In the project life cycle, construction, installation, and pre-commissioning are crucial stages where a plant needs to be deemed mechanically complete before a client can begin generating revenue. Most contractors unfortunately declare projects as mechanically complete without giving full consideration to what mechanical completion (MC) really means.
Generally, MC is a milestone in an EPC contract and a construction phase of a project that declares that a plant has been built per engineering specifications, all materials and equipment have been installed and hydro-tested, and all the electrical and instrumentation installations have been completed. Prior to mechanical completion, pre-commissioning activities are usually included in the list of items that need to be completed.
Audubon Field Solutions goes a step further when defining MC. “From our company’s perspective, mechanical completion means the plant or facility is ready to introduce hydrocarbons,” said Scott Wells, Vice President of Audubon Field Solutions Onshore Facilities. “We tell clients that until the plant is holding 5 to 10 pounds of positive nitrogen pressure, it is not mechanically complete.”
Declaring a plant as mechanically complete also facilitates payment for the contractor and/or engineering company, an aspect that partially explains why some contractors push for mechanical completion. MC is typically the last 10 percent of the project while commissioning and startup, or the introduction of hydrocarbons (i.e., gas or oil), is the last 5 percent of the project. According to Wells, “Pre-commissioning and commissioning tend to be an afterthought, but there’s documentation that needs to be handed over to Operations because the operations personnel are the ones who have to live with the plant.”
So, what does MC ultimately mean to the client? It means that the mechanical contractor and the client must agree on the definition beforehand. “That’s a challenge that must be addressed in how the EPC contract is written. If the mechanical completion isn’t defined upfront, the contractor is going to assume the phrase MC is literal,” Wells said.