goal is to add years to the lifetime of the facility, while minimizing production stoppages, and to ensure that safety, health and environmental issues are all addressed. Timing and scope are constant challenges. Generally a change in scope on a revamp project impacts the schedule to an extent not experienced on a green-field project.

Recently, when I approached my first revamp assignment I had a myriad of initial questions:

  • What is the scope of this revamp project?
  • What is the condition of this existing plant and its supporting infrastructure?
  • What are the drivers for keeping this facility?
  • Would it not be more cost-effective to build a new plant?
  • Do we have any data on how to do this work?
  • How long do we have to accomplish our work?
  • What can be shut down and for how long?
  • What kind of space is available for our work, what is slated for demolition/replacement anyway, i.e. is there anything that can be demolished now to making room for process equipment?
  • How can the 200+ construction personnel required for the revamp work perform safely in an operational plant?
  • Where should we start?

Hopefully the answers we found during our quest will enable new procedures and work processes to be developed that specifically address a revamp project. Traditional work process disciplines appear to fall short when it comes to the challenges of the revamp project.


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