You are on page 1of 9



By Ping Li, Kang Yong Liu and John H. Yuan | May 2013, Vol. 240, No. 5

A suspension bridge had to be built for the Sichuan-Shanghai pipeline
The Sichuan-Shanghai Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project is the most significant gas
pipeline built in China since the West East Pipeline was completed in 2005. The Sichuan-
Shanghai pipeline is somewhat shorter than the West East Pipeline; however, its degree of
difficulty in both design and construction makes it equivalent in stature.
This mega project consists of an NPS 40 (1,016-mm) pipeline which starts from the gas fields of
the 815-km mountain range in the Sichuan and Hubei Provinces in south central China and
continues 1,700 km through very rugged and populated mountains adjacent to the Yangtze River
before reaching the plains of Wuhan, a short distance from the Pacific Ocean and Shanghai, its
final destination. The pipeline crosses through eight provinces, 29 cities and 63 counties for a
total length of 2,203 km.
Along the pipeline, there are 30 process stations, 94 valve sites and seven Yangtze River
crossings. More than 85% of the pipeline is routed through rugged populated mountainous
terrain; the highest point is 1,716 m (5,600 feet) and the lowest point at sea level. From Yichang
to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through all types of water courses including rivers, lakes, canals
and ponds. Construction methodology included 3.08 m or 2.44 m diameter shield tunnel, 4 m
width and 3.2 m height diameter drill and blast tunnels, 1,016-mm or 813-mm diameter
directional drilling and aerial crossings.

SCADA is used as the main control system; fiber optics communication cables were run in the
same trench and are backed up by public telecom. Construction began Aug. 31, 2007 and the
mega project was completed in just 27 months, on Dec. 3, 2009.
Best practice project management techniques were utilized which ensured targets were met and
construction milestones were achieved as planned. These practices were seen as a major
contributor to the projects success. The following aspects will be elaborated in this article:
organization, strict bidding and team access systems, material purchasing specifications, HSE
(health, safety and environmental) management and quality control, information management,
construction management, etc.
Sichuan-Shanghai Pipeline Project Profile
The Sichuan-Shanghai Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project is the largest pipeline project
of SINOPEC for which it established several records:
* largest project investment of pipeline
* largest pipe diameters
* largest capacity
* highest technical requests, and
* most complex and difficult construction.
From Puguang in Sichuan Province to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through eight provinces of
China. The overall pipeline includes one main pipeline and five branches. They are: Puguang-
Shanghai Main Pipeline; Dahua Branch, Chuanwei Branch, Jiangxi Branch, Nanjing Branch and
Jinling Branch. Total length is 2,203 km. The main pipeline is 1,016 mm in diameter and its
length is 1,635 km. There are 30 process stations and 94 valve stations along the pipeline.
Design capacity is 12Bln Nm3 annually of 10MPa natural gas.
The pipeline crosses mountains in Sichuan and West Hubei Provinces and the Jianghan Plain
and Yangzi River Delta places. From Puguang to Yichang, along the 815-km pipeline, the
highest point is 1,716 m altitude and more than 85% of the pipeline is located in the mountain
areas. From Yichang to Shanghai, the pipeline passes through numerous rivers, lakes, canals
and ponds.

Along the pipeline, the construction methodology included shield tunnels, drill and blast tunnels
and directional drilling, crossing Yangzi River seven times totaling 15.3 km in length, crossing
mountains 72 times totaling 92.7 km in length. One suspension bridge of 332 m for 1,016-mm
pipe was built; rivers were crossed 501 times; roads were crossed (including 50 for highway)
1,206 times; railways were crossed 32 times and 30 crossings were needed for water canals and
To install the pipeline, the project required 123 directional drills, 192 uses of jacking, and 1,454
uses of heavy evacuation.
The target was to meet 100% quality of total construction. More than 90% of installation, more
than 60% of civil construction and 96% of weld work must be qualified the first time. During the
entire construction process, there were no major quality or environmental incidents and no large
public affair issues. Commissioning and start-up were achieved in one round.
Project Management And Overall Control
Due to the size of the project and its geographical nature, it was divided into seven sections.
Each had its own management team with a similar structure as the general project management
team. Each team was fully responsible for execution of the various construction projects in its
area in terms of HSE, quality, cost, and planning.
The general project management team coordinated the seven teams of each region and hence
had overall responsibility for the global execution in terms of HSE, quality, cost, and planning. To
manage the budget, the general project management team controlled the global procurement
and logistics (distribution of material to each contractor).
As per the Project Management Manual, 14 procedures (included in the manual) were outlined.
These covered all the general aspects of the project and included:
1. HSE
2. quality management
3. schedule control
4. investment control
5. contract management
6. bidding
7. design management
8. design drawings and documents control
9. construction supervision management
10. technology management
11. project coordination
12. procurement
13. accounting, and
14. project document management.
According to regulations and based on the project condition, all of the contractors were pre-
qualified for their registrations. A database for qualified contractors was built up and all ITB
documents issued and reviewed by experts. After collecting bidding documents from the
contractors, a formal evaluation process was utilized to select the best candidates. In the bidding,
287 construction companies were selected based on their qualifications, technical equipment,
financial condition, professional technology and previous achievements.

