In 2008, ESB started an organisation-wide initiative to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering large-scale capital projects and, in doing so, sought to embed a sustainable and consistent approach to project management, write John O'Connor and Robert Scott
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Authors: John O’Connor, chartered engineer, MIEI, is programme director Carrington Power and works in the area of asset development at ESB; Robert Scott, chartered engineer, MIEI, is a project management specialist in the areas of asset development and generation & wholesale markets at ESB

ESB is Ireland’s foremost energy company and the largest supplier of renewable electricity in Ireland. Through innovation, expertise and investment, we are leading the way in developing a modern, efficient electricity system, capable of delivering sustainable and competitive energy supplies to our customers in an all-island market.

We work for a better energy future by investing in low carbon generating technologies, building smarter electricity networks and working with others to find innovative solutions to today’s energy challenges.

We own and operate the electricity transmission and distribution networks in Ireland and Northern Ireland and have a portfolio of low carbon generating plants and wind farms in operation and development across Ireland and the UK.

Through our retail business Electric Ireland, we offer competitive energy solutions to more than 1.5 million customers.

Project management in ESB


In 2008, we started an organisation-wide initiative to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how we deliver our large-scale capital projects. The initiative, which was informed by a strategic review of previous significant capital projects, sought to embed a sustainable and consistent approach to project management.

This refined approach would ensure that we could successfully deliver big projects and, ultimately, support the realisation of our strategic objectives, as well as meet the challenges of a rapidly changing energy sector. The initiative involved the development of single Project Delivery Methodology (PDM), with input from University of Limerick’s Centre for Project Management, supported by:

  • a structured knowledge management framework;
  • a comprehensive training programme;
  • strategic resource planning;
  • a permanent Project Management Office (PMO).

The PMO, established in 2009, acts as the custodian of PDM, with the specific purpose of providing support to our generation capital projects. The PMO provides a range of services to the projects it supports, including:

  • facilitation services;
  • project assurance;
  • knowledge management;
  • project management training.

The result is a framework for creating, managing, sharing and embedding technical and professional knowledge, as well as leveraging best practice processes and behaviours across the whole company. This has considerably reduced the risk involved in running high-value, complex projects and has delivered clear business benefits, including improved safety performance and financial savings.


The Carrington Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) project, located in Manchester, is our largest new-build capital project. The Carrington project forms a central part of our strategy to be a key player of scale within the combined UK and Irish electricity markets, known as the Regional Electricity Market (REM).

The project itself is located on the site of a former (240 MW) coal-fired power station which was built after the Second World War. This old coal plant was subsequently demolished to ground level in the early 1980s. The new gas-fired plant will have an output of more than 880 MWs and will be large enough to supply energy to more than one million households. The new plant has more than three times the electrical output and a smaller footprint when compared with the old plant.

We financed the Carrington project in September 2012, which is a significant investment with a value of more than €1 billion. It involved a challenging finance process given the global economic climate at the time and shows our financial strength to deliver such a project given the circumstances. The Carrington CCGT project was the first large-scale project in more than five years to successfully reach financial close in the UK.Carrington-Graphic

Right from the very beginning, the team has been using ESB’s Project Delivery Methodology (PDM). Making the most of the tools and processes within the PDM has paid dividends, leading to a well-structured and successful project.

Significant site-enabling works and pre-engineering activities were completed in advance of commencing the main construction works in order to ‘de-risk’ the project. As the foundations from the original coal plant were still in place, along with the presence of more than 5,000 existing piles, it was essential to understand and manage the ground risk before engaging a contractor to commence construction of the new plant.

Original piles digitally mapped using GPS system


Once the original foundations were broken out and the original piles were digitally mapped using a GPS system, much of the risk with the site was mitigated. This information was then taken into account during the tendering and design phase of the new plant.

New piles were ‘threaded’ through the existing pile location successfully without any ‘pile strikes’ and the existing original piles were left in place. All of these works, including the current power plant construction activities, were managed by ESB International. To date, more than 35,000m3 of concrete has been poured during the civil works and a peak workforce of more than 1,000 people were on-site, including many Irish subcontractors.

As part of the power plant project, we also built a standalone 600mm-diameter high-pressure gas pipeline. The gas pipeline ties into the UK high-pressure gas transmission network. The pipeline is about 3km long and is routed through brownfield industrial land including an old oil refinery, a Victorian landfill site and runs parallel to the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC).

Carringtonesb-

The delivery by barge of boiler units at Carrington CCGT

The engineering challenges associated with the gas pipeline construction were significant. For the section of the gas pipeline route parallel to the MSC (approximately 1km in length) we determined that horizontal directional drilling was required.

This involved drilling into a layer of sandstone on average 30m below ground level to form an opening for the gas pipeline, and subsequently pulling the pipe back through the casing. Extensive risk was also removed from the project by installing this pipeline before mobilising the main EPC turnkey contractor.

We also built a 400kV electrical substation next to the CCGT site, which interconnects the plant with UK National Grid. The substation was built before the London Olympic Games as the grid company wanted to avoid any possible grid issues during such an important international event.

Alstom supplied the key power train equipment. The 880MW power train consists of two separate gas turbines, two electrical generators, two steam turbines and two heat recovery steam generators. The plant is designed for maximum flexibility, which is required to work in conjunction with the renewable generators on the UK system.

The gas turbines were manufactured in Europe and shipped to site via the Manchester Ship Canal in 2014. The combined weight of the gas turbines is approximately 800 tonnes or equivalent to the weight of four Boeing 777s.

