Best Practices Project Management, Construction Of Gas Pipeline Project From Sichuan To Shanghai

May 2013, Vol. 240, No. 5

Ping Li, Kang Yong Liu and John H. Yuan

The Sichuan-Shanghai Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project is the most significant gas pipeline built in China since the West East Pipeline was completed in 2005. The Sichuan-Shanghai pipeline is somewhat shorter than the West East Pipeline; however, its degree of difficulty in both design and construction makes it equivalent in stature.

This mega project consists of an NPS 40 (1,016-mm) pipeline which starts from the gas fields of the 815-km mountain range in the Sichuan and Hubei Provinces in south central China and continues 1,700 km through very rugged and populated mountains adjacent to the Yangtze River before reaching the plains of Wuhan, a short distance from the Pacific Ocean and Shanghai, its final destination. The pipeline crosses through eight provinces, 29 cities and 63 counties for a total length of 2,203 km.

Along the pipeline, there are 30 process stations, 94 valve sites and seven Yangtze River crossings. More than 85% of the pipeline is routed through rugged populated mountainous terrain; the highest point is 1,716 m (5,600 feet) and the lowest point at sea level. From Yichang to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through all types of water courses including rivers, lakes, canals and ponds. Construction methodology included 3.08 m or 2.44 m diameter shield tunnel, 4 m width and 3.2 m height diameter drill and blast tunnels, 1,016-mm or 813-mm diameter directional drilling and aerial crossings.

The Sichuan-Shanghai pipeline crossed through eight provinces.

SCADA is used as the main control system; fiber optics communication cables were run in the same trench and are backed up by public telecom. Construction began Aug. 31, 2007 and the mega project was completed in just 27 months, on Dec. 3, 2009.

Best practice project management techniques were utilized which ensured targets were met and construction milestones were achieved as planned. These practices were seen as a major contributor to the project’s success. The following aspects will be elaborated in this article: organization, strict bidding and team access systems, material purchasing specifications, HSE (health, safety and environmental) management and quality control, information management, construction management, etc.

Sichuan-Shanghai Pipeline Project Profile
The Sichuan-Shanghai Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project is the largest pipeline project of SINOPEC for which it established several records:
* largest project investment of pipeline
* largest pipe diameters
* largest capacity
* highest technical requests, and
* most complex and difficult construction.

From Puguang in Sichuan Province to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through eight provinces of China. The overall pipeline includes one main pipeline and five branches. They are: Puguang-Shanghai Main Pipeline; Dahua Branch, Chuanwei Branch, Jiangxi Branch, Nanjing Branch and Jinling Branch. Total length is 2,203 km. The main pipeline is 1,016 mm in diameter and its length is 1,635 km. There are 30 process stations and 94 valve stations along the pipeline. Design capacity is 12Bln Nm3 annually of 10MPa natural gas.

The pipeline crosses mountains in Sichuan and West Hubei Provinces and the Jianghan Plain and Yangzi River Delta places. From Puguang to Yichang, along the 815-km pipeline, the highest point is 1,716 m altitude and more than 85% of the pipeline is located in the mountain areas. From Yichang to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through numerous rivers, lakes, canals and ponds.

Workers carefully installed 1,016-mm pipe on the suspension bridge.

Along the pipeline, the construction methodology included shield tunnels, drill and blast tunnels and directional drilling, crossing Yangzi River seven times totaling 15.3 km in length, crossing mountains 72 times totaling 92.7 km in length. One suspension bridge of 332 m for 1,016-mm pipe was built; rivers were crossed 501 times; roads were crossed (including 50 for highway) 1,206 times; railways were crossed 32 times and 30 crossings were needed for water canals and ponds.

To install the pipeline, the project required 123 directional drills, 192 uses of jacking, and 1,454 uses of heavy evacuation.

The target was to meet 100% quality of total construction. More than 90% of installation, more than 60% of civil construction and 96% of weld work must be qualified the first time. During the entire construction process, there were no major quality or environmental incidents and no large public affair issues. Commissioning and start-up were achieved in one round.

Project Management And Overall Control
Due to the size of the project and its geographical nature, it was divided into seven sections. Each had its own management team with a similar structure as the general project management team. Each team was fully responsible for execution of the various construction projects in its area in terms of HSE, quality, cost, and planning.

The general project management team coordinated the seven teams of each region and hence had overall responsibility for the global execution in terms of HSE, quality, cost, and planning. To manage the budget, the general project management team controlled the global procurement and logistics (distribution of material to each contractor).

As per the Project Management Manual, 14 procedures (included in the manual) were outlined. These covered all the general aspects of the project and included:
1. HSE
2. quality management
3. schedule control
4. investment control
5. contract management
6. bidding
7. design management
8. design drawings and documents control
9. construction supervision management
10. technology management
11. project coordination
12. procurement
13. accounting, and
14. project document management.

