Engineering the Historic Turnaround

Meet Craig Webb. He loves his job and what it means for Saint John. Craig gives us an insider’s view into the largest turnaround in Irving Oil history and the “dollars being pumped into the economy” as a result.

Craig Web

Craig Web

Q.  What credentials and experience are required to oversee a job like this one?

A.   I am a mechanical engineer and I am responsible for coordinating all engineering aspects of the turnaround from performing equipment condition assessment to determining repair plans for equipment. I have been with Irving Oil since 2008 as a maintenance engineer and have been the lead turnaround engineer since 2012, having completed seven turnarounds. To perform this job you need to be familiar with various codes, standards and best practices relating to refining equipment design and repair and the more experience you have the better. I work with a team of engineers that assist me in providing 24 hour support for the turnaround. These folks assess equipment and provide repair instruction to the tradespeople. They are a great group of people!

Q.  How would you explain this project to the average person?

A.   This turnaround is the largest that has ever been completed in the history of Irving Oil in terms of spend and number of tradespeople that will be employed! It is classed as a Mega Turnaround by industry standards, with work happening 24 hours per day for approximately 60 days. The scope of the work is renewing many pieces of refinery equipment as well as maintenance investment. We are replacing valves, piping components, instrumentation and electrical parts that will ensure asset reliability and maximize equipment up-time.

Q.  Which project milestones do you think are most interesting to the public and why?

A.   There are numerous capital projects that will be executed this fall which include the reactor head replacement in our fluid catalytic cracker, or resid cat cracker unit. The resid cat cracker is an important piece of the refining process because it helps produce additional gasoline. We removed the top of the reactor and the internal cyclones in one heavy lift, with the head cut off by means of high pressure water jet cutting. The water cutter traveled around the outer perimeter of the 30 foot diameter vessel cutting the head from the cylindrical body. (You can watch the video here .)

One of the other initiatives that we will be executing is the replacement of refractory lining; this will need 244 pallets or roughly 9 tractor trailer loads of refractory. The refractory is inside many pieces of equipment within our resid cat cracker and is used as a thermal barrier to protect the shell steel from intense heat (in some cases 1300 degrees Fahrenheit). It also helps protect the equipment from erosion. We will be executing the largest refractory scope that has ever been taken on in the history of turnarounds at Irving Oil. To put this in perspective the amount of lining that we'll be replacing would cover the complete main floor of approximately 12 standard bungalows with a 4" refractory layer. All of the old refractory has to be removed from the equipment by means of manual labour and jackhammers. Once removed, new steel anchors will have to be welded to the equipment and then the new refractory will be installed.

Q. How do you keep the site safe for workers?

A. We have a very strong safety culture at Irving Oil and there are many initiatives at our site that are used to keep our workers safe. One of the most important initiatives that we utilize is the Hazard Elimination Program. This program asks employees to eliminate any hazards they find throughout the work site that could lead to injury. A hazard could be a hose lying across a walking path or a tool that was left in a location where it could fall and hit someone or something. The hazard is considered eliminated when an action has been taken to correct it, such as relocating the hose to a location where it wouldn't pose a trip hazard or if the tool was relocated to an appropriate location such as the tool crib. The individuals then complete a Hazard Elimination card and pass it in to our safety department. These cards are counted on a daily basis and tracked by our Safety Department. Each week we provide coffee and donuts to all employees to either celebrate a successful week of no injuries or if there is an injury, we reflect on what the injury was and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. To date for this turnaround we have collected in excess of 4,559 hazard cards!

We also have a program called ACE. This program is a ‘no name, no blame’ program whereby trained onsite employees monitor a work task and evaluate the individual based on how safely they performed their task. The observer then shares their observations and compliments on positive aspects and coaches them on items that could be done in a safer manner.

Q.  What phase of the project do you find most rewarding and interesting to work on?

A.   All aspect of the turnaround preparation and execution are enjoyable but I find the execution phase of the project the most interesting and rewarding. You reap the rewards of the careful planning and preparations that in this case have been approximately two years in the making. The execution phase of the turnaround is very fast paced and demanding and there is a great deal of work being done in a short period of time.

Q.  Why are projects like this important to Saint John and the Maritimes?  

A. There are thousands of jobs created, there are many spin-offs to local businesses such as fabrication shops, industrial service suppliers, the hospitality industry, et cetera. Not only are there millions of dollars being pumped into the economy in the short term, but projects like these ensure the reliability and longevity of the assets and permanent jobs in the area.