Thursday, January 12, 2017: Fluor Lemongrass Project in Kuantan

The GLCM crew had an early morning wake-up call and had to be out of the hotel by 7am to make it to our destination on time. Fortunately for us, the trip to Kuantan requires a four hour bus trip, allowing us to sleep and rest in the comfortable seats of the bus. Making good time, we made it to the Fluor office site by 10:45, eager for what lay ahead of us. As mentioned previously, Fluor Corporation is a global engineering and construction firm involved in some of the world’s most complex projects. Fluor delivers solutions in engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction, etc. It is headquartered in Irving, Texas, but has more than 60,000 employees in over 100 countries. Fluor is a Fortune 500 Company, ranked No. 155 of America’s largest corporations in 2016.

As has been a trend here on our company visits, we were introduced to the site by watching a safety video. We were then taken into an office after passing through security. Ms. Irene Jiang introduced herself to us and then led the long discussion. Ms. Jiang has had a long history with project management, engineering, and control. She's worked in China, Canada, the US, Tibet, Mongolia, and now continues working in Malaysia. From the variety of positions she's held, she is very experienced and wise in the field. She really provided an interesting history of some situations that we may come across while working in a similar field in our futures.

Afterwards, she talked about the main scope of the Lemongrass project. The project involves completing an integrated aroma ingredients facility that manufactures citral, a chemical used in fragrances, and menthol, a chemical used in toothpastes. It is currently in the menthol completion phase, which is the second phase of the project. It is located on the east coast of the peninsula and is owned by a joint venture made up of BASF and Petronas (60/40). BASF is a little more technically decisive in the partnership and Petronas is more supportive. Fluor was awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPCM) contract by BASF Petronas Chemicals in 2014. Fluor acts as an engineering partner/owner’s representative on this project. In October of 2013, Fluor completed their Pre-FEED stage, followed by the completion of the FEED stage in January 2014, EPCM phase in July 2014, citral mechanical stage in June 2016, and the menthol mechanical stage was completed in December 2016. The menthol facilities consist of the main plant area, drum filling building, tank farm, TEAL building, and the pipe racks.

One of Irene’s main conversation points was discussing the main difficulties of this project. The main challenges were the understanding and inclusion of local legislation requirements into project strategies, the monsoon impact on productivity and progress, and the prolonged mobilization duration for skilled workers coming from abroad. Malaysia operates differently than the United States, so we got to learn a little about the regulations the Malaysian government imposes that change some project approaches. During the monsoon season, the amount of rain and uncooperative weather must be accounted for and a plan has to be made in case of unfortunate weather patterns. When it comes to bringing in workers from overseas, this process can take months at a time and therefore requires a lot of planning.

Our visit ended in our group splitting up into two groups, each getting their own tour of the site. The site is very big, and required a lot of walking and climbing in the beating sun. We were required to wear fire-retardant jackets and pants, so things were a little warmer than usual. No one managed to escape swimming in their own sweat after the duration of the tour. However, we all embraced our look and had a lot of fun. Everyone also had the opportunity to climb the tallest tower on site, which was a whopping 65 meters in the air and could only be accessed by vertical ladders. The tower is similar to the one pictured below.

All in all, this was a very interesting visit. We want to thank Ms. Irene Jiang and everyone else who helped us at Fluor. You were all so welcoming and accommodating. Thank you for creating such a nice atmosphere and for teaching us a little bit about the chemical creation business.

After leaving the site 2.5 hours behind schedule, we finally made it back to Kuala Lumpur and enjoyed a great Thai dinner. This really emphasized how we managed to blow-up all schedules created for us. Sorry Daisy! After such a long day, we were all exhausted and were eager to get to bed.

Written by Lukasz Cholewa