Monthly Archives: May 2014

Paperwork systems…

For those who know me or have heard my presentations the commissioning paperwork system is very important to me, as it is the depository of all the documents that when fully complete, prove that the commissioning team have done everything possible to ensure a system is ready for operation.

I personally operate driven by a number of core values that are at the heart of me as a person, two of those values is for me to be a simple as possible and make everything clear. That can be a challenge when on larger projects with many systems, keeping our paperwork system neat, tidy, concise and easy to reference and obtain information quickly can pose us some issues. I know there are many excellent commissioning documentation management systems out there to help these processes and that is good, but pressure on our budgets unfortunately does not allow us the luxury of these electronic systems all the time.

The basis of a robust paperwork system is clearly defined in my book, however I continue to be amazed and pleased at the energy of our younger and gifted commissioning engineers and managers who when faced with the setup of a paperwork system, how slick they can make spreadsheets and other common software applications effectively manage paperwork and even track progress for us. EPC companies will have wonderful systems to track construction and handover progress, but we as a commissioning group should have simple systems also which track overall progress as cross reference and a backup to the main completions tracking system.

Keep the simple and clear premise in mind when developing your systems and enjoy creating efficient and effective new methods.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Piping systems…

In the process of commissioning utility and process units through the network of pipe rack systems, it is important to fully understand the implications.

We can consider the distribution of say a utility system in three phases and each potentially becoming a system in its own right,

1.       The generation system (boiler, water treatment plant etc.)

2.       The distribution system (pipe racks typically)

3.       The User within the plant unit or area.

Getting an understanding of when each aspect of these utility systems will be is ready is key, also when we need the systems handed over from construction, in the correct order, to facilitate efficient commissioning. If on a large complex with systems on pipe racks going to several plant areas, consider where isolation (perhaps additional to initial scope)may need to be installed so a fluid or gas or energy is not passing through an area potentially still under major construction, this obviously brings safety and other related complications. And of course introduces new commissioning systems.

It always goes back to fully knowing scope, understanding the roles and of course communication.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Why write commissioning procedures?

Blog drawing 1I thought it worth sharing an interesting point or question that has occurred on a number of occasions in my career, some quite recently.

So why do we need commissioning procedures? Why not start up on the regular standard operating procedures (SOP)? Well here is my reason why; for the first time undertaking any operation commissioning procedures must be considered over just SOP’s, it’s all to do with the check, check and check again principle to ensure an operation or system is fit for ongoing operation and service…

Let’s look at a basic little system:

Blog drawing 1


The SOP for this system will simplistically and probably say –

  1. Open control valve LCV 1 (LIC 1) and fill Water Tank A to set level. Put into AUTO control
  2. Set FCV 1, control valve back to Water Tank A at x% in manual
  3. Start Pump A and put FIC 1 into auto control

These are very basic steps, but in essence Operating procedures put a system to work.

What then will the commissioning procedures then say?

  1. Stroke LCV 1 control valve with no fluid to prove limits, (25%/50%/75% and 100%)
  2. Open LCV 1 to Water Tank A and start to fill, when the LL alarm on LIC 1 clears, close FCV 1. Log the alarm clear point and check with design and data sheet criteria.
  3. Drain fluid from Tank A until LL alarms. Log the alarm clear point and check with design and data sheet criteria.
  4. Open LCV 1 and fill Tank A until LL and then L alarms clear. Close LCV 1. Log the alarm clear point and check with design and data sheet criteria.
  5. Drain fluid from Tank A until L alarms. Stop draining. Log the alarm clear point and check with design and data sheet criteria.

… and so on until all alarms are checked “live” . We would then go on to do the same checks for FIC 1 and FCV 1. Next we would also fill the tank to overflowing and check the overflow pipe is suitable.

A check would be made that that Pump A starts and stops at all required places, local, DCS and perhaps the MCC.

So we can see, there are many more steps and checks we need to do the very first time, (the commissioning procedure) than will be subsequently performed each time this system is put into service.

I hope this briefly explains why we write commissioning procedures?

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…


Although those of us throughout the world who practice this wonderful discipline of ours, commissioning, do roughly the same thing, there are many different variants on a similar theme as to what those “things” mean.

As I have travelled the world commissioning plants, usually the first thing I am asked to explain is what common commissioning terms mean to me and hence what terms we will use on the project at hand. In my book I try and explain the terms we use and in my presentations I also try to discuss the commonly used expressions, it would be really nice if one day, in whichever company we work, or indeed at whatever location, we could all use a common language in terms of meaning to the different phases and activities, for we do have differences and it does create confusion.

So consider a good terminology document for your project, especially if many different groups, contractors and client are coming together to commission a plant. In the document  offer explanation for many of the attributes of our work, what systems mean, what handover means and the words used, what cleaning terms, loop testing means, the list goes on. Having a solid and well understood definition of terms will help everyone understand the work we have to do and how we do it.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Comminication again…

The importance of good communication is evident in all areas of our lives and commissioning obviously is no exception.

When considering all manner of different work faces we address in conducting our work, the importance of good communication is never far away. An enemy of our is that of assuming, and the topic of assumption is an interesting on as it has two sides to its sword.

