Walking into the office of Mike Esfarjani, President & CEO of EPFC Corp, it doesn’t take long for one to notice on his wall a large project charter mounted in a heavy black frame. The charter is surrounded by well known corporate logos and features the signature of each partner associated with an exciting new venture.
“It represents the commitment of our strategic vendors for the design build of a natural gas plant, water hub, and gathering system for a major oil and gas producer in the Montney” explains Mr. Esfarjani. “Each vendor involved in the development of the project has a copy of this charter, reminding everyone that we’re all part of one team.”
But before the significance of the charter is explained, some background. A little over a year ago there was announcement of a new 198 MMscf/d natural gas plant starting up in the Fort St. John area. Remarkably, this plant was designed and built in an impressive 16 months, coming online ahead of schedule and well under budget. This achievement was only made possible by a lean and innovative approach taken by EPFC Corp. They developed an integrated and construction driven execution model – a design build model that enabled the company to dramatically reduce both the amount of time and overall cost required to build a natural gas facility of that size in Western Canada.
News of this project spread throughout the energy industry and attracted the attention of a multinational oil and gas producer planning a development in the Montney. That attention resulted in EPFC Corp being offered an opportunity to participate in a FEED competition for the natural gas processing and water development mentioned above. In the end, EPFC Corp was chosen for their modern project delivery approach and was awarded a design-build lump sum contract by this producer.
So, what is EPFC Corp’s modern design build approach?
It begins with the oil and gas companies, EPFC Corp, and strategic equipment vendors and service providers, all partnering to form one team under one contract to design and build a project. The foundation for this partnering is based on quality, trust, experience, relationships and reputation of each of the parties. By integrating to form a single and cohesive team efficiency is dramatically increased. All parties adhere to the same engineering philosophies, materials, and components plantwide. This allows for consistency of design and improved material traceability. It also ensures availability of information for the owner’s operations and maintenance personnel for the life of the plant.
The entire schedule is underpinned by the construction sequence, designed to maximize efficiency and safety, as well as, minimize on-site manpower and congestion. EPFC Corp and strategic vendor modules are fabricated, tested, painted, wired, and insulated prior to being transported to site for installation. Since EPFC Corp controls all shop activities, components of a module can be released without having to wait for the complete package. Fabrication is staged as information becomes available. As with the rest of the project, construction activities are coordinated by a single team.
Spartan Controls’ Account Manager, Ellie Foden had the following to say about EPFC Corp’s modern approach.
“Partnering in the execution of this project has been a very exciting process for us. EPFC Corp’s team has revolutionized the standard progression of engineering, procurement, fabrication, and construction of a natural gas plant in Western Canada,” says Foden. “The team initiated early collaboration between suppliers, vendors, engineering teams, and the end user to provide a unique full-plant solution by building mutually trusting partnerships. EPFC Corp has been a knowledgeable and collaborative partner in determining the best technologies to deliver a successful project.”
Another strategic vendor, 5Blue Process Equipment Inc., has been working on the project since its inception. “At 5Blue we feel the EPFC concept of assembling a Team to take the project from FEED to commissioning makes great economic sense for the client,” says 5Blue President, Kelly Smith. “We are pleased to be part of this process and look forward to proving this strategy will benefit both the customer and the Team executing the project.”
Mat Clark of Bidell Gas Compression echoes these sentiments. The Vice President of Sales and Applications appreciates “the collaborative approach that EPFC takes in working with their suppliers to maximize value to their clients”. Clark adds “The organization seems to be a very energetic and agile company with fresh ideas.”
Duncan Cook is President of Premay Equipment, which specializes in transportation and rigging services. “We are pleased that EPFC Corp selected us to work with the whole team from day one, allowing us to share our 50-plus years of transportation knowledge at the front end of the planning, contributing to a successful project.”
“Above all, what is unique about EPFC Corp’s approach is that we formed one team, and work with a single vendor for each required package or service,” said Mr. Esfarjani. “Information is shared continuously, and this offers the potential for CAPEX and OPEX optimization during design development. Once the model is completed and approved by all stakeholders, shop drawings are created from the 3D model and equipment is fabricated without the need for changes. It’s a very efficient and clear process.”
David Hunt, Vice President Commercial for DFI Piling says “Being part of EPFC’s vision to provide a turnkey solution for its clients has given DFI the ability to get a head-start on resource planning and execution.” EPFC Corp brought DFI to the table early in the process, says Hunt, having expressed confidence in DFI’s abilities and experience. “Mike and his team at EPFC have gone out of their way to make sure we (DFI) have been consulted and involved in the process.”
Ultimately, EPFC Corp’s design build model offers such a degree of cost certainty that they’re able to provide, as a Prime Contractor, a lump sum turnkey price for the execution of a natural gas plant. This is a first in decades for oil and gas infrastructure projects in Western Canada.
“Clients reduce their risk substantially, as the responsibility for costs associated with any changes within the scope of work transfers to EPFC Corp,” continues Mr. Esfarjani. “In addition, owners need not ramp up with a large number of personnel to manage their project, as they’re frequently updated on project progress. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders involved.”
By redefining the traditional approach, EPFC Corp is adapting to a changing economy. The project charter in Esfarjani’s office signals an exciting new era for project execution: a simple, comprehensive, efficient, modern approach.