A few weeks ago, I wrote about a floating production, offloading and storage (FPSO) presentation shared with me. These, because of my background in offshore oil and gas production, personally fascinate me. As a freshly minted electrical engineer back in the day, I found it challenging to do projects on offshore platforms because they included safety shutdown systems, power generation and distribution, process control, and telecommunications.
FPSOs and floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) vessels add challenges way beyond what I saw–navigation, thrust, ballast and much more complex processes to safely control.
Emerson’s Knut Jorgensen and Wärtsilä‘s Ingebjørg Lien recently presented From MAC To “BIG MAC” For FLNG at the Commercialising FLNG Asia 2008 conference last month. The focus of their presentation was to discuss generic floating LNG plant design, technologies and expertise that Emerson and Wärtsilä combine to deliver.
The name Big MAC comes from the main automation contractor acronym that’s been increased in scope. Engineering services extend to electrical, instrumentation, telecommunications and navigation. Wärtsilä adds dual fuel engines (natural gas and diesel), generators, thrusters, and power distribution systems to the main automation contracting services normally provided by Emerson–design, engineering, project management, and project execution around the instrumentation, control, and safety systems.
What reinforced my notion of vastly greater complexity was the breadth of scope in each area. For instance, in the safety and automation system area, the scope includes the production automation, hull automation, ballast and cargo monitoring and control, power management, safety, fire & gas, emergency shutdown systems, and the FLNG information management system (IMS).
This information needs to be shared among the crew, who are located on many levels of the vessel from the engine rooms and high voltage (HV) rooms down low to the engine control room, central control room and bridge at the higher levels.
Knut mentioned the goal for a successful project given this complexity is to do less work at the fabrication yard and pre-commission as many of the systems in modules as possible. This reduces overall engineering and commissioning time and finds the problems earlier when they are easier to solve.
Knut also believes that wireless instrumentation can be a cost-effective alternative for 20 to 25% of the onboard instrumentation measurements. Anything to reduce the overall weight on these vessels increases their efficiency. And, wireless devices help eliminate cables, conduit, cable tray, and the overall steel and space required. For a typical 17,000+ I/O system, this could mean $2 million USD in capital savings plus the ongoing weight savings, which translate into lower operational costs.
A final big challenge I gleaned was the global scope of these projects. The engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contractors for both the hull and topside may be located in different regions, as are the owners, Emerson/Wärtsilä project center, and module fabrication sites. Global coordination and project management of resources in the U.S., Europe, India, Japan, Australia, China, Singapore and other locations is critical. Executing these as part of a “Big MAC” is an important step in reducing project risks, purchasing interfaces, and interface management.