The evolution of EPC’s in India
The Indian EPC business is growing rapidly at a faster pace than even China’s booming industry. At the same time the level of technical knowledge of materials and equipment is steadily increasing. Stainless Steel World spoke to Mr. Mrinal Das, Senior General Manager, Projects at Jacobs Engineering who has worked on projects in the Indian market for 29 years, about how the industry – and the role of a Project Manager – has evolved.
“India’s EPC business is a very high value market,” begins Mr. Das. “The global market is increasingly aware of Indian expertise and our EPC’s are rapidly being integrated into global companies. This is a positive development and I expect to see more European, American, South Korean and Chinese companies utilizing our expertise.”
Mrinal Das is a chemical engineer and a Master’s in Business Management with vast experience in the petrochemical, refinery and fertilizer industries. “My fascination for materials started in the manufacturing industry as an Operation Engineer in a methanol and ammonia plant. When I moved to Larsen Toubro EPC I met many manufacturers of stainless steels, alloys, exotic materials, valves and equipment. I was tasked with inspecting and selecting vendors, which I found to be very interesting. For the past 12 years I’ve been Project Manager at Jacobs Engineering India Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, overseeing the project engineering, procurement and construction management of refineries and large-scale petrochemical projects.”
Changes over time
In his current role Mr. Das oversees projects across the globe, from the USA to Europe, from the Gulf States to the Far East. In some ways, the role of project managers in the major EPCs has become easier over time, explains Mr. Das. “Today so much information is available: for example publications like Stainless Steel World contain a wealth of information about vendors and products which was not so easily available when I started in this business. In the past we really had to search for information; where can I source material Duplex, P91, SS316L or SS347, where can I get a certain thickness. Today even information about very specific topics such as exotic butterfly valves, special seal valves, or metal seated leakage class 6 valves is at our fingertips. These items are not available in India - or at least not in bulk - as they are customized for very specific applications such as petrochemical refineries or high pressure services. Today it’s easier for EPCs to source special items because we have the information.”
Quality aspects steels
The use of stainless steel is growing enormously in India, where there is already extensive use of 300 and 400 series stainless steels. “The level of materials knowledge is increasing rapidly and now stainless grades are being specified for everything from decorative uses to bus stops and architecture…there have been many new applications emerge in the last 3-5 years. It’s truly astonishing how quickly the usage is increasing.” Alloys for high end applications are still largely sourced abroad, explains Mr. Das.
“We tend to find that the higher grades of seamless pipes are not available locally. If we specify clad pipes there are also limitations on the cladding material available here. The quality of weld overlay can be an issue which is why India still imports a lot of weld overlay products from countries such as France.”
“There are still various grades of steel which are not produced in bulk in India. These include stainless steel 347 for very high temperature services, alloys 321, 316Ti, and some alloy materials which are not available locally in the sizes and ratings we need. Fast delivery is also a problem, particularly if we require a small quantity of the material, not a mill quantity. On those occasions I need to source via a trader, and there are simply no local traders able to source these materials for me quickly. Therefore I may have to go to Dubai or Singapore, or perhaps even the US or Canada to source those.”
Today duplex, super duplex and hyper duplex are all being manufactured locally in India, with global players such as Outokumpu and Sandvik providing their high-end alloys from Indian operations. “There are also a lot of companies purchasing the mother tubes and plates and selling these on. Local companies are producing duplexes but the quality is not as high.” “The acceptance and use of duplex material grades such as 2205 others is growing rapidly. In some cases we are replacing 904L material with duplexes.
For example with phosphoric acid and sulphuric acid applications we have found it advantageous to replace traditional materials with duplexes. There is an enormous potential for duplexes in India and the utilisation is growing quickly. This development is being driven by engineering companies and their people who are specifying it; only they can effect this change.”
Mrinal Das: “The level of materials knowledge is increasing rapidly and now stainless grades are being specified for everything from decorative uses to bus stops and architecture.”
Plans are being drawn up to construct a mega-refinery on India’s west coast to meet growing local demand and also to supply overseas markets. The International Energy Agency says that India will be the most important driver of energy demand growth in the world in future, with its oil consumption to rise to about 10 million bpd by 2040.
The mega-refinery will have over 300,000 barrels per day in crude throughput capacity. Set to be built in stages, the refinery will incorporate a petrochemical complex to make it more profitable. If the project goes ahead it would be the first joint refinery project by the three competing state-controlled firms - IOC, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat
Desalination opens up potential for duplexes
Part of the reason that duplexes have taken so long to be commonly used in India is because there have been few applications in a marine/seawater environment. “Normally companies experiment with duplex grades in a saline environment where there are more chlorides present, causing stress corrosion cracking. The expansion of desalination activities in India will certainly drive up the use of duplex for piping, valves and other items.”
“Several coastal desalination plants are already under construction. For example a massive refinery is being built by three major government oil marketing companies - Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL). They are jointly setting up a mega-refinery at Ratnagiri, in coastal Maharashtra, which will have a capacity of 30 million tonnes per annum (see box ‘Mega refinery’). Seawater will be desalinated to provide the cooling water and for other purposes. There is a lot of scope for desalination in India due to the growing population and limited fresh water resources. Therefore there is huge potential for duplex and super duplex piping and valves, for which we mostly rely on foreign manufacturers.” “On a lifecycle cost basis we find that compared to stainless steel, duplex is actually cheaper. Taking into account lifecycle cost and corrosion rates, it’s a better choice in many cases.”
Mrinal Das: “There is a lot of scope for desalination in India due to the growing population and limited fresh water resources. Therefore, there is a huge potential for duplex and super duplex piping and valves, for which we mostly rely on foreign manufacturers.”
Challenges of the job
“We are always under tremendous pressure in term of our time schedule on projects,” Mr. Das continues. “A reliable inventory is always important: the most common bottleneck for any project is long delivery times. Long lead items are the critical parts of any project; for example a special casting can take up to 18 months to source, so careful planning is essential.” Depending on the type of project and volume of the job Mr. Das is usually in contact with the client three years in advance of the start of construction, when the first Phase 1 and 2 FEED is done.
“This means that I may be involved with an individual project for five years. As I am handling several projects concurrently, in different countries, with difference regulations, standards and cultures, it can be very challenging! The first time can be really difficult but by now I’ve had a lot of experience,” Mr. Das smiles. “The hardest part of my role as Project Manager is finding the right vendors and suppliers. If you have good support for the piping, fittings, flanges, valves, pressure vessels etc. this removes half of your problems. Human resources are also a challenge in some countries. Fortunately in India we have very good human resources and a very high quality of education so there is an abundance of engineers and technical people.”
About Mrinal Das
Mrinal Das is Senior General Manager, Projects, at Jacobs Engineering India Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai, where he has been employed for 12 years. With a Bachelor in Technology in Chemical Engineering and a MBA specialized in sales and marketing he has a keen interest in the development and application of material construction. Mrinal has been involved in material selection and sourcing of materials for Refinery and Petrochemicals piping, plates, forgings, valves etc.
Mrinal has 29 years of experience in various fields including plant operations, technical services, technology selection, project management and sales proposals. His has extensive experience in petrochemicals, refineries, water treatment and fertilizers and has been associated with all major global engineering companies and suppliers. Mrinal has shared his knowledge and experience at KCI Publishing events for several years and is currently a member of the Steering Committees for Stainless Steel World conference and Flow Control Exchange India conference.