Quality Considerations During FEED (Front-End Engineering and Design) Preliminaries

Following the completion of the feasibility study for the project, strategic decision-taking and goal-setting, the second phase of front-end engineering and design (FEED) begins. No less impor­tant than the feasibility-study stage, this phase of technical stud­ies establishes the most likely "geometry" of how the project can actually proceed. The success of the rest of the project from this point will depend not only on the fundamental feasibility of the idea of the project in principle but the specifics of the engineering "how-to" developed in this phase of technical studies. The owner should do a huge effort to choose and select expertise and expe­rience of the consultancy with this particular type and scale of project. One of the most important considerations the experience of engineering projects vary depending on the kind of industrial project whereas it belongs to the petrochemical industries, oil and gas plant or power stations or other industrial projects.

For example, in the case of small projects such as building apartments, offices, or a small factory, the construction "gender" of the building required will be more fully developed in this phase of initial engineering studies. Will reinforced concrete or precast or pre-stressed concrete be required? The answer to this question determines the construction elements needed: solid slabs or flat slab or hollow blocks, different types of columns, beams, frames, shear walls, etc. The selection and amount of each of these choices will be a function of the size of the building itself and the requirements of the owner.

In the case of major works such as stadiums or oil and gas proj­ects, the complexity of this phase increases as a function of the inter­section of these studies with spatial principles. This can involve such critical matters as the capacity of a land surface, as a function of soil type, to support load-bearing structures of various kinds. This, will in turn determine the type of foundation to be designed and the depth to which it is to be sunk. In oil and gas projects, considerations of this kind affect decisions about how pipelines are to be laid and-or how other methods of surface transport are undertaken onsite. Yet another element that these studies must determine is the relationship during the project’s construction of the various civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering disciplines involved.

The engineering studies are an important input to the process of determining precisely the project’s requirements to be stipulated in the Statement Of Requirement (SOR). That document contains all the owners information, which means it is also a crucial document for the quality assurance system. The SOR is not only required for new projects or large-scale projects but should also be used when making some modifications to the structure. In the case of a resi­dential building, the owner should determine the number of floors required, the number of apartments on each floor, and the number of shops and any other useful requirements.

Informed by the specifications in the SOR, the engineering office presents its engineering study in a Basis Of Design docu­ment (BOD). Therein, the Engineering Consulting office clarifies the relevant codes and specifications for the design, the equations to be used for calculations, any computer software package(s) that will be used, the required number of copies of drawings, and the sizes of the drawings. In addition, where relevant, other informa­tion may also be included in the BOD such as terrestrial or mar­itime meteorological data and physical survey data. The BOD is reviewed jointly by the owner and the Engineering office, and all updates and revisions are noted in each version of the BOD that emerges from further review.

Attention must be maintained regarding the protocols followed in the handling of drawings and their updates. The group responsi­ble for FEED should be sent any prepared drawings so that they can be reviewed and carried out. The specified period of time is agreed upon in advance, the drawings are returned to the Engineering Office of the owner. Comments are returned to the owner until the engineering studies reach the final stage.

In large projects, this phase may take months, placing some­thing of a premium on project cost control and an increased weight of responsibility on the engineers responsible for maintaining a running yet increasingly accurate estimate of project costs going forward. The goal in cost control at this stage is the refinement of the project cost estimate to as accurate a level as possible given that preliminary studies are being completed and the project schedule is being finalized to fit what the engineering studies have determined.

At this same point, before actual construction begins, and given what the engineering study serves to disclose about the ways and means now available to proceed, another important area of future costs on which to begin to get a handle is the ongoing cost of project maintenance. This starts with determining the project lifetime, not­ing the rules of construction being followed, type of structure and method of maintenance. The project site itself and the surround­ing environment must be protected from weather as a measure for reducing the cost of maintenance over time.

There are various protection systems that each has its impact of the project outlays curve. Using stainless steel, for example, entails high costs at the beginning of construction followed by periodic main­tenance that adds relatively little further cost. Alternatively, there are protection systems with low initial capital cost whose mainte­nance over time will increase the amount to be budgeted annually for inspections and any maintenance required as a result thereof.

The engineering studies should take into account various aspects of the structure connected with its geographic location and the consequent ease or difficulty of maintenance work. Similarly, the initial selection of mechanical equipment has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the various possibilities: project units of the highest reliability and thus low maintenance expense but a high initial capital outlay, or equipment with lower reliabil­ity ratings and probable increasing maintenance costs down the road but an inexpensive initial price tag. In rubric after rubric, the engineering studies have to bring to the surface the same choice, between high initial costs followed by anticipated low ongoing maintenance expense versus cheaper expedients with unknown and possibly growing maintenance expense down the road For example, in a power station construction project, a water tank is manifesting reliability issues. Does it need repair or clean during the operation of the plant along its life time? The answer to this question entails deciding whether an additional tank is needed. If it is not needed, other design principles can be followed. Judgment calls of this kind make special demands on the experience of the engineers and contractors involved. Any error could result in future problems that put the project at a serious loss, whereas a simpler solution entailing lower costs can be performed from the beginning without loss in operation performance.