Becht Engineering Contributes to Successful Turnaround at Valero Three Rivers

Becht Engineering Contributes to Successful Turnaround at Valero Three Rivers


Valero’s Three Rivers Refinery is a 400-acre site with a total throughput capacity of approximately 100,000 barrels per day. It is located  midway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, in the heart of the southeast Texas shale oil counties, most notably the Eagle Ford Shale formation. When the first members of the Becht Engineering team arrived in Three Rivers, the town had the feel of a Wild West gold rush. It was a small, windy, dusty town with the occasional tumbleweed rolling down the narrow streets, but it always has been a tight-knit community with a lot of heart. Entrepreneurs have since added a few new restaurants and lodging options, but the Becht Engineering pioneers who arrived in 2012 scrambled to find available rental spaces for their travel trailers and frequently gathered in the evenings to swap stories while grilling steaks or boiling crawfish in their makeshift camps. Despite the challenges, Becht Engineering has succeeded in supporting local management in what has been termed one of the highest performing shutdowns to date under the relatively new Valero-Turnaround  Excellence Program (V-TEP).

Advisor Frank Markins’ role at Three Rivers began in January 2012 as the interim Turnaround Manager until the position could be filled by Valero. Mr. Markins’ initial responsibilities included scope collection and evaluation, along with collection and evaluation of scope for the 2012 POU/POT outage.

threeriversIn March 2012, Becht Engineering added Master P6 Scheduler, Scott Dickerson, to the team.  Mr. Markins and Mr. Dickerson developed the plans and schedule for the 2012 event, and supported a maintenance outage in August 2012 in the Crude and Hydrocracker units.  Becht Engineering subsequently recruited Cliff Galey as the Lead Turnaround Planner for the 4Q 2013 turnaround.

In January 2013, Norman Edelman was hired by Valero as the Turnaround Planning Superintendent, and Frank Markins transitioned into the role of Turnaround Advisor. That same month, Becht Engineering Advisors Jerry Horak and Robert Bracero traveled to Three Rivers to conduct a Risk Based Work Selection (RBWS) session for the 2013 FCC / Alky / DOT Turnaround. That effort prompted site management to re-evaluate several items of scope that were eventually delayed until the 2018 event.

The execution contractors for the 4Q 2013 turnaround provided planners for their scope, and the planning and scheduling effort was in full swing.  As the team grew, the need for additional space resulted in a corporate decision to build a permanent turnaround office complex. Frank Markins developed plans with the contractor, and by May 1, the team had relocated to its new home.  

Many processes were upgraded during the planning and scheduling phases of the turnaround.  A full operations planning team was assigned to the group to develop the shutdown, clearing, isolation and blinding, chemical cleaning, and permitting procedures for the scope. Two maintenance planners were assigned to develop the instrument/electrical and rotating equipment plans. An inspection planner was added to the team to provide detailed inspection steps and expected conditions for the mechanical scope. The plans then were reviewed by a cross functional team of Valero execution coordinators and revised according to their field experience.  

The main scope items for 4Q 2013 turnaround included:

  • DOT Unit – Catalyst change in two reactors; inspection and repairs on fixed equipment.
  • FCC Unit – Overhaul Main Air Blower and Wet Gas Compressor; inspect and repair on the fixed equipment in the Gas Con section; inspect and repair of slide valves on the FCC Structure, but no other work planned in the structure.
  • HF Alkylation Unit – Replace the top section of the IsoStripper; replace two large drums and 14 heat exchangers; inspect and repair fixed equipment; replace a lot of piping and flanges; inspect and machine several more flanges (as discovered); shop all critical motor-operated valves and control valves.

As pre-turnaround activities increased, so did the execution coordination staff.  Becht Engineering provided several coordinators to fill necessary roles: Michael DeHoyos, Michael Craighead, and Neal Daves filled roles as field execution coordinators in the FCCU. Sonny Purvis and Tate Becker filled roles as Logistics Coordinators. Rod Reinhardt and AJ Clouatre were the NDE Coordinators, while Phillip Hughes backed up Scott Dickerson as the Night Scheduler.

Pre-turnaround training was a process that was significantly upgraded prior to the shutdown. Mr. Edelman and Frank Markins developed a detailed training program that began four weeks prior to oil out. The objective was to review the turnaround processes with the execution teams and contractors at least one hour each day until oil out. In those training sessions, several issues were solved prior to execution and, overall, resources were better prepared than in the past.  

The 2013 FCC / Alky / DOT turnaround was a fairly large undertaking, considering the size of the refinery relative to the size of the turnaround. The site completed 168,423 contractor man hours without an OSHA Recordable injury, and only 18 minor first aids.  

The schedule was not met as planned since there was one delay that was beyond Valero’s control.  On October 22, all incoming power to the site was interrupted due to an outage 30 miles south of Three Rivers. At that time, maintenance was being performed on the plant’s UPS system; therefore, there was no power to keep the other operating units on line. As a result, the entire plant was deinventoried through the flares, and all turnaround activities were shut down for two days.

In addition, the FCCU Main Air Blower (MAB) and Wet Gas Compressor had been sent to a shop in Houston for overhaul.  While in the shop, several major discovery items were found on the MAB, and its return was delayed by five days, thus delaying the mechanical completion and startup of the FCCU.  The site also experienced delays to the turnaround schedule during the FCCU startup, which shut down work in the HF Alkylation unit.  The startup exclusion zone was planned for six to twelve hours, but actual startup took more than seven shifts.  This delayed the mechanical completion and startup of the HF Alkylation unit by four days.

During the Decision Review Board (DRB) discussions, Three Rivers turnaround management explained the planning and scheduling processes of including contingency in not just the cost, but also the schedule, and because of that contingency the site would be better able to predict the outcome of both the cost and schedule well before the execution was complete.  

On the cost side, the team added costs to items expected to be encountered during discovery and repairs. In terms of schedule, previous Valero Turnarounds had scheduled their critical path work on the basis of 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, with no days off for fatigue or unforeseen delays. To date, no Valero site had succeeded in meeting their schedule.  Three Rivers proposed to work the critical paths on the basis of 7 days per week, 10 hours per shift, with each 15th day off for fatigue, and three days were added to the schedule for unforeseen delays.  Because of the scheduling contingency, Three Rivers had a much greater probability of meeting the proposed schedule. The realistic contingencies were a major factor in Valero Headquarters touting the 4Q 2013 turnaround at Three Rivers as one of the most successful since the inception of the  Valero-Turnaround Excellence Process (V-TEP).  Even though the turnaround was beyond schedule, it was completed under budget. 


About The Author

Frank Markins has 25 years experience in construction and turnaround management, based on his careers with H.B. Zachry and LyondellBasell Industries. His experience includes front end loading, planning, scheduling, materials management, training, coordination, and cost control functions.  As a Becht Engineering Advisor, Mr. Markins has provided assistance for Valero at Benicia and Three Rivers Refineries.

Authors Recent Posts

Becht Engineering Contributes to Successful Turnaround at Valero Three Rivers
Let Becht Turn Your Problem
Into Peace of Mind