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Petrochemical Project Management: Planning & Scheduling During Pre-Commissioning Stage

This Practical Case Study is the final assigment for my Master’s Certificate in Project Management by ProjectManagers.Org.

Introduction to Petrochemical Project Management

Planning & Scheduling are two important activities for a successful Petrochemical Project Management. Proper execution of these two activities during the Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing Stage of the project is one of the successful factor, since all project management deliverables being develop during this stage of the project such as the project schedule baseline will serve as the clear road map to be used by all project team members and stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle to successfully deliver the project within the project constraints such as quality, time, cost, and risk.

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Scope Definition

In my experience at least 20% of the project management allocated time is consumed during Planning & Scheduling stage of the project. It is one of the most important and rigorous activities of project management in addition to project execution. During Planning & Scheduling stage of a project, it is where the scope of the project, deliverables, project stakeholders, resources needed; expected project duration, project requirements, project risk, and project constraints are defined and identified. Planning & Scheduling is not only a one man show. This activity is not the responsibility of the Planner / Scheduler of the project alone. Planning & Scheduling activities is a project team effort; it is a collaboration between all the project team members where each members expertise are exploited in order to come up with a realistic project schedule that will be used as a guidelines and baseline to properly execute, monitor, and control the project throughout the project lifecycle.

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Tools & Techniques

There are different types of tools and techniques being used during the Planning & Scheduling stage of the project such as:

  1. WBS
  2. Critical Path Method (CPM)
  3. Crashing
  4. Fast Tracking
  5. PERT & 3-Points Estimate
  6. Earned Value Analysis
  7. Lead & Lag
  8. Software (Primavera / MS Project / MS Excel)

Planning & Scheduling Implementation During Pre-commissioning Stage of a Petrochemical Plant Project

Pre-commissioning Scope Definition

Pre-commissioning stage of the project is where all the systems are going to be tested by System Engineers to determine the integrity and readiness of Systems during the Commissioning, Start-up, and Operation of the Petrochemical Plant. The Pre-commissioning major activities includes piping hydro test, piping reinstatement, motor solo run, loop test, box-up, leak test, mechanical run test.

Pre-commissioning System Definition

Before Planning & Scheduling activities can proceed the overall project scope i.e. Systems and Work Flow Process of the Petrochemical Plant are properly defined. This can be done using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and work flow chart tool. It is very important that all project stakeholders shall review and approved (team buy-in) the established Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to avoid different understanding of the overall work requirements during the project execution.

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Cumene & Phenol Work Flow Process Diagram

To further elaborate the scope of the work, a Work Flow Process Diagram has been prepared for the project team members and all project stakeholders which will have provide an overview of how the project may be executed.


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Define Activities

Upon completion of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) based on the project scope of works, the project activities have been defined system-wise. This is done by system-wise since during the Partial Mechanical Completion (PMC) handover is through system-wise as per the approved Project Handover documents. 

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Sequence Activities

Like in any other projects, sequencing the activities during the planning & scheduling for the Pre-commissioning of a Petrochemical Project is one way of knowing which activities comes after one activity (successors) and which activities should be completed first (predecessors) before the next activities can start. Organizing proper sequence of activities will provide a better understanding to determine the right categories of resources that have to be mobilized in a specific period of the project.

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Estimate Activity Resources

Since Pre-commissioning Stage of the project is only in a short period of time unlike Construction Stage which usually takes years to complete depending on the type and complexity of the project; it is very important to determine beforehand the right trade/category of resources required. In order to precisely estimate the activity resources required it is very important to have a good understanding of the scope and nature of work required for each activity. Historical data of previously completed projects can be used as reference to estimate the required resources. It is very important that the right trade or category of manpower resources is considered in the development of resources estimate. This process will also provide a better understanding of the manpower mobilization on site and the total budgeted manpower required to complete the project requirements within the specific agreed time frame. This can be calculated either by Department, by Activity Type, by Discipline, by Trade/Category as shown on the different tables below.  8-petrochemical project-management

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Estimate Activity Duration

With the defined required manpower resources for each activity, the activity duration can be estimated considering the productivity rate as one of the basis of estimate, this should also include the factors such as the nature and complexity of work required. Historical data of previously completed projects can also be used as reference to come up with the best estimate. Another tools that can be implemented is the 3-Points Estimate (P=Pessimistic, O=Optimistic, M=Most Likely) i.e. E = (O + 4M + P)/6.

