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The Aseng FPSO: A Project Execution Example

Herman (Eric) van Dijk, Tony Quinn, Brian Ulyett and Christian Tranchand, SBM Offshore; Scott Childres, Brent
Rager, Steve Gallon, Kent Neuman and Edward E. Senules, Noble Energy

Copyright 2012, Offshore Technology Conference

This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 30 April3 May 2012.
This paper was selected for presentation by an OTC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been
reviewed by the Offshore Technology Conference and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Offshore Technology Conference, its
officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Offshore Technology Conference is prohibited. Permission to
reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of OTC copyright.

The Aseng field is located in Block I in Equatorial Guinea, to the east of Bioko Island. Noble Energy is developing
the field using an FPSO and contracted SBM Offshore in 2009 to supply and operate the FPSO on a lease basis,
for a duration of 15 years, plus options for a 5 year extension. The FPSO started production on November 7th,
2011, 55 days ahead of the contractual first oil date. The project was also executed within budget and is an
example within the Noble and SBM organizations of successful project execution.
This paper will describe the execution of the project and will highlight some of the critical factors that contributed
to the success of the project. The paper will start with a technical description of the FPSO and will highlight the
design challenges. Then it will describe the work that was done pre-contract award and its value to the project.
After that it will go into the project organization, both on the contractor and client side, engineering execution and
critical focus areas, procurement strategy and construction strategy. Integration of operations staff into the project
team will be addressed as well.
More and more fields are developed these days, using the FPSO concept and this is expected to increase further
in the near future. Other operators and contractors can learn valuable lessons from the Aseng project execution
Critical success factors for the Aseng project were:
- Extensive schedule development work pre-award, with involvement and buy-in of all internal stakeholders.
- Development of P&IDs pre-award allowing the design activities to hit the ground running.
- A well-resourced and experienced contractor PMT with delegated responsibilities and focus on ownership.
- Involvement of production operations, construction and commissioning personnel early in the design phase.
- The contractual set-up, based on a lease and the contractors Corporate Engineering Standards.
- Open communication between client and contractor with a here to help attitude from the client.
- Successful change management based on a relationship of mutual respect between client and contractor.
- Focus on critical deliverable processes during the engineering phase, specifically on piping design and
management of vendor information.
- Procurement strategy focused on meeting schedule PO dates and local sourcing.
- A proven construction strategy with long time construction partners.
Many FPSO projects over the years have been plagued by schedule and cost overruns. The Aseng example can
give operators and contractors some insights into their project execution methodology which in turn can assist
them in achieving their execution targets.

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Technical Overview
The Aseng Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) unit is
based on the conversion of the 1988 Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC)
Island Bauhinia. It has a deadweight of 255,346 metric tonnes, an overall
length of 330 m and a breadth of 56 m. It is a single hull tanker that was
built in Korea. The accommodation was upgraded to a capacity of 100
Personnel on Board (POB).
The topsides facilities include an oil and water processing plant with a
capacity of 80,000 bpd, a gas compression plant with a capacity of 170
MMscfd, a water injection plant with a capacity of 150,000 bpd and all
associated utilities. The FPSO is powered by three 25 MW power
generators. The final topsides weight came in just below 10,000 metric
The Turret has a capacity of 27 risers of which eight were installed initially.
Up to 11 of the risers slots are destined for production risers and the turret
contains five manifolds that can direct each production flowline to either of
five separators, three HP and two LP, via their respective swivels.
Figure 1. Island Bauhinia upper deck

Design challenges
The main design challenge was the fact that the Aseng crude has a Pour Point of 35 C (95 F), which means that
it solidifies into a shoe polish like state below that temperature. The Wax Appearance Temperature (WAT) is 60
C (140 F).
The main impact that these crude properties had on the design were:
- The need for heating of the cargo tanks to above 60 C (140 F).
- The need for an extensive hot oiling system, consisting of two hot oil circulation pumps (one electric and one
diesel engine driven) and a hot oil umbilical pump.
- The provision of a coiled tubing unit on the fixed part of the turret.
- Extensive insulation and heat tracing in the process facilities.
- Provisions of space and utilities capacity for a future diluent injection and recovery plant.
The other main design challenge was the extent of flexibility that was required in the process system. The oil
processing plant consists of three HP Separators, that can operate either at 83 barg (1200 psig) or 45 barg (650
psig), two LP Separators, operating at 21 barg (300 psig), two Degassers, operating 1 barg (15 psig), followed by
two Electrostatic Treaters. As described above, each flowline can be routed to either one of the LP and HP
Separators. This lead to a very complicated turret design, with five fully rated (2500#) manifolds and space for up
to 55 double block and bleed isolation valves. Due to the high CO2 content of the crude, all the production piping
is provided in duplex, which brings its own challenges for both procurement (schedule) and construction.
Pre-Award Activities
During the extended proposal phase, the key decision was taken to start on a limited amount of pre-work in order
to be better positioned in the event that the project was awarded. To put this in perspective, about 10,000
engineering manhours were invested in the activities below. This was a decision that would greatly enhance the
chances of achieving the schedule later.
On a technical level, most effort was spent developing the topsides, turret and vessel P&IDs. The concept already
being well defined on the PFDs, this work was critical for a smooth engineering process. Because the P&IDs are
the basic starting point of all piping, E&I and eventual structural design, this was time well spent. Having a solid
set of P&IDs and limited changes on them has been a critical success factor for the project. This would later allow
an early HAZOP review followed by an early release of AFC documents to the construction yards.
In addition to P&ID development, significant time was spent developing the lay-outs of the topsides, turret and
engine room. Furthermore, specifications for long lead items were further refined and technical and commercial
discussions with prospective suppliers proceeded, with the intent to be well placed for early award of purchase
orders (POs).

