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You are about to make a major investment for your company spending multi-million dollars in favor of hopefully handsome return on your investment. So, what are some of the big picture criteria to consider ensuring selection of the best available quality equipment is a success?
Here is a starting list you may want to build upon to fit to your specific business needs and applications:
1.BIDS and PROPOSALS
You have send out your specifications and have received several bids back. Here are some considerations in selecting a successful bidder:
Understand what the final price includes. Ask each of the OEMs for a specific break out of cost for each specific scope based on your template. I have seen cases where the successful bidder was the lowest price provider who became the most expensive supplier once they got the job. The purchaser found out about cleverly hidden numerous exclusions that had to be added back in causing confusion, distrust not to speak of a steep spike in the final cost and possible lead time impact.
Ask them to clearly identify scope adders not in your template whether they have a cost and/or time impact. This will help you create a base line to compare all bids.
Whether you are a savvy Turbo Machinery user or a first time buyer, it is important to identify the desired big picture outcome and ask the OEMs for services or options they believe they could provide in support of the final result that is not listed in your specifications. Sometimes outsourcing or consolidating services may be useful where as in others you may want to diversify and not risk the success of the operation to one major supplier.
Compare the base cost (ie, cost of the equipment) vs performance and reliability vs maintenance cost vs OEMs’ level of support and urgency and their overall after sale performance track record. This is really important in proper selection of your equipment, especially if you are planning to own the equipment for at least 20 years.
Your specifications vs the OEM’s. What is the min power, min train efficiency, max heat rate (of gas turbine) required in the field? What is the base ISO condition performance of the OEM’s engine? How does that compare with your site conditions?
How about emissions, NOx, CO? What are the future emissions regulations going towards? Should you consider Dry NOx technology, water injection, or can you live with the standard emissions? The answer depends on where you would be operating in the world and how clean you want the environment to be vs cost and maintenance considerations.
Fuel Quality. The performance of your Turbo Machinery is as good as what goes into it. Dry NOx injectors are more sensitive to fuel quality. Make sure the OEM is part of reviewing your fuel source and get their approval. If you are stuck with the quality of fuel, then make sure the OEM has a robost plan in detecting failures ahead of time and supporting injector change outs with minimum down time.
Air Quality. Is the installation in desert, coastal, extreme cold environment, industrial or even forest with blooming season? This has a direct impact on proper selection of the filtration system.
What are the vibration considerations? Is the equipment going on a fixed or floating platform, fast moving ferry or a ship, roof of a building or a basement?
How about noise requirements? Will the equipment be installed in a residential or commercial area? A hospital or an unmanned plant? Should the equipment be fully enclosed, ie, the driver and driven or partially enclosed?
What are the gas, fire, and smoke detections and suppression requirements for the site vs the equipment? Should the alarms be based on a voting or individual detection system? Does the installation site have an independent detection system?
Reliability vs Availability of the equipment with regards to operation requirements should also be considered.
To ensure success in the overall project, make sure you have the following meetings with your major OEMs:
Kick-off Meeting: Typically OEM’s Sales is involved during project and bid/proposal process. And, from your side, management and hopefully some strictly technical personnel are involved. When a job is secured contractually however, most likely players on both sides will change. A kick-off meeting is a hand off from the first set of players to the execution teams on both sides to ensure every one is on the same page of deliverables and expectations including but not limited to technical scope, commercial details, line of communications and an overview of the project milestones.
Design Review Meeting: Depending on the complexity of the project you should insist on a design review meeting. Although, in my experience it has always been helpful to both sides to hold this crucial meeting to ensure a smooth field operation. This meeting should be held by the OEM after they have received your comments on the drawings. It should be clear that the OEM is still responsible for accuracy of the design as the “black box” is their core competency not yours. You are just there to understand and agree on all interfacing systems – such as any required hand shaking, or specific user connections and any required inputs to their equipment.
