System File content issues…

As we create our system file contents, an early commissioning preparation exercise, “assumptions” may be made as guides for the contents of certain sections of the file, these could include…

  • P&ID’s
  • Handover certificate
  • Commissioning Hazard Studies etc.

As the project develops and the system file becomes populated, what at first were guides to the contents, can become written into the document text, hence the basis of the system file actual contents moving forward.

In highly regulated industries, what appears in a commissioning system file can become a clear expectation of actual content, thus following reviews and audits difficult questions can be asked as to the meaning and contents of sections of the systems files where documents have never been populated.

Therefore in regulated environments, be very sure and accurately document the contents of system files and only include documents within files that will actually be used, this will help avoid later awkward questions and discussions and paperwork rework.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Water management…

The first phase of any commissioning process, after handover from construction, is to prove the pressure envelope of that system, for gaseous systems this typically is with air and for aqueous systems, water. After proving leak tightness’, commissioning usually proceed with water and air commissioning and trying to prove the design intent.

Some plants do have outfall limitations, even for a large scale chemical complex, in that the environmental discharge limitations on volume and specification are extremely tight. Many plants are designed to not create aqueous waste at all, this design factor may be challenged during initial commissioning when water treatment systems are not available, (chemical introduction comes after the water commissioning phase).

Therefore consider the development of a waste water management plan. Typically these are based on the logical commissioning of the asset, discharging water from one tank to another, in such a manner as to minimise waste water created. However the handover of systems from construction to commissioning can on many occasions, not actually occur in the ideal sequence required and the commissioning team can have significant challenges in reducing water wastes. So please consider by exploring additional options, e.g. use of foul drains, tankering water off site (costly and not sufficient money in the commissioning budget?) and significant extra “out of the box” thinking to pump water via different inter-tank routes within the process. Filtration of waste water can was also be considered.

It could be to your advantage during the commissioning preparation phase, to consider a desk top exercise to consider how to manage the extra water commissioning may potentially produce. Run “none ideal” tank availability scenario’s and its processing consequences, make procedural action plans and obtain quotes and lead times for filtration and polishing systems to reuse the optimum amount of water possible. Also consider the additional materials, tanks, pumps and hoses that would potentially be required and include these costs in your budget.

It is also worth considering if steam is being used in the process, how condensate is managed as considerable amounts of dirty and waste condensate are produced until the condensate is of a quality that can be used, say as boiler feed water.

Safe and successful commissioning always….

Fault administration…

Many projects utilise a process called Fault Observation (commonly known as FOB) as a means to document and process faults, where during commissioning, the design intent is not met.

These FOB can range in size and complexity from simple control code set point changes to potentially large FOB such for example as the packing inside columns and scrubbing towers not performing and needing changing or altering.

It is not uncommon for large numbers of FOB to be produced and close out can initially very slow, therefore enlisting the assistance of a FOB co-ordinator who manages the FOB through the process, pesters, cajoles etc. can be of benefit to the commissioning team and the resolution of FOB . Please condisider this requirement as you define your organisation’s structure.

In addition to the observation above, it is also a theme of FOB for a secondary issue to be revealsed, that being the slow close out of FOB that are pushed back to engineering design for resolution. Again consider selecting an individual who’s primary responsibility was to manage a team of engineers to close out engineering FOB, those that require additional engineering and hazard analysis prior to recommissioning.

Again these recommendations must be based on the size of the project, so make the consideration of a whole FOB team as part of the greater commissioning organisation.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


… as I am a full time Commissioning Manager with all the responsibilities that comes with that, I have not been able to add comment via this Blog space for some time.

I can only apologise and assure you I will try harder to share my lessons learnt as they occur.

Take care and safe and successful commissioning always…

Thinking outside the box around cleaning of pipe work…

Some projects are particularly challenged with management of water due to the limitations of the site’s aqueous outfall. This can be a particular issue when challenged to handle the large quantities of water flushing produces in cleaning potentially thousands of meters of pipe work on the project.

Water is by far the most common and safety way to clean pipe work however it does produce large quantities of effluent to process; sometimes an alternative must be considered.

So “thinking outside of the box” consider trialling and then using air blowing via an air compressor, receiver, flow indicator and diffuser with integral “catch pot” (for debris) as the basis of cleaning going forward with the project.

It is clean and produces no liquid effluent and is very effective. Using a pig associated with air also is effective but in tortuous pipe run scenarios can be difficult to use.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Assumptions with commissioning “norms”

Most commissioning efforts develop a table of norms, through the process of developing the commissioning schedules, these norms reflect certain activities where durations are not well defined at the time of drafting the initial schedule and may take account of the estimated, but acceptable duration for such activities as…

  • Punch listing
  • Leak testing
  • Pre-commissioning checks such as proving mechanical interlocks, packing towers etc.
  • Water commissioning
  • Start up procedures.
  • Sequence testing etc.