When we are in early on projects and drafting our initial documents, assumptions play a very important role in justifying our thoughts to those other project and related organizations to the basis in which we are working, these can be assumptions to the manpower, strategy, plans and schedules. Clearly defined and documented assumptions help us explain our activities and planning, an excellent quote I have remembered “attack the assumptions and not the person”

However, making assumptions to the meaning of words, documents, contracts  roles, etc. can be a different proposition altogether. Where possible I would always advocate gaining an understanding and clarity to all aspects of our commissioning work which leaves one in any doubt as to what something means, hence the requirement for open and honest communication to seek and define terminology and meaning.

Find out for sure, what is is you do not fully understand…

Safe and successful commissioning always.

Interaction with other project groups…

At a recent event I was asked to speak at, a specific question came up about the different groups within a project the commissioning team interface with. Lets have a look at them…

When we first come into the project environment, we intially interact with the project team either entirely the client team or an integrated project managment team. Here we give input to the plant design and develop the initial commissioning preparations including drafting the commsisioning strategy and developing systems and plans.

As design develops, the commissioning team interact with the EPCm team and the turnover organization, here we develop plans to accept the systems from the EPCm team.

Some projects have Licensors and principle Vendors, here the commissioning team liase with these groups to ensure that all correct preparation and check-out has been achieved for their respective technologies. In some cases the licensors may pass the design of their technology to an Engineering contractor, here the commissioning team work with these teams to have input to design and potentially turnover requirements.

If some of the build is at Module fabricators, the commissioning team will work with these teams to ensure any pre-commissioning requirements are met, understood and planned for.

Finally the all inportant operations and maintenance teams work with the commissioning groups to incorporate their teams supporting the commissioning group  and handover details are agreed.

Large projects will need many hours of discussion to formulate plans for all these work faces.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


Checking it out…

Since my book was published in 2011, I have found it a constant and considerable privilege to be asked to speak on the topic of commissioning not only at commissioning conferences worldwide, but at institution evenings and occasionally at independent companies, it is always an honour. As I negotiated my way through my day today, a favourite saying, something that sums commissioning up for me, came to mind which I would like to share today.

Commissioning; Check, check, check, check until your checker can check no more!

Normally we can associate this saying with what we do at the jobsite, punch listing, checking the loop test is OK, the lubrication has been completed, a column has been packed satisfactorily and perhaps a reactor filled to the right level with catalyst etc. but our precious discipline of commissioning goes further than those times checking out and delivering our systems at site.

It occurred to me today as the hours went by and my time was eaten up spent checking the systemization was OK, the priority order of those systems looks right, the schedule checks out OK, I checked if the job description for a colleague as acceptable, our preparations for steam blowing look to be in shape, all checks, all balances that our commissioning preparation and the ultimate goal of a safe and successful start-up is always foremost in our minds, our driver and our goal.

No doubt tomorrow will bring more checks and knowing that they help us succeed, I will welcome them.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Commissioning System File…

I often consider what should be in and out of my system file, so I list a few things that sometimes get overlooked to document…

The commissioning system file is the all-important depository of all things commissioning associated with a commissioning system. In total there are potentially over 30 entries that may be required, each commissioning system should be appraised for the quantity and type of documentation required to prove the check-out and commissioning is complete as it can be. Please let us remember the commissioning documentation system is the proof we as commissioning teams have done everything we possibly can do to check out a system is ready for start-up and operation.

As well as a home for all pre-commissioning, commissioning and start-up procedures, it is also the home for all other check sheets that we generate. My book indicates what the standard system file should look like and contain, but common topics that can be omitted are:

·         Dry commissioning procedures (no chemicals)

·         Wet commissioning procedures (water and process fluids)

·         Vendor commissioning procedures

·         Chemical Cleaning Procedures

·         Pigging to clean procedures

·         Steam Blows

·         Inerting procedures

·         Simultaneous construction and commissioning activity procedures

Let us not forget we work in a discipline is very changing and our documentation systems should reflect that.

Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

Commissioning HAZOP actions…

During the course of early design, some actions from HAZOP process will fall to the commissioning organization to close out; a system should be considered to manage these actions.

As the design progresses and Hazard studies take place, a number of actions will be assigned to the commissioning team to address. A good example will be the development of a specific procedure or check sheet to address a particular concern in the process. Many of these actions will actually be concluded or answered at a time significantly later than the period of the actual hazard study being undertaken and actions closed down, so consideration must be made by the commissioning team to not only answer the hazard study action as best as it can be during detail design, but to establish a system that manages the action list until such time as the action item can be closed out via the drafting of the actual commissioning procedure or whatever the required action close out is.

This can be a challenge on a large project over many years, but a system needs to be put in place. Something that can be overlooked, but do not be caught out at the commissioning HAZOP or PSSR with outstanding actions.
Safe and successful commissioning to you always…

A pleasing day…

It is with great satisfaction that I can report that today, Friday 2nd May, my book made number 1 in Plant Design and number 2 in the Chemical Engineering sections of Amazon USA.

It is a very proud moment for my books to have made such high rankings in one of the leading book distributors in the USA.

I am very grateful for everyone who has bought a copy of the book and I really hope it is helping you and serving you well?

Safe and successful commissioning always…