Applying PMBOK to Manage Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages


Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages

All of the major process industries (refining, petrochemicals, power generation, pulp & paper, etc.) have their own nomenclature for maintenance projects. For the purposes of this document, "turnaround" is intended to encompass all types of industrial projects for existing process plants including:

  • I&Ts (Inspection & Testing)
  • shutdowns
  • emergency outages
  • debottlenecking projects
  • revamps
  • catalyst regeneration
  • etc.

where an operating plant must be shut down until the work is completed and then restarted - thus "turning around" the unit/plant. Within this document, "turnaround" is also intended to reference the entire span from pre-turnaround preparations to shutdown to execution to start-up.

Turnaround Specific Management Methodology

The discipline of project management enjoys different states of maturity across different industries. The construction industry probably enjoys the greatest maturity in the field. The software development/IT industry is probably enjoying the greatest growth in maturity at this time. The maturity of the project management discipline in process industries for turnarounds is still very poor and stagnant at best.

There appears to be little, if any, development or dialogue of the discipline within the field. Turnaround failures (budgets blown by millions of dollars, target dates missed by days) are still as prevalent as ever. The same mistakes are being repeated over and over. The main problem is that turnaround managers continue to treat turnarounds as EPC (civil construction) projects and apply an EPC centric project management methodology.

One of the greatest challenges to turnaround managers is realizing that turnarounds are different from EPC projects. They have their own unique characteristics and demands. They require a specialized project management methodology. This document is intended to spark a dialogue for developing a turnaround specific management methodology.

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Authored by Bernard Ertl, Partner, InterPlan Systems

Bernard Ertl has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and extensive field experience planning and managing turnarounds in the oil refining and petrochemical process industries.

Applying PMBOK to Manage Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages was also published in Maintenance and Asset Management Journal Vol 20, No 3, Autumn 2005.