According to regulations and based on the project condition, all of the contractors were pre-qualified for their registrations. A database for qualified contractors was built up and all ITB documents issued and reviewed by experts. After collecting bidding documents from the contractors, a formal evaluation process was utilized to select the best candidates. In the bidding, 287 construction companies were selected based on their qualifications, technical equipment, financial condition, professional technology and previous achievements.

Nearly all of the welding was qualified on the first pass.

During the qualification process, seven HSE training sessions were organized and 907 staff received training certificates for management and qualification; 26 tests for welders were organized with 1,793 welders certified; seven non-destruction tests were organized with 325 persons certified; 14 tests were held for supervisors and 934 supervisors certified; one QHSE inner-auditor training session was organized with 24 certified; one training session for site quality and safety was organized and 96 staff certified.

During the training sessions, the Petrochemical Branch of China Supervising Association was contracted for training, and 84 supervisors were involved. In addition, the project management team (PMT) organized training for engineering, finance, purchasing, budget, law affairs, inner-auditing, etc. During the training sessions, quality and safety awareness were emphasized as well as ways to improve professional management skills.

Standardized Purchasing
Pipe engineering requires considerable material and equipment involving many varieties with advanced technologies. The main equipment was imported from overseas. The quality of material and supply ultimately influences overall project quality and schedule. So that material and equipment would meet the project’s needs, there was strict implementation of the bid and material-purchasing process. This included many control steps such as strengthening contract management, controlling material and equipment selection, purchasing strategy under supervision, quality testing, etc.

First, in selecting material and equipment, the advanced technology, top quality, economy and suitability had to ensured; Second, standard quality control, technology and performance requirements, and equipment supervision were completely set up. Third, technology control and technical support at the purchasing step were fully emphasized and pipe material technological problems addressed to meet standards.

Communication and investigation regarding compressor controls, valves, SCADA systems and other issues were strengthened. Finally, to ensure quality management, an expert team was appointed to handle all of the steps such as supplier selection, purchasing, inspection, test, order, delivery, transportation and storage.

Worker safety was the top priority at the construction sites.

HSE System
The PMT established an integrated HSE management system. Based on HSE requirements and focusing on the complex characteristics of the high construction technology, long distances and mountain water network construction, PMT created a special management department to manage the project’s HSE. An HSE management agreement was then signed with each contractor.

The PMT developed numerous response plans for emergency monitoring and evacuation; fire damp and fire work explosion; tunnel collapse and water push in tunnel; water pollution; public hygiene incident; natural disaster, and team incident break out. All tools and machinery were properly equipped and drills performed in coordination with local public response departments.

By meticulous planning and execution, hazard identification and prevention such as explosion, water and mud rush surges, landslides, debris flow and the Schistosomiasis were well-controlled, thus enabling the team to focus on the mountain, Yangtze River crossing and tunnel construction.

The PMT promoted an environmentally friendly concept by optimizing pipeline routine. This resulted in shortening of the overall length; fewer trees were cut as overall plant destruction was reduced. While environmental protection was maximized, the land occupation was minimized. Efforts were made to enhance protection of water sources, natural reserves and scenic areas.

Health of the project staff was also very important and the PMT issued brochures, including a “Schistosomiasis Prevention Manual” and “Work Manual To Prevent Schistosomiasis,” which called on contractors to take measures to protect the health of their workers.

Construction Quality Control
The PMT organized pipe-welding process assessment with 101 items, compiling welding processes with 389 procedures. The PMT organized station valve welding process assessment with 66 items and compiled a total of 64 welding procedures. By following up the quality assessment, all of the welding jobs were successful.

According to overseas advanced operation maintenance procedure for valve maintenance, the PMT cooperated with American JHU that guaranteed all valve startups to run smoothly for long-term operation and to prevent operational risks.

The PMT performed quality supervision during construction, held special inspections randomly, developed strict documentation management methods and set up a proper documentation record system, thus keeping good traceability. For pipe cleaning, welding, anti-corrosion, depth of burying processes, PMT performed a three-step method. Inspections for construction quality were held weekly, monthly, quarterly and at random, and a welding-waste recycling program was conducted. When problems were found, a corrective notice was issued that quality work had to be done on time. For some underground projects, the PMT dug out randomly to perform inspections to ensure the quality was under control.

Information and Document Standard Management
Because of issues such as a long pipeline with complicated landform and inconvenient transportation, the PMT introduced an independent intellectual project management software: C3/PM. Applying this management and information program greatly increased working efficiency and the project-managing level. The system also provided technology support for scientific decision-making.

The PMT set up a document management department which issued a manual “Work Instruction on Construction Technical Documents Handover for Sichuan-Shanghai Pipeline Project,” along with three other books, including more than 2,000 pages describing detail requirements. This established and strengthened the document standardization management.

