Monthly Archives: March 2014

Thoughts on pre-commissioning…

Let us today appraise what typically can make up the pre-commissioning phase of our projects.

Simplistically, pre-commissioning activities are those centred on getting a system ready to actually “do” some commissioning and also any commissioning activities we can conduct which do not require the introduction of any energy, be that electrical or introduction of air and water and the pressurization of equipment. The activities which we will address in a moment can be either completed by the commissioning team, or by the craft contracting organization responsible for the installation, but if not conducted by the commissioning team a suitable program to witness the activities being done must be put in place. Who does what during this phase if not totally controlled by the commissioning team, should be documented in detail and be part of the suite of documents that make up the contract between all the parties.

So here I offer my list of the activities which constitute pre-commissioning:

  • All cleaning – Pipes, vessels etc. to include flushing with water, blowing with air or nitrogen (or both), chemical cleaning and pigging
  • Full functional loop testing of instruments – from the DCS workstation right through to field devise (taking into account wi-fi testing if required)
  • Electrical testing – bump tests on motors
  • All lubrication and greasing of pumps, motors and other items
  • Cold alignment of motors etc.
  • …and a major pre-commissioning activity, the punch listing of a system

In addition the following checks responsible to be completed by the commissioning team may also be undertaken, if these activities are to be carried out whilst the system is under the control of the construction group, then obviously the correct safety protocol must be observed:

  • Checking the operation of mechanical locking devices
  • Checking the internals of non-return valves are installed
  • Ensuring pipes fall in the direction required on the P&ID
  • Procedure to check provision of weep holes in Relief Stream vent pipe-work
  • Procedure to check installation of thermal refractory lining
  • Packing of a Distillation or Scrubbing column
  • Packing a Reactor with Catalyst
  • Filling of desiccant into Drying Tower
  • Installation of filter medium and cartridges .
  • Installation of filter bags into a Bag House or Dust Collector
  • Procedure to check flexible couplings and bellows are fit for operation.
  • Filling a Mill with Beads

Ensure please always a robust tracking system is in place to monitor progress of these activities within a system and always complete the paperwork as proof of us conducting these actions.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

More thoughts on systematization…

I would just like to send a reminder around the importance of systemization and then prioritization.

We all understand the importance of the systemization of our projects, the systems provide the building blocks and order for all the preparation we do, plus if required the systemization provides focus and direction when it comes the time to handover or turnover systems from the construction team. Clearly displaying lists either electronically or on the wall of the commissioning war room, identifying what is in a system, lines, instruments, motors, lubrication, the list goes on and then marking when items have been checked out for cleanliness, loop function, motor rotation, whatever, does give direction as it plainly shows what needs to be checked out before handover and then can be chased down for closure.

Systems also should be created such that they mean something to the commissioning team, so when handed over we can actually commence our activities. A system handed over from construction that sits and waits for another system to be handed over to allow commissioning activities to commence, is a system ill-defined.

Let us also remember at the time of system identification, our work is not finished, when all systems in a plant unit, or on smaller projects the whole plant itself, have been identified they need to be listed in the priority order we wish the systems to be handed over to us, which will facilitate an effective start-up. Please get the prioritized systems lists to all engineering groups, including procurement, so the plant is built in the correct order to facilitate a successful start-up.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Keep doing those sanity checks…


We start our preparations for commissioning as early as is possible, which is the way to go, but we must be disciplined to sanity check and update what we write.

The drafting of early documents incorporates many assumptions, for it is simply the case that much detail is not known to us, especially if you are involved during the early Front End Engineering Design phases. So here, in this case, we as good commissioning engineers, must be vigorous in our back drafting of early documents prepared, Strategy and Philosophy documents, plans both of the actual commissioning effort plus manpower and potentially our budgets also. The overall project schedule will shift and change in these early stages of the project and we must be proactive to maintain an up-to-date copy of all our work.

It’s the start of things to come and a clear opportunity for the commissioning team to show a demonstration of the standards we will maintain as the projects life develops.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

The commissioning team and its pivotol role…

The role commissioning plays within the general interaction between project groups is my topic for the day.

As those of you who know me or indeed have read the book, I see the commissioning team being the pivotal interface primarily between the construction/Turnover team and the ongoing operations group, but it does not end there. The commissioning team must also forge close and successful relationships with: (in no priority order)

• The main project team including discipline leads and project engineers – to gain input to design, perhaps develop budgets and establish the commissioning element of contracts.
• Any key licensors whose technology will be utilized – how the licensors will be used, what is their scope and what commissioning needs to pay for.
• Principle vendors of major equipment – as with licensors, what role they play and what are the costs to the commissioning team
• The EPC companies – the EPC team need to understand the role the commissioning team play and where interactions need to take place, usually with design reviews and systemization and turnover
• The construction team – work together to develop a joint commissioning and construction schedule, in essence to become closely working unit
• The turnover or construction completions team – so Hanover is well organized and aligned
• The business team – so start up planning can be developed and operational business systems commissioned at the correct tine (e.g. SAP)

It is always advisable to draft a document to explain the roles, if needed by the commissioning team.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

More on commissioning issues we face…

A few more thoughts on what are the pressing issues facing commissioning engineers right now.

