Willbros Facilities Group Brings Life to America’s Pipeline Infrastructure
By Mark Brown
Recognized for its premier cross-country pipeline services for more than 100 years, Willbros is fully engaged in the market of providing engineering procurement and construction (EPC) services to produce the engine that drives oil and gas products through America’s expansive pipeline infrastructure. That so-called “engine” driving these products are the pumping and compressor stations that are currently being built across the United States to keep up with the growing demand for energy and petrochemicals. This is an important market and Willbros has the facilities services to bring it to life across the country.
To a large extent, this necessary infrastructure is being engineered and constructed today across the U.S. by Willbros to meet this demand. Both the company’s Oil and Gas and Professional Services segments work hand-in-hand to meet customer challenges. After Health, Safety and the Environment (HSE), product to market is a key driver, and market data demonstrates that current demand will continue for the next five to 10 years.
Compressor and pumping stations are the facilities that help the transportation process of energy from one location to another and ultimately to the consumer. Design must consider the diameter of pipe and needed volume of product to determine the size of stations (measured in horsepower) and locations along the pipeline. As the crow flies, these facilities are located 40 to 100 miles apart in series with the pipelines. Logistically, it sounds simple. However, it is far more complex. To meet the challenge, Willbros has structured itself to engineer, procure and construct facilities across North America.
Balance of Centralization and Regionalization
To perform well in the oil and gas market, a facilities service provider must have the perfect balance of centralization and regionalization. Being both centralized and regional means being able to share common resources while delivering immediate services to all projects effectively. That way geographic position is not a problem. All business segments at Willbros have this stability geographically, allowing for two or more segments to work as close business partners to provide the best in facilities services. No matter where the customers and projects are, the company can provide the right service at the right place at the right time.
Willbros has used this approach in recent years and has significantly increased its geographical footprint to meet the requirements of its customer base. The company has office and yard locations in the Gulf Coast, Northeast, Midwest, Northern Plains, West Coast and Canada. It is typical for Willbros to coordinate the execution of a facilities project from several different locations to assure that a project is successful and completed on time. As the company’s motto states: “A Good Job On Time … Done Right.”
To provide an example project, the author visited current Willbros projects in New Mexico. I spent 1,500 miles of windshield time visiting projects outside of Albuquerque and Roswell. This program is critical and important to one of the company’s best customers in energy expansion in the Southwest and Western Rockies. What is impressive about this increase pumping capacity program is the project was engineered from Denver and Tulsa, Okla., construction is managed out of Houston and the company’s Eunice, N.M., office provides resource support from a short distance. Notably, general manager Clyde McDonald, superintendent Michael Welch and project manager John Adams established a central hub for site administration, material control and pipe fabrication located just north of Bernalillo, N.M.
Future Improvements on the Way
Willbros was recently granted a membership into the Construction Industry Institute (CII), an affiliate of the University of Texas at Austin, Cockrell School of Engineering. The CII has been working with construction companies for more than 30 years to develop the best techniques. CII is a consortium of leading business owners, engineering, construction contractors and suppliers who work to improve project management cost effectiveness.
Serving as an industry forum for the EPC process, the organization collaborates on important industry issues and provides guidance on best practices through research. The CII funded research program involves more than 30 leading U.S. universities providing a unique offering to the engineering and construction industry. Willbros is now part of this leading edge organization.
There are powerful implementation and benchmarking tools that have been developed to measure and improve performance. Both Earl Collins, Willbros president of the Oil and Gas Segment, and I have spent much of their career in the downstream side of the business where using CII tools for project improvements are more commonplace. Collins is convinced that Willbros can and will improve customer value and satisfaction through these available tools. Collins has also served on CII committees to help bring continuing improvement to our industry.
Since most of the facilities projects include the construction of more than one station, there are several best practices that Willbros implements from the CII Small Project Tool Kit. One example is “bundling.” Bundling is a process that lowers cost by effectively determining resource sharing across two or more stations being constructed or modified. This is a major part of the Front End Planning stage and can produce as much as 15 percent cost savings by utilizing site staff, construction equipment and small tools. Willbros implements this process in all of its facility projects to be most cost effective.
Another example Willbros notes as important is the consideration the capital cost is only a portion of the total life cycle cost. The process begins in the early FEL stage and continues through maintenance and operations. Willbros can work with customers in product selection, systems requirement, total value analysis, constructability and maintainability to receive the most value in total cost of ownership.
Currently, Willbros has compressor station work in Texas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma with focus on the Northeast, Northern Plains and Western Rockies. Willbros Facilities Services is excited about the future of the energy infrastructure being built across the country to provide life to the pipelines. It is confident that it can deliver the best facilities services in all regions using both its strong centralized and regional resources with proven best practices for continuous improvement in the future.
Mark Brown is senior vice president of U.S. Construction Facilities Services at Willbros.