During the qualification process, seven HSE training sessions were organized and 907 staff
received training certificates for management and qualification; 26 tests for welders were
organized with 1,793 welders certified; seven non-destruction tests were organized with 325
persons certified; 14 tests were held for supervisors and 934 supervisors certified; one QHSE
inner-auditor training session was organized with 24 certified; one training session for site quality
and safety was organized and 96 staff certified.
During the training sessions, the Petrochemical Branch of China Supervising Association was
contracted for training, and 84 supervisors were involved. In addition, the project management
team (PMT) organized training for engineering, finance, purchasing, budget, law affairs, inner-
auditing, etc. During the training sessions, quality and safety awareness were emphasized as
well as ways to improve professional management skills.
Standardized Purchasing
Pipe engineering requires considerable material and equipment involving many varieties with
advanced technologies. The main equipment was imported from overseas. The quality of
material and supply ultimately influences overall project quality and schedule. So that material
and equipment would meet the projects needs, there was strict implementation of the bid and
material-purchasing process. This included many control steps such as strengthening contract
management, controlling material and equipment selection, purchasing strategy under
supervision, quality testing, etc.
First, in selecting material and equipment, the advanced technology, top quality, economy and
suitability had to ensured; Second, standard quality control, technology and performance
requirements, and equipment supervision were completely set up. Third, technology control and
technical support at the purchasing step were fully emphasized and pipe material technological
problems addressed to meet standards.
Communication and investigation regarding compressor controls, valves, SCADA systems and
other issues were strengthened. Finally, to ensure quality management, an expert team was
appointed to handle all of the steps such as supplier selection, purchasing, inspection, test,
order, delivery, transportation and storage.

