Capital Project Management Support

Tom Wolf                                                    (281)565-4038

Successful Project Execution - Methodologies to Ensure Success, Front End Engineering and Design, and Front End Loading


T.E. Wolf, Sugar LandTexas


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Every project and project team starts out with successful project execution as being at least one of their stated goals.  Successful project execution is measured by several parameters, but, almost without exception, two measures of success are minimized cost and schedule duration.

However, successful project execution can be a very elusive goal.  

The Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) and Front End Loading (FEL) processes can and do mean different things to different organizations.  Some organizations may even differentiate the two processes, but the idea of both is to utilize a process that will improve the chances for successful project execution, and there is not just one way to do it.

Simply stated and assuming a solid business case for pursuing the project exists, Front End Engineering and Design and Front End Loading are methodologies to bring together the essential personnel to define a project’s Scope of Work up front, prior to starting detail design, to work systematically through to construction and ultimate plant operation, and to minimize cost, schedule duration, and disruptive change. 

In these methodologies, initially the Scope is defined in only sufficient detail to identify major cost components and schedule determinants.   The reason for doing this is to ensure a firm basis is agreed upon by all the stakeholders prior to committing the resources necessary to start detail design, procurement, and construction.  And it is this firm basis that minimize cost, schedule duration, and disruptive change, and leads to project success, 

Stakeholders include the owner’s business unit people, plant operations, and management, and as applicable, research and development, engineering contractor and construction contractor personnel.  Each of these parties bring valuable and possibly conflicting viewpoints necessary to ensure best possible decisions and ultimate project success.

The Front End Engineering and Design and Front End Loading processes are usually broken down into several distinct periods or phases with each phase culminating in owner management review during which the project is sanctioned or discarded.  Many times five phases are identified and if so, these would consist typically of the following activities and deliverables.



        1. Define Opportunity
        2. Identify Stakeholders
        3. Identify expectations
          • Develop Business Objectives
          • Frame project
          • Assess current business situation
        4. Identify concept
          • Develop Conceptual Scope
          • Prepare Conceptual Estimate
          • Evaluate concept
        5. Plan for Next Phase
        6. Prepare Management Review Document
        7. Management Review and Approval, or Rejection

Typical deliverables

        • Process description
        • Process conditions
        • Block flow diagram
        • Equipment identification
        • Utility requirements




        1. Assemble Stakeholder Team
        2. Review Conceptual Phase package
        3. Establish Objectives and Priorities
        4. Begin execution planning
        5. Identify Alternates
          • Generate alternatives
          • Select and refine alternatives
          • Develop scope definition of each
          • Prepare alternate Estimates
          • Evaluate alternatives
        6. Plan for Next Phase
        7. Prepare Management Review Package
        8. Management Review and Approval, or Rejection

Typical deliverables 

        • Process start-up, operating,  and shutdown conditions
        • Heat and Material Balance (H&MB)
        • Process Flow Diagrams (PFD)
        • Utilities Flow Diagrams (UFD)
        • Major equipment datasheets
        • Equipment List
        • Initial hazard review
        • Equipment layout showing:
            • Equipment
            • Major piping
        • Initial EPC Schedule




        1. Assemble Team
        2. Continue execution planning
        3. Initiate Permitting
        4. Define project
          • Prepare detailed Scope of Work
          • Finalize Execution Plan
          • Prepare Detail Schedule
          • Prepare Detail Estimate
          • Evaluate project
        5. Procure Long Lead Equipment - starts both ultimate Delivery and Vendor Information clock
        6. Plan for Next Phase
        7. Prepare Management Review Package
        8. Management Review and Approval, or Rejection

Typical Deliverables
        • Process and Instrument Diagrams (P&ID)
        • Relief system
        • Equipment Datasheets
        • Hazard analysis
        • Plot Plan
        • Load studies
        • Electrical One Line
        • Area Classification




        1. Assemble Team
        2. Implement Execution Plan
          • Procure Equipment - start Vendor Information clock
          • Perform Detail Design
          • Procure Materials
        3. Complete operations planning
        4. Perform operator training
        5. Construction
        6. Commissioning



        1. Start-up
        2. Full operation
        3. Evaluate project
          • Post project assessment (learned lessons)
          • Project close out
        4. Continued improvement 

Front End Engineering and Design (Feed) and Front End Loading (FEL) are methodologies designed to increase the likelihood of project execution success.  Whatever the name attached to the methodology, these approaches bring together all essential personnel to define a project’s Scope of Work as early as possible before detail design starts, to work systematically through the project execution cycle, and ultimately to minimize cost, schedule duration, and disruptive change. 

This website’s goal is to provide a source for project management support, information, education, and training material for project managers and project engineers primarily in the refinery, petroleum, and petrochemical industries.  In the execution of these projects, the project manager or project engineer may find the need for additional information and support; most times this support will come from within his or her company.  But there are times additional sources are needed.  To minimize cost, schedule duration, and disruptive change, and to execute successful projects, many tools and skills are required.  This website is intended to meet those additional needs.


Project success is a function of the people skills and a broad understanding of diverse subject matter of the project management team.  Scope definition, execution considerations, construction strategy, planning and schedule impact, resource utilization, overcoming difficulties and problem solving, etc, etc, etc, are just a few to enumerate even without addressing the technical side.  Then there is the cost, estimating, and estimate side, factor estimates, detail estimates, forced detail estimates, basis of estimate, construction wage rates, and so on.  Then there is the technical side, material issues, piping systems, equipment considerations, civil and structural, electrical and control systems, document control, specifications, standards, and regulations.  Then there’s the variety of processes both refining (hydrocrackers, delayed cokers, etc.) and petrochemical facilities, the list is almost endless.


Project management is as much art as science.  The key is to continue to learn and never stop learning.

Tom Wolf has over 40 years petroleum and petrochemical experience, including 25 years in project management.  He holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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