Plant turnarounds demand huge manpower from internal and external sources on a temporary basis. A ramped-up workforce is essential to successfully perform the extensive work to be carried out in a compressed time frame.
This cast of hundreds – often thousands – includes planners, managers, engineers, technicians, inspectors, contractors and suppliers. Two decades ago, when plants were generally smaller and controls were fewer, turnarounds were more manageable. They often called for 20-40 contractors, with no more than 500 contract workers on site in a given shift. Designated drivers loaded up their coworkers in vans, trucks and buses and headed directly to their assigned units. With a smaller headcount coming and going, workers spent more time on tools, usually working back-to-back, 12-hour shifts.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we see that the scope of turnaround work has scaled dramatically. Plant owners must allocate greater resources to maintain increasingly older units. Delays in scheduled maintenance call for more resources when that maintenance is finally performed. New units have been added to the scope, requiring additional resources. More controls are in place, necessitating a larger corps of managers and controls personnel there to execute and oversee them. Since normal operations are already shutting down, capital improvements are often scheduled simultaneously, adding even greater complexity to site management and the escalating headcount. These new dynamics have led to a tremendous surge in turnaround headcount at most plants. A 200,000 barrel-per-day refinery can see its on-site staff numbers bulge from 500 during normal operations to 2,000 for a turnaround. Depending on the volume of the work and the window of opportunity available, up to a million man-hours may be required. Shifts today commonly run 10 hours, with a two-hour downtime on each side to allow for the flood of outgoing and incoming laborers.
This new era of supersized turnarounds brings with it new complexities and liabilities as plant facilities accommodate a headcount well beyond normal capacity. Temporary auxiliary facilities and amenities must be erected, including site offices, first aid areas, cafeterias, meeting rooms, assembly tents, worker amenities and storage areas.
Yet, despite this dramatic growth, many contractors still handle the responsibility of transporting their workers to and from assigned parking lots, across public roads and into the plant site. In stark contrast to today’s highly sophisticated, safety-focused, productivity-driven turnarounds, the choice to use antiquated, decentralized worker transportation is rife with risks and inefficiencies.
Come back next week for part 2 of Today’s Supersized Turnarounds & Workforce Transportation.