HSE System
The PMT established an integrated HSE management system. Based on HSE requirements and
focusing on the complex characteristics of the high construction technology, long distances and
mountain water network construction, PMT created a special management department to
manage the projects HSE. An HSE management agreement was then signed with each
The PMT developed numerous response plans for emergency monitoring and evacuation; fire
damp and fire work explosion; tunnel collapse and water push in tunnel; water pollution; public
hygiene incident; natural disaster, and team incident break out. All tools and machinery were
properly equipped and drills performed in coordination with local public response departments.
By meticulous planning and execution, hazard identification and prevention such as explosion,
water and mud rush surges, landslides, debris flow and the Schistosomiasis were well-controlled,
thus enabling the team to focus on the mountain, Yangtze River crossing and tunnel
The PMT promoted an environmentally friendly concept by optimizing pipeline routine. This
resulted in shortening of the overall length; fewer trees were cut as overall plant destruction was
reduced. While environmental protection was maximized, the land occupation was minimized.
Efforts were made to enhance protection of water sources, natural reserves and scenic areas.
Health of the project staff was also very important and the PMT issued brochures, including a
Schistosomiasis Prevention Manual and Work Manual To Prevent Schistosomiasis, which
called on contractors to take measures to protect the health of their workers.
Construction Quality Control
The PMT organized pipe-welding process assessment with 101 items, compiling welding
processes with 389 procedures. The PMT organized station valve welding process assessment
with 66 items and compiled a total of 64 welding procedures. By following up the quality
assessment, all of the welding jobs were successful.
According to overseas advanced operation maintenance procedure for valve maintenance, the
PMT cooperated with American JHU that guaranteed all valve startups to run smoothly for long-
term operation and to prevent operational risks.
The PMT performed quality supervision during construction, held special inspections randomly,
developed strict documentation management methods and set up a proper documentation record
system, thus keeping good traceability. For pipe cleaning, welding, anti-corrosion, depth of
burying processes, PMT performed a three-step method. Inspections for construction quality
were held weekly, monthly, quarterly and at random, and a welding-waste recycling program was
conducted. When problems were found, a corrective notice was issued that quality work had to
be done on time. For some underground projects, the PMT dug out randomly to perform
inspections to ensure the quality was under control.
Information and Document Standard Management
Because of issues such as a long pipeline with complicated landform and inconvenient
transportation, the PMT introduced an independent intellectual project management software:
C3/PM. Applying this management and information program greatly increased working efficiency
and the project-managing level. The system also provided technology support for scientific
The PMT set up a document management department which issued a manual Work Instruction
on Construction Technical Documents Handover for Sichuan-Shanghai Pipeline Project, along
with three other books, including more than 2,000 pages describing detail requirements. This
established and strengthened the document standardization management.
Because the project involved complicated construction, long distance with large scope and a tight
schedule with high standard requirements on quality, the PMT took a significant chance and
received a National Project Award honoring best efforts on innovations, clearly defined project
target, understanding the work approaches, firmly establishing the project management system
and project execution. Control of the construction quality and AHSE for critical spots are well-
established. Meanwhile, the PMT pushed innovations on new technology, new equipment and
materials. By their efforts, the Best Project concept was identified by the contractors, the QHSE
awareness is well-understood by all staff, and their performances continuously improved.
General Performance Highlights
The PMT established a three-layer, project-specific management system, focused on HSE,
quality and improvement. With adequate system and control documents, the procedures for
project execution were designed to be well-controlled systemically. All of the contractors were
able to follow project specifications and HSE management requirements.
Experts abroad confirmed that the PMT issued and practiced a scientific, adequate project
management system. Based on the baseline document system, the PMT maintained continuous
improvement in project execution to make it more practical, integrated and systematic. For such
an enormous undertaking, the experts found the project management work was more than
Environmental Protection With Advanced Project Strategy
The PMT focused on maintaining a positive public image of SINOPEC. The requirements of
Environmental Kindness, Farmer Kindness, Employee Kindness; Public Respecting, Local
Respecting and Contractors Respecting, were transmitted to every involved entity. By optimizing
the routine, 63 km of pipeline were eliminated, 3 million trees saved and 126 types of plants
protected along the route.
By protecting the environment to the maximum extent possible, construction challenges were
minimized and potential safety problems avoided, thus enabling work to move along smoothly.
The entire project set high standards of landscape and environment restoration. The attention
paid to environmental protection is considered a model for similar projects.
Safety And Quality Standards
Based on the records, welding quality was about 99% pass in various types of NDT inspection.
The quality exceeded the target and worldwide best practices.
During construction, 72 tunnels were linked up with a total length of 92.7 km. This required
355,399 tons of explosives and the use of 4,402,578 detonators. There was no loss of explosive
materials or incidents during that process.
On the route more than 95 water-eroded caves were recorded. During construction, more than
60 water/mud bursts and more than 20 landslides occurred, but caused no injuries.
By cooperating with other research and development entities and enterprises, the PMT used
domestic production of 850 k tons of pipe in total (the large-diameter, thick-walled X70 SSAW
pipe, LSAW pipes, the sheets and the thick-wall bends), which set a record for Chinese
industries - one which will be hard to surpass.
Overcoming Difficulties And Perfect Project Control
Every scheduled milestone was achieved during the project. The Puguang First Station to
Liangping Main started up on Feb. 20, 2009, the Dahua Branch and the Chuanwei Branch
started up on March 22, 2009, so a total of 347 km of Phase I was completed. Phase II, the main
pipeline from Liangping to Wuhan, 760 km, started up on Oct. 10, 2009 and on Dec. 30, 2009 the
gas arrived to the Shanghai End Station. The 1,635-km pipeline had now successfully started up.
From the start of construction on Aug. 31, 2007 to Dec. 3, 2009 when gas arrived at the
Shanghai End Station took less than 28 months. Considering the challenges (seven times
crossing the Yangtze River, 92 km of 72 mountain tunnels, 815 km of mountain area with 1,716
m altitude and more than 500 crossings of rivers and ponds, etc.) and the complexities (total
2,170 km with main 1,016 mm diameter, with 287 construction contractors and 20,000 personnel
in construction), the achievement of the overall requirements in such a short time was considered
Project Innovations Awards
The PMT put remarkable effort in innovations. The project has achieved 11 new records in the
Chinese pipeline industry such as: longest crossing of the Yangtze River, most mountain tunnels,
largest span of bridges and no re-work for continuous welding. Three of these marks are also
world records.
The PMT was also awarded by SINOPEC for six management innovations and two Sixteen
Party Congress Construction Awards. The PMT has published two work manuals, Corrosion
Protection Work Manual, and Gas Jet Cable Installation Technique Manual, which could help
guide future pipeline work.

Following document review and site survey, many experts considered the Sichuan-Shanghai NG
Pipeline project management system as the best they had seen, considering its size, vision,
technological achievements on quality and HSE management, construction and supervision
management, procurement management, schedule control and continuous improvements. They
said it went beyond the scope of worldwide industrial practices for its project management
system on integrity and technology.
Great contributions were made by everyone who worked on the project including the
management team which overcame every obstacle and delivered an extremely successful
project at the end.
Ping Li is an engineer with masters degree, a registered architect, registered tender and
registered supervision engineer. He has many years of experience working on petrochemical
pipeline technology, research, safety and project management. He works for the Sinopec
Pipeline Storage & Transportation Corp. in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, 22118, China.

Kang Yong Liu is a senior engineer with bachelors degree. He is a registered architect and
registered tender with man years of experience working on petrochemical project quality control,
inspection and management. He works for the Sinopec Department of Pipeline Gas Project From
Sichuan to Shanghai, Yi Chang, Hubei Province, 443100, China.

John H. Yuan, Ph.D., is a senior engineer who has spent many years involved with
petrochemical engineering project management. He works for Datek Inc., Ontario, Canada.