Because the project involved complicated construction, long distance with large scope and a tight schedule with high standard requirements on quality, the PMT took a significant chance and received a “National Project Award” honoring best efforts on innovations, clearly defined project target, understanding the work approaches, firmly establishing the project management system and project execution. Control of the construction quality and AHSE for critical spots are well-established. Meanwhile, the PMT pushed innovations on new technology, new equipment and materials. By their efforts, the “Best Project” concept was identified by the contractors, the QHSE awareness is well-understood by all staff, and their performances continuously improved.

General Performance Highlights
The PMT established a three-layer, project-specific management system, focused on HSE, quality and improvement. With adequate system and control documents, the procedures for project execution were designed to be well-controlled systemically. All of the contractors were able to follow project specifications and HSE management requirements.

Experts abroad confirmed that the PMT issued and practiced a scientific, adequate project management system. Based on the baseline document system, the PMT maintained continuous improvement in project execution to make it more practical, integrated and systematic. For such an enormous undertaking, the experts found the project management work was more than satisfactory.

Environmental Protection With Advanced Project Strategy
The PMT focused on maintaining a positive public image of SINOPEC. The requirements of “Environmental Kindness, Farmer Kindness, Employee Kindness; Public Respecting, Local Respecting and Contractors Respecting,” were transmitted to every involved entity. By optimizing the routine, 63 km of pipeline were eliminated, 3 million trees saved and 126 types of plants protected along the route.

By protecting the environment to the maximum extent possible, construction challenges were minimized and potential safety problems avoided, thus enabling work to move along smoothly. The entire project set high standards of landscape and environment restoration. The attention paid to environmental protection is considered a model for similar projects.

Safety And Quality Standards
Based on the records, welding quality was about 99% pass in various types of NDT inspection. The quality exceeded the target and worldwide best practices.

During construction, 72 tunnels were linked up with a total length of 92.7 km. This required 355,399 tons of explosives and the use of 4,402,578 detonators. There was no loss of explosive materials or incidents during that process.

On the route more than 95 water-eroded caves were recorded. During construction, more than 60 water/mud bursts and more than 20 landslides occurred, but caused no injuries.

By cooperating with other research and development entities and enterprises, the PMT used domestic production of 850 k tons of pipe in total (the large-diameter, thick-walled X70 SSAW pipe, LSAW pipes, the sheets and the thick-wall bends), which set a record for Chinese industries – one which will be hard to surpass.

Overcoming Difficulties And Perfect Project Control
Every scheduled milestone was achieved during the project. The Puguang First Station to Liangping Main started up on Feb. 20, 2009, the Dahua Branch and the Chuanwei Branch started up on March 22, 2009, so a total of 347 km of Phase I was completed. Phase II, the main pipeline from Liangping to Wuhan, 760 km, started up on Oct. 10, 2009 and on Dec. 30, 2009 the gas arrived to the Shanghai End Station. The 1,635-km pipeline had now successfully started up.

From the start of construction on Aug. 31, 2007 to Dec. 3, 2009 when gas arrived at the Shanghai End Station took less than 28 months. Considering the challenges (seven times crossing the Yangtze River, 92 km of 72 mountain tunnels, 815 km of mountain area with 1,716 m altitude and more than 500 crossings of rivers and ponds, etc.) and the complexities (total 2,170 km with main 1,016 mm diameter, with 287 construction contractors and 20,000 personnel in construction), the achievement of the overall requirements in such a short time was considered world-class.

Project Innovations Awards
The PMT put remarkable effort in innovations. The project has achieved 11 new records in the Chinese pipeline industry such as: longest crossing of the Yangtze River, most mountain tunnels, largest span of bridges and no re-work for continuous welding. Three of these marks are also world records.

The PMT was also awarded by SINOPEC for six management innovations and two “Sixteen Party Congress Construction Awards.” The PMT has published two work manuals, “Corrosion Protection Work Manual,” and “Gas Jet Cable Installation Technique Manual,” which could help guide future pipeline work.


Following document review and site survey, many experts considered the Sichuan-Shanghai NG Pipeline project management system as the best they had seen, considering its size, vision, technological achievements on quality and HSE management, construction and supervision management, procurement management, schedule control and continuous improvements. They said it went beyond the scope of worldwide industrial practices for its project management system on integrity and technology.

Great contributions were made by everyone who worked on the project including the management team which overcame every obstacle and delivered an extremely successful project at the end.

Ping Li is an engineer with master’s degree, a registered architect, registered tender and registered supervision engineer. He has many years of experience working on petrochemical pipeline technology, research, safety and project management. He works for the Sinopec Pipeline Storage & Transportation Corp. in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, 22118, China.

Kang Yong Liu
is a senior engineer with bachelor’s degree. He is a registered architect and registered tender with man years of experience working on petrochemical project quality control, inspection and management. He works for the Sinopec Department of Pipeline Gas Project From Sichuan to Shanghai, Yi Chang, Hubei Province, 443100, China.

John H. Yuan, Ph.D.
, is a senior engineer who has spent many years involved with petrochemical engineering project management. He works for Datek Inc., Ontario, Canada.

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