Managing the biggest investment in BAPCO’s history

SCreenshot GDAThe second day of Gulf Downstream Association's (GDA) TRANFORM Virtual Conference 2021 was opened by Raj Jhajharia, technical manager of GDA, who outlined the new reality of project management (the day's theme) as the industry strives to overcome the new challenges posed by today’s world

No-one would understand this new reality more than Ebhrahim Talib, deputy chief executive of Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO), who is in the process of overseeing the BAPCO Modernisation Project (BMP) - the biggest investment in the company’s history- to increase refining capacity, enhance produce slate, improve energy efficiency and help achieve its long-term sustainability goals. Jhajharia sat down for a fireside chat with Talib to discuss the management challenges and key considerations of conducting such a large project such as this. 

As Jhajharia pointed out, these mega projects do not get completed easily and there are a multitude of issues (such as the benefits not realised or budget over-running) that will have to be faced along the way. The technical manager asked Talib to explore the challenges BAPCO has faced with the BMP so far. 

Talib responded, “When you take out the biggest investment in the history of your company, you have to be clear on your objectives. Cost and schedule are the first things that come to mind, but focusing on that approach only is short sighted. You have the enablers for that and we were clear about four enablers that we focused on.”

“(i) Health, safety and environment of the people working in the facility and the community around us. This is non-negotiable. We have taken a commitment with every employee and contractor that everyone who steps into our facilities will return safely to their families every day. Injury will mean we have failed, irrespective of cost or schedule. You cannot equate or compromise on human value.”

“(ii) Equally important is quality. When it comes to a project, what gets you down is repeats and re-works; not doing it right the first time. Getting the quality right first is an absolute must. This needs to be embedded through each step along the way. Investment and quality assurance and quality control resources cannot be underestimated. The more you get, the more checks and balances, the safer you will be. And you will come below cost and schedule.”

“(iii) Third is system completion. What we have done differently this time is look at the equipment, processes, operations, technologies and support with a systematic approach. We have divided them, assigned ownership, custodianship and accountability to each system. From each and every term it will reduce cost and bring the schedule even lower.”

“(iv) Last but not least, we have three things: training, training and training. You cannot have enough training. This needs to be done right through the whole process. Where we are here, there is no other refinery, and so we have to plan for that well in advance in terms of the recruitment (what mix of experience and expertise you want) and training - it is vitally critical to us.”

Talib also offered advice for members of the sector looking to embark on similar large projects. He said, “For the future you need to look at your partner, establish strong communication and alignment. But it is very important to also look at doing things differently. Modularisation has proven its benefits in the past but we have found it be very region specific. It make sense to have the procurement, fabrication, testing and commissioning all in one place on the face of it, but look how this has functioned in this unprecedented times. We have experienced lockdowns and curfews everywhere and every part of the supply chain was impacted. This can have serious consequences if you have all your eggs in one basket, we have therefore taken multiple contracts to spread the risk.”

Talib noted that BAPCO, since its conception, has been a cornerstone of the economy of Bahrain and this is why they had decided to embark on the BMP. He commented, “We have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that BAPCO, which has served our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, is going to still be in existence and competing globally for our sons and future generations. We are writing history and putting a legacy for the future together.”

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