“Norms” can be challenged on various fronts, especially during reviews of the schedule, (sometimes many months later) so here are two considerations as you develop your norms…

  1. Were the norms accepted by the project?
  2. Did the norms have “float” or contingency included.

In both cases ensure you have an answer hence so a key lesson for those involved with the development of “norms” tables, to be reviewed in the future is to consider the above points and include a description of the answers in a assumptions list for the commissioning element of the schedule or project in general.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


Check Sheets…

It is important as a reminder and to stress again the importance in preparation of system files to really spend the time to clearly define the pipework, instruments, motors etc. that will be required to be tested during the pre-commissioning phase. Encourage  the commissioning to in the reviewing of the P&ID’s and other engineering documents such as single line diagrams (electrical) and produce lists of all pipework and vessels to be cleaned, instrument loops to be tested, motors to be rotated, relief streams to be installed, lubrication to be undertaken, alignments to be completed etc. as when construction really starts the commissioning team will need to know exactly where they are with regard to the build and construction completions and produce similar lists of tested equipment in line to those prepared by the construction team.

For those of you with a copy of the book, please refer to check sheet section of the book, sections 3, 12, 13 etc.

Spending time drafting check sheet lists does not obviously substitute detailed procedures and method statements defining exactly how a line is to be flushed or blown clean, if this is in the commissioning team scope of course these will need to be written to supplement the check sheets. However drafting the lists does make the commissioning team members preparing system files really start to get into the detail they surely will need to have, as construction nears completions and we consider system takeover

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Mechanical Completion…

I was recently asked, “What is the best definition of mechanical completion?” a question in one form or another I quite often get asked and of course it is totally dependent on your project, (which is no help is it?!).

Over the past few years, typically, a definition of mechanical completion, simply put, would be that the system or area is “ready for commissioning”. So what could that mean?

Again referring to my recent career history, mechanical completion is the point in the project where the system or area has been built per the latest P&ID’s and (it’s not and inclusive list)…

    • all pipework in the system has been tested for integrity
    • the pipework cleaned via blowing, flushing or visual inspection
    • all lubrication and greasing has been undertaken,
    • alignment has been completed,
    • electrical motors have been tested for their correct direction (if possible),
    • Instrument loops have been functionally tested to include range and alarm checks
    • vessel and equipment internals for been installed, (filter media, packing etc.)
    • Vessels have been inspected and finally closed
    • Relief devices have been correctly installed
    • The system has been punch listed with all reservations to turnover fully documented, understood and agreed

Now again this is only a personal view of my recent experience, your project could be setup that commissioning undertake such activities as listed, however they all need to be completed, that’s for sure, just please understand the scope and prepare accordingly.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Vendor support…

Enlisting effective and efficient support of our Vendors is a critical success factor on many of our projects. Vendors assist in the commissioning of our compressor, refrigeration and many specialist package equipment’s, they are key to our overall success but are we ready for their assistance?

Once contractually bound to give commissioning support we must engage with the vendor well in advance of the actual commissioning period so both your and their schedules can be aligned, typically this must be at least 4 weeks, maybe longer. Have outstanding actions from perhaps a Factory Acceptance Test been organised for prompt close out, are all the quality manuals in place and up to date, have simple items like labelling been checked and confirmed acceptable, have you punch listed the equipment, especially if it’s been sat around for a while?

Are there any specialist arrangements that need to be put in place for the initial Vendor commissioning, any additional plant items such as drain receptacles, additional first use chemicals, equipment and piping for initial use, (vent stacks etc.) is a change out scheduled for oil or filter media, do you need to organise temporary power supplies, how about controlling the equipment, all these additional steps need to be considered and correctly organised.

The final appreciation should be to getting the vendors onto the jobsite and to work, hence have all contractor requirements for your workplace been met, have all inductions and training been considered, (please refer to your company and project procedures for contractor management), how about getting the team a permit to work including provision of acceptable risk assessments and method statements for the work to be performed, is a plan in place? If the vendors documentation is being used in lieu of a commissioning procedure, has the Setting to Work, or Site Acceptance Test documentation been approved by the commissioning team?

So much to think about to enlist the invaluable assistance vendors give to the commissioning team and one matter to think carefully about.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


Many commissioning procedures we execute involve groups outside of the commissioning team, how well are you coordinating the involvement of these teams?

As we execute commissioning many procedures will require the cooperation of groups or teams outside of the main commissioning team, these may involve Vendors or Licensors, Emergency Services, construction team support, the regulating bodies the list goes on. Do not underestimate the time it takes to engage with these multiple groups, gain understanding to their role in your work and arranging times, individuals, maybe travel and welfare?

 Special arrangements may be required to allow companies to come to your premises, a time allocation will be required for that. Does your support work shifts and therefore have you covered discussing your commissioning team activities with all shift teams as they may change if a scheduled date for your work gets changed? Do all supervisors of teams who will support you know of what is being undertaken, it’s always a good idea to include them as they may change priorities on the day and leave you without the support you need?

On the day always remember and account for management of the activity, this may mean vehicle or manpower management (diverting personnel away from the commissioning work) or the removal procedure of a waste that may be created by the commissioning activity.

Have you risk assessed your commissioning activity and accounted for all potential issues from a personnel, plant and environmental perspective, have you put robust mitigation plans in place?

So much to think about as we execute our commissioning especially if coordination is required with other project or related teams.

Safe and successful commissioning always…