[TRANSCRIPT] Modular Construction In Oil & Gas - The Operator Perspective

Tim Haïdar

In this exclusive podcast, Tim Haðdar, Editor-in-Chief ofOil & Gas IQ speaks with Martin Clutterbuck, Manager, Fabrication and Modularisation at Devon Canada about what’s coming down the pike in modular construction from an international operator’s viewpoint.

TH Tim Haðdar

MC Martin Clutterbuck

TH Hello and welcome; this is Tim Haider and today we're speaking with Martin Clutterbuck, who is the Manager, Fabrication and Modularisation at Devon Canada. We're going to be speaking today ahead of the Modular Construction and Prefabrication for Oil and Gas summit which is taking place from 15th to 17th September, 2014, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Martin, thank you so much for joining us today.

MC Thank you. Good to be here.

TH Martin, let's get going with a little bit about how you approach modularisation at Devon Canada. Let us into an insight of what you guys have got going on, on the ground.

MC At DEV in Canada we really want to modularise as much of our major projects that we do in the oil industry. We predominantly do work in heavy oil and in the SAGD so we build our facilities based on as much modularisation as we can do, that being pipe-rack modules and the equipment-building type modules.

TH Now, obviously you're on the ground in the oil sense. With regards to modularisation what have you learnt from the lessons of offshore module design to improve on onshore modularisation in Alberta?

MC So the modules in Alberta have really evolved over the last 25 years from being small, pipe-rack modules to being larger-process modules and the ability to put more controls, more equipment inside a module reducing the amount of what we would call stick-built work in the field. So the idea is to make smaller modules or multiple modules and build that into our module programmes in Alberta so that we can install more equipment in our module and fabrication yards to help reduce field man hours, to help improve safety and obviously reduce some of the environmental footprint that we have at our facilities.

TH Now, what would you say were the key drivers behind Devon Canada's idea to go modular instead of stick built?

MC There are a number of items that drive that for us. Safety is critical to us, safety of our own people and of our workers, but also process safety, so that we do a lot more work upfront so that we have enough process safety and human safety factors designed into these modules. As well as safety there is an opportunity for us to save money by doing this work in a larger, urban area. Typically our projects are out in an area that's not well populated. So we need to build more in our urban areas by doing modularisation that helps us to do that and that helps us to reduce cost overall on the project.

As well, these are remote areas where these facilities go. If we can reduce the amount of man hours in the field, reduce the amount of people that we have in the field, it will help us to reduce the large camps that we tend to have to build to house these people during the installation process. So if we can modularise that helps us to reduce the manpower numbers in the field to install modules.

TH Okay. Now, the reasons that you gave are all cogent reasons for wanting to modularise in your operations, but with any modular construction one of the key challenges is going to be logistical and labour or manpower in nature. How are you tackling those challenges in the field?

MC Well, in Alberta we do have challenges having enough qualified, trained labour to do that work. So by bringing the work to more urban areas, central areas in Alberta and maybe North America, we're able to get access to that labour pool a lot better. Obviously if we can do more work on the modules and less work in the field in the urban areas where we have that labour capacity we don't have to move so many people to the field, we don't have so much travel. It just reduces the amount of work that we need to do in the field.

Now, one of the key drivers in this is that, you know, we need to ensure that our engineering is complete and done, that we're not trying to start too early, because if we try and start work too early without a significant amount of engineering complete then that will not enable us to do as much modularisation in the urban areas where we have manpower. And that tends to drive more hours and fieldwork, which we are trying to reduce. In Alberta also we have a very good programme for labour in apprentices and trades, but we still struggle with all the work going on in our industry to meet our manpower requirements. So putting more work into the shops and modularisation helps in reducing that burden for us in the field.

TH With regards to logistically moving these modules of a different size from one place to another, particularly given the fact that you're going to be going through large areas of wilderness to get there, what are your challenges there?

MC Well, we do have logistical limitations. In Alberta we have what we call a high-load corridor that allows us to transport up to certain sizes of modules on certain highways to these areas. And these high-load corridors are spread out across the province, but in certain areas, especially going to Fort McMurray and up to Conklin area where some of these projects are. So the high-load corridor enables us to transport a module that is 24 feet wide up to 130 feet long and 24 feet high.

So we are to some extent landlocked, obviously, because of our location, and there are restrictions to the size of module that we can move up and down the highway. Based on those size requirements there're also weight restrictions that we can move modules to. Now, if anyone knows anything about Alberta, we have a fairly long winter, so spring time we do have some road bans that causes some issues, but typically we're able to move a maximum-sized module up and down the highway. So, Tim, we need to use those high-load corridor routes to get to our remote areas to do the work.

Maybe I can just add; the size of the modules is really different than what you would see in the offshore business where you can move thousands and thousands of tons of equipment via the ocean or canals or whatever method that you use there.

So we are very limited. And so we talked earlier about looking at what the offshore industry has done; certainly that helps us in trying to compact as much into a module as we can, but also in Alberta here we built the infrastructure, the high-load corridor, for this work.

So it was important for us to have this infrastructure in place and we continue to work with local governments and authorities to grow that infrastructure and to make sure that it continues to serve the industry requirements over the next ten, 15, 20 years as we continue to grow the oil sands.

TH Thank you very much for your time today, Martin, and we look forward to welcoming you to the event.

MC That's great. Talk to you later.