Communication – in today’s commissioning world, as in fact it always has been, getting the right message across to all project groups is vitally important. These communications include definition of the various terms used in the commissioning process, what start up means, what handover terms you will use and even what commissioning means (and pre-commissioning also). Getting the right terms you want to use, cast in stone and agreed with all project teams will make life so much easier.

Budget – while projects seem to be on the increase and work becomes more plentiful for commissioning practitioners, the demand on us to reduce our costs are never far away. This is a tough one to manage, while it is great that we are involved with major projects, if that is the case, the difficult part is assessing what elements of our services can be reduced to keep us competitive
and effective especially when we want to deliver a quality product. This scenario will play out all in good time; my hope is we still get to execute the full range of our capabilities to ensure a great start up, right the first time.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Current challenges…

It is not uncommon to be asked what are the pressing issues facing commissioning managers and engineers, in fact anybody related to our discipline at this time, here for what it is worth is my initial view…

Quality staff – Getting good experienced reliable staff onto our projects is a good initial challenge.
As the demand for commissioning personnel increases, which it will, striking the correct balance of having a team filled with both experienced and capable engineers plus willing and adaptable younger engineers and operations persons will be an interesting opportunity. I am very much in favour of encouraging our younger colleagues into the commissioning discipline.

Fostering a sound methodology – we must trust the role commissioning plays in the total life of a project, commissioning is simply not just turning up the day after construction has finished and pushing the big green button, convince projects and owners we, commissioning, have a vital role to play in the successful execution of projects. When times and cash get tough we are sometimes the expendable ones, remove us at your peril, a good start-up is directly proportional to the effort you put into the preparation, there is a need for a group to exclusively do that, that therefore is the important role we play…

Enough for now, perhaps more on this subject later?

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…


It is with some pleasure that I can report it is my intent to again speak at the Leeds University Commissioning event to be held between the 9th and 11th of July 2014. To my knowledge this is the oldest regular commissioning event in the world and it is always a privilege to be asked to speak at the course. Although my hectic schedule and day job sometimes gets in the way, speaking and spreading the commissioning word is an activity I really love to do and in essence is why I wrote the book.

Gentle reader my apologies in advance again as I pack my bag and climb onto another flight, I shall be travelling for a week or so, as such my messages and updates may be a little remiss…

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Let’s keep things simple…

I am a great believer in the power of simplicity and keeping things crystal clear. This can be a useful guide through all the commissioning phases.

Large complex plants and projects can be potentially overwhelming; this is where we must use a simplistic approach in all our commissioning endeavours. Avoid over complication, keep paper work systems simple and clear, easy to navigate through and easy to access. Do not let your plans be too involved, keep focus on the main things to be achieved and when. When spending time developing the actual procedures, do not ramble, keep communication clear, precise and to the point, I

have often been told a picture can replace a thousand words and in some in instances that can be very true. When creating and managing budgets, keep things simple and very transparent where we need to plan to and spend our cash allowance.

Be to the point in all communication, and very, very clear, simplicity in the end will be your friend.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Getting aligned…

The importance of alignment is always an important commissioning consideration.

Those of you who know me and or have read my book will know the importance I place in the role commissioning has, not only in delivering a plant safely to a condition where the end product is being made at the correct specification and design rate, but in getting to that point, the importance of a close and sound working relationship with the construction team.

The commissioning organization should at all costs avoid a silo type work environment where the construction guys do not know the flow of systems the commissioning team want to effectively bring a plant into operation. Share plans, sit together and work out obstacles and differences, know the reasons why there are any differences. It will be much better for the long term success of the project, if commissioning wants are highlighted (preferably on a plan or schedule) and the construction team try to integrate the start-up in their plans.

Good projects have a successful start-up as the main aim, sound commissioning practices are a key element in the delivery of that goal and working closely with all project groups especially construction will greatly assist in the successful delivery.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Paperwork organization…

Being an efficient commissioning team is directly proportional to the organization of the paperwork and our subsequent activities, that is the topic of today.

Having a system in place that allows one to easily find documents is a key factor in the effectiveness of the team. Consider carefully the file structure of the commissioning document system. Is there a need for general files, what are the key folders called? Are you organizing at system level, if so is there a file in place for each system and what subfolders do you need? Let me reinforce, the commissioning documentation system needs to be clear, simple and direct, conquer those three points and the teams life will be so much easier, especially when it comes time for audits!

Building further on the topic is document security. Large projects will create thousands of documents; even working alone on a smaller project could bring much heartache if your valuable list of procedures and plans are lost electronically. So please organize a secure home for the commissioning documentation library which is backed up each night.

Make plans to organize and secure your most important asset after the team, the documents that validate our work.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…