Pre-Commissioning Meeting: Make sure you allocate a meeting at the site with all the players including your contractors, operation personnel and the OEMs. Typically, there is again a hand over from the execution team to the field team from both sides. Although, major key players like Project Managers on both sides are still on the project usually until first production use. If you can have this meeting prior to the arrival of the equipment as there will be time to react depending on the outcome of the meeting. For example, if the final set of drawings, or manuals have not been received. Or, if you have to organize for special crane that was not already scheduled. Ask for an agenda from the OEMs upfront. The desired outcome of this meeting is to
4.BROWN or GREEN FIELD
Depending on answers to the following questions, your approach to selecting and maintaining your equipment may be different:
5.NEW or REFURBISHED EQUIPMENT
New or not new, that’s the question. Well, the answer depends on your site conditions – relatively constant or a depleting field, lead times and delivery urgency as at times, refurb’ed equipment could be delivered quicker; and how long do you need the equipment for which brings me to the next question. Is leasing an option for your specific operation?
Price consideration. Is there any major savings for a refurb? Consider what you have to give up and what you would be gaining by going a refurb route.
OEM’s Refurb specification requirements. If you decide on a refurb equipment, make sure all performances, emissions, noise attenuations, vibration limits, warranties and guarantees are the same as those of the new equipment.
Review OEM’s own test requirements. What tests are static, simulated or dynamic and whether the entire train is tested? In case of compressor sets, is it closed or open loop test? In case of generator sets, the kind of load banks do they use and how the outcome compares to that of your site and whether they can simulate load sharing conditions.
Pay close attention to the factory set up conditions vs your site’s. For example, what slave (non-contractual) systems or fuel type is used and their impact on the performance. Pay close attention as well, to how the package is secured to the ground. Is it on vibration mounts, stands or directly on the ground and compare it to your installation site.
If the test results are based on ISO conditions, ask them to normalize the results to your site conditions.
Ask for a list of test operations in advance for review. Make sure the back up system is thoroughly tested in case of power or fuel failures for safe shutdown of the unit or switching to say a secondary fuel, if available.
After review of the OEMs list of tests, determine whether any other tests should be added to the OEM’s standard tests based on failures you may have experienced in the field with previous turbo machinery operations.
Understand the difference between an Observe vs Witness test. Depending on which term has been used (and paid for), it could have a time impact on the schedule, which may or may not work in your favor.
Determine which tests should be attended (driver, driven, entire package, BOPs) and who from your organization should attend. Sometimes, sending operation personnel is a better bet than non-technical management!
Ask for site tests after the installation and make sure you understand possible deviation from the factory tests. Review margin of errors and whether they are acceptable.
Ask for average time it takes to perform the site test, who performs it, set up requirements, and plan for it.
7.Reports and Schedules
Ask for the major milestone schedules. Ensure inputs to those milestones are clearly defined and responsible disciplines assigned. For example, cannot meet a Design Review milestone with the OEM, if their drawings are not submitted on time. Or, drawings could be delayed if you have not provided design criteria to your suppliers such as filtration, pressure, flow requirements, installation configuration (indoor, outdoor, controls room, etc).
Compare the OEM’s schedule with your site’s delivery of other suppliers’ equipment such as Balance of Plant. Do you need to stage the different equipment at site upon delivery or can they be directly installed in their designated locations?
Understand what portion of tests are static, simulated, dynamic, a sub-system or a train and determine its performance implication at site during start up and commissioning. Even if the OEM is guaranteeing performance, if there are serious site failures, it is costing you expensive down time to remedy those limitations.
Ask for the factory tested fuel type and set up, and determine their performance impact based on your site conditions. Is there any meaningful impact to the actual results due to those variations?
Ask for a consolidated report to include results of the performance test both at ISO and normalized to your site conditions, as well as to list all variables not tested but guaranteed such as noise or emissions.
... to be continued
(The author is a consultant to the turbomachinery industry)