Bechtel gears itself up for Rio Grande’s first three trains: interview
Bechtel now has the notice to proceed with construction of the first three trains of the 28mn tonne/year Rio Grande LNG terminal in Texas, after NextDecade announced a $18.7bn final investment decision on the project on July 12.
“This is huge – it’s the first time we’ve taken on a three-consecutive train project,” Paul Marsden, president of Bechtel’s global energy business, tells NGW. “This is a really big deal for us.”
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Bechtel has already been working on the project for five years and has received several limited notices to proceed in that time.
“Our engineering team is already at peak on the project. We’ve been at the site, we’ve done some testing work, to make sure that everything is exactly what we’re expecting, and we’re ready to mobilise to the site,” Marsden says. “We’re looking forward to a really great strong start for our customer NextDecade.”
Rather than nervous, Marsden feels constructive paranoia. “Because you can focus that and turn it into action. We've got a great team and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them to deliver this project.”
The option to use some off-site fabrication and off-site assembly could help reduce costs, Marsden says. But to keep costs under control it’s all about sticking to the schedule.
Bechtel is trialling new methods to lessen the environmental footprint of its construction work, from the use of hybrid bulldozers, hybrid-powered excavators to using gas generation instead of temporary diesel units and using LED instead of conventional lights.
Beyond the project’s sheer scale, a key challenge will be the ongoing issue with the global supply chains, Marsden says.
“The global supply chain is still heavily in distress, and we’re still in a significant inflationary environment. We’ve had suppliers that have gone into financial distress on other projects,” he explains. “These are additional hurdles we have to work through that weren’t there two-three years ago.”
“However, we’re ready to place a lot of the major purchase orders in the supply chain almost immediately, because the most certainty we can give to the supply chain is to give them the orders, give them the time, and give them the support they need,” he said.
Brownsville, where the project is based, and the broader Rio Grande valley, has been a significant source of labour for Bechtel for its various US Gulf Coast energy projects. This is a mature, competent and skilled workforce that the company is looking to tap for Rio Grande LNG, Marsden says. But it will also have to seek out some travelling workforce.
Bechtel will help support NextDecade’s social licence to operate as an LNG developer by investing back in the community.
“We think about what work can we put into the local supply chain; what services, what materials, what products can we go and buy locally? Who can we hire locally? Are there particular scopes of work that we can give to local contractors?,” Marsden says. “This is to make sure everybody feels like they’re actively participating in the project.”
This is a similar approach Becthel has adopted with its work at Port Arthur LNG, also in Texas.
“The idea is that when we ultimately leave at the end of construction, there’s a much more mature and well-established supply chain,” Marsden says.
Bechtel wants to bring learnings from those projects to bear at Rio Grande LNG. “We want to really focus on doing the project safely, getting things properly set up, building great relationships with the local communities and earning our social licence to operate,” Marsden says.
“I’m very satisfied with the workload that we have. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the capacity to take on more, We are going to be very selective about what we do and when and who we’re working with,” he says.