The exhaust gas temperature from the gas turbines is approximately 616 degrees Celsius, which is roughly equivalent to the initial point of explosion of a volcano. The net efficiency of the plant will be more than 58 per cent and cooling water will be supplied from the Manchester Ship Canal via a hybrid cooling tower arrangement.

From a sustainability and traffic management perspective, the project used barge transportation where possible for all heavy loads. Shipments from global locations navigated to Liverpool and eventually along the Manchester Ship Canal to site. Given the large workforce at the project, we also decided to implement a ‘green travel plan’ where workers were transported to and from the site via double-decker buses from satellite car parks.

These measures reduced the impact of traffic on local residents and was also a more sustainable approach. Due to the measures taken to improve sustainability, the project was shortlisted for a UK corporate responsibility award in 2014.

The plant is now transitioning from construction into commissioning and we anticipate that the plant will start commercial operation in the first quarter of 2016. An ESB Operations and Maintenance (O&M) team are now mobilised at the site and are preparing to take over the plant.
John O’Connor CEng MIEI

Delivering ESB’s wind programme using PDM


Following its application to the Carrington CCGT project, we then applied the PDM  to a number of wind farm projects such as Fullabrook 66 MW wind farm in Devon, England, which entered commercial operation in 2011. Since that time, ESB has generally had up to two wind projects in development and two wind projects in construction on an ongoing basis, with a number of others in early stage feasibility and planning.

However, the development pipeline has grown significantly in line with the company’s renewables strategy. As a result, we took a view in 2014 that we would need to adapt our approach in order to deliver the pipeline (up to 400 MW) of projects being developed in time to meet our renewable energy targets for 2018.

We’ve carried out a number of initiatives to improve the delivery process for the wind programme. One of these was a shift in the way the project management methodology is applied, moving to a programme-based approach.

Managing Successful Programmes (Office of Government Commerce, 2011) describes programmes triggered in three different ways: vision-led programmes, emergent programmes, and compliance programmes. ESB’s wind programme emerged from a number of concurrent individual but related projects, recognising that co-ordination of the projects was necessary to deliver the changes and benefits successfully as well as delivering value through efficiencies gained.

One of the primary shifts has been to the governance structure, with a change to the project reporting mechanism. Individual project boards have been aggregated into a programme board with a steering group, chaired by the wind development manager, sitting beneath the programme board. The chair correlates and normalises project reports from the steering group and reports to the programme board in line with tolerances set out in the governance framework.

Turbine supply framework contracts


There has also been a shift to our contracting strategy. Over the past 12 months ESB has gone about establishing framework contracts for electrical balance of plant and civil works. We are also in the final stages of agreeing turbine supply framework contracts with a number of wind turbine generator suppliers. These are specifically designed for the wind programme and this process should reduce the individual procurement periods on each project as well as proving a more economical solution.

This approach also fosters better working relationships with our contracting partners, which should be mutually beneficial. It allows us to work more closely with our contracting partners in aligning and developing competence on both sides around aspects such as safety and quality management on sites through various knowledge-sharing forums.

The programme-based approach to both stakeholder and risk management has provided efficiencies and improved effectiveness of key engagements such as our dealings with the transmission and distribution systems operators in relation to grid connections. In terms of risk management, it has prompted a more co-ordinated approach to issues such as forestry felling licences.

This was identified as a schedule risk on a number of projects but addressed through a single response plan to appoint a dedicated resource to identify and purchase the replant land required for all licences.

From a scheduling perspective, the aggregated approach has led to improved co-ordination across the projects, which has helped us identify constraints to the programme, such as the availability of critical resources, and helped to level peaks in activity. The programme management plan also provides a consistent approach to quality management and safety management across the projects.

With an expanding pipeline of projects, we’ve appointed a number of new project managers over the last 12 months. As mentioned above, one of the key functions of the PMO is developing project management competence within the organisation. All new project managers and project management team members receive a tailored project management training programme (PDM) as well as being supported by the PMO in the management of their projects.

In addition, there is a project management mentoring programme currently being rolled out to aid knowledge transfer around project management competencies. This initiative will further develop the level of project management maturity within the organisation.

The mentoring programme has two key focus areas: the project management knowledge areas included in the PDM, as well as communications and interpersonal skills. The latter is aimed at growing the leadership and influencing skills of our project managers.
Robert Scott CEng MIEI

Conclusion


The development and implementation of a defined, repeatable project management methodology has improved and provided consistency in our project delivery. The benefit of a full-time PMO, whose members sit in the project teams has provided assurance in the embedding of the methodology.

The PMO has evolved over time, adapting the methodology to new project types such as generating plant overhauls and even business change projects. Critically, the value of both the methodology and the PMO as both custodians of the methodology and in helping to develop our project managers, can be seen in the continuing improvement and success of our project delivery.

John O’Connor, chartered engineer, MIEI, is programme director Carrington Power and works in the area of asset development at ESB; Robert Scott, chartered engineer, MIEI, is a project management specialist in the areas of asset development and generation & wholesale markets at ESB 

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  Authors: John O’Connor, chartered engineer, MIEI, is programme director Carrington Power and works in the area of asset development at ESB; Robert Scott, chartered engineer, MIEI, is a project management specialist in the areas of asset development and generation & wholesale markets at ESB ESB is Ireland’s foremost energy company and...