In today’s competitive business environment, oil and gas projects often must be completed on compressed schedules and in less-than-ideal conditions — tight footprints, reduced labor availability and elevated work requirements. These challenges can create schedule delays, negative project cost impacts, and increased safety and quality concerns, but one delivery system can reduce the impact of these challenges.

Modularization, or removing a portion of the construction of an oil and gas project off-site to a shop where work can progress in a more accommodating environment or outside the realm of construction permit requirements, is often an effective strategy that can significantly reduce a project's timeline. The impact to a project's schedule depends on the scope of modularization, but in the case of a project that includes a high level of equipment modules, pipe racks or stair towers, it can reduce a timeline by as much as 25 percent.

It can also significantly enhance safety at the site — particularly for projects with a tight footprint, dense workforce demands and significant elevated work — by moving construction work hours off-site and creating a safer environment where fewer moving parts and people are confined to a small area.

Modularization can be integrated into virtually any project; however, it's a construction method with unique execution demands and risks that must be fully understood by the engineer and contractors to achieve full benefits.

The building strategy can yield significant rewards, but if it isn't planned and executed properly it can end up costing time and money.

The key to a successful project is partnering with an engineer-procure-construct (EPC) firm with a proven track record that understands the importance of involving all project stakeholders in the planning process as early as possible and aligning project objectives and drivers from the start. EPC firms also must have experience developing long-term successful relationships with modular shops that have the capability to fabricate, erect and ship modules on tight schedules and without compromising safety or quality.

With careful and strategic planning from a project's onset, modularization can help organizations achieve their goals through safer, higher quality and more effective project execution in the oil and gas industry.

Greg Welch is an associate project engineer at Burns & McDonnell. He has 30 years of experience in project management, engineering, design and construction. In his current role he leads technical design and project execution to help clients achieve their goal and be successful.