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Develop Schedule

Developing the final schedule for the Petrochemical Project during the Pre-commissioning Stage requires a thorough schedule analysis. This is where the activity relationships i.e. Finish-to-Start (FS), Start-to-Start (SS) are adjusted to fit with the project requirements. Most commonly used activity relationship is the Finish-to-Start (FS). The major activities during the Pre-commissioning Stage of the project requires completion of Predecessors such as System Hydro Test should be completed before the Flushing and Reinstatement works can take place. This is also applicable during the execution of the Preliminary Walkthrough (PWT), System Walk-through (SWT), and Partial Mechanical Completion (PMC). Schedule development tools and technique during this stage such as implementing Lead and lags are also used to develop the project schedule. The Critical Path Method is also implemented to determine the critical activities that the Project Team Members have to focus on during the project execution to ensure that no work delays shall exists to prevent slippage on the Scheduled Mechanical Completion Date / Project Final Handover to Client.  15-petrochemical project-management

Control Schedule

During the Pre-commissioning Stage of a Petrochemical Project, monitoring and controlling of the project schedule is very rigid due to complexity of project requirements and time constraints (short term) which delay is not permissible at any time. Therefore, for better monitoring and controlling of the project performance, project schedule baseline have to be established which will be used as the performance measuring stick. Another progress tracking tools is the Quantity Tracking Sheet i.e. which can be organized by package-wise, type of test-wise, etc. as shown below. During the monitoring and controlling of project schedule, the Earned Value Analysis (PV, EV, VAR, SPI, ETC) can be implemented to determine the progress performance as well as to perform forecasting activity based on the current progress performance. In this case, the Project Team through the leadership of the assigned Project Manager can implement the schedule compression technique such as the Fast Tracking and Crashing depending on the current progress performance. Each of this schedule compression technique has their own Pros and Cons. Therefore, the efficiency of implementing such tools and techniques depends on the ability of the Project Team Members to definitely identify the current project requirements during the execution stage of the project. The effort being rendered in the project by all Project Stakeholders should be aligned with the overall project objectives to have a timely Mechanical Completion of the Petrochemical Project and Final Handover of the Plant to the Client on or before 17-May-2017. Any changes on the plan during the project execution should be evaluated by all Project Team Members and to be approved by the Change Control Board (Acceptance Committee Chairman) prior to implementation on site.

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Planning & Scheduling is an iterative process throughout the project lifecycle. The established project schedule baseline serves as the roadmap for the Project Team to properly monitor and control the project activities execution until the project closeout which is one of the success factor in project management. In order to have a realistic project schedule baseline, it is the duty of all the Project Team Members and Project Stakeholders to collaborate during the Planning & Scheduling brainstorming session of the project. During Planning & Scheduling brainstorming session which involve all related Disciplines such Piping, Mechanical, Electrical, Instrument, Project Inspection Department, and Project Management, it is the duty of the Project Planner/Scheduler to collect all necessary information and facilitate the development of the final project schedule baseline based on the project data, references, information, and previous completed projects historical data, tools, and techniques, planning & scheduling best practices, project management best practices to be implemented and come up with the best estimate that would create a workable project schedule baseline considering all aspects. The project plan and objectives should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable, Relevant, & Time-oriented). One of the most important method and project success factor is to ensure that all the Project Team Members and Project Stakeholders have the same understanding of how the project will proceed and executed is to have a “team buy-in” and to avoid misconception among all others of the final project plan. The project plan is a dynamic document which can be revised depending on the project current performance to come up with an efficient tools to successfully deliver the project within the project specifications, health, safety, and environmental requirements and the most important is the compliance to project quality requirements as a whole and to satisfy the Client requirements.


  1. ISO 21500 Guidance on Project Management
  2. PMBOK Guide 5th Edition
  3. ProjectManagers.Org Course Project Scheduling Professional™ (PScP™)