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Significant time was spent setting up a solid project schedule. In line with the guidelines defined by the Project
Management Institute (PMI), a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) was established, activities were defined, activity
durations and resources were estimated and then the activities were linked. The linking of activities was done in
multi-disciplinary sessions where the schedule was projected on a screen and the scheduler and lead engineers,
under guidance of the Engineering Project Managers (EPMs), went through each activity and defined
predecessors. The first sessions were mainly engineering oriented and later procurement and construction got
involved. Special attention was paid to linking delivery of vendor data to in-house engineering activities. A critical
aspect of engineering that is often not well managed.
The total duration of the schedule building exercise was about two months, rolling from the proposal phase into
the EPC phase and it took many long sessions and a significant amount of manhours. However, after all this
work, the result was a solid schedule that everybody bought into, after having been involved in its preparation
intensively. It became a guiding light for the entire project duration.
EPC Organization
The organizational structure of the Project Management Team (PMT) was focused on ownership. Figure 2 below
shows the high level set-up.

Figure 2. Contractor PMT Organization Chart

Note that the FPSO was split up in three main areas, i.e. the topsides, the turret and the vessel. On the
engineering side there is an Engineering Project Manager (EPM) for each area and on the operations side there
is a Delivery Manager for each area. The Area EPMs focus on the details of the engineering execution on a day
to day basis. This allows the overall EPM to keep a high level overview, be the focal point for the client and also
concentrate on schedule and progress. On complex problems, the Overall EPM takes the lead in problem
This approach is mirrored on the operations side with each Delivery Manager being responsible for delivering his
part of the FPSO within schedule and budget. In this role he reports to the Project Manager and directs the
engineering, procurement and construction activities. Each Delivery Manager has his own budget and is
responsible for his own schedule. Similar to the Overall EPM, this allowed the Project Manager to focus on high
level issues and in particular change management.
On this project, the position of Vessel Delivery Manager was filled by the eventual Construction Manager. This
allowed early construction input into the design and continuity throughout the project.
The FPSO Commissioning Manager, reporting to the Construction Manager, joined the PMT three months after
contract award. He was later joined by the commissioning leads for Electrical, Instrumentation and Mechanical.
Again, this early commitment allowed commissioning personnel to be heavily involved in inspection programs and
acceptance testing of equipment, thereby familiarizing themselves with key packages well in advance of the

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actual start of live commissioning activities. Later, these commissioning team members would relocate to the
construction sites and become fully embedded members of the construction teams.
Another critical factor was the involvement of production operations personnel as an integrated part of the project
team. For Aseng, the later Offshore Installation Manager (OIM) and the Maintenance Superintendent were part of
the team early in the project (start-up manager on figure 2). Both were involved in all weekly engineering and
PMT meetings, all design reviews and were acting as a source of operational knowledge for the team.
Furthermore, their real life operational input into resolution of complex engineering issues with the client was
Contractual Structure
The contract set up was a so-called financial lease. The FPSO is owned by the contractor, the EPC is financed
by the contractor and the client pays a dayrate after final acceptance of the unit. The dayrate is called the Bare
Boat Charter (BBC) and is based on the Capex. The production operations are contracted on a reimbursable
basis with performance incentives.
Technically, the contractual basis is a set of Basis of Design issued by the client. The technical details are
covered in the contractors Corporate Engineering Standards (CES). The CES are a set of design philosophies
and standard specifications that embody the contractors minimum standards and that have been developed over
the years. They are continually updated based on experience in the fleet and developments in the industry.
Having the CES as a technical basis is the contractors preferred set up for all of their lease FPSOs. The
importance of this is the fact that contractors personnel is familiar with the technical standards and this will limit
changes throughout the project.
Scope of Work and Subcontracting Strategy
In short, the Scope of Work included the Engineering, Procurement and Construction of the FPSO, including
topsides, vessel, turret and the associated mooring system. Risers and subsea were excluded from the scope.
The engineering and procurement were executed from the contractors office in Kuala Lumpur (KL). Construction
was carried out in Singapore.
Practically all of the engineering, including detail design, was done in the KL office, with only the following scope
- Safety studies
- Hull analysis
- Mechanical design of swivels, turret bearing and chain stoppers (by Monaco office)
- Detail design of the Local Equipment Room, housing topsides switchgear and UCPs (by construction
- Accommodation design (by vessel conversion yard)
- Detail design of engine room conversion (by vessel conversion yard)
Keeping most of the engineering in house is a standard strategy adopted by the Contractor. The strong
advantage of this approach is that interfaces are dealt with in house and risks can be managed internally.
Contractor Client Interaction
The clients organization in the contractors office largely mirrored the contractors organization in the fact that
there was a vessel, a turret and a topsides oriented lead. All three of them had a strong technical background and
followed the project all the way through construction, commissioning and start-up. In addition to the three leads
there were a number of discipline specialist, specifically instrumentation, electrical, structural, marine/naval and
mechanical equipment.
The client interaction was structured with a weekly meeting and additional break-out meetings as required to deal
with complex issues. The client team commented on a defined subset of the engineering documents that was
established before contract award. For critical design documents, such as PFDs, P&IDs, major general
arrangements and the likes, face to face reviews were organized to avoid a comment loop. The client reps were
also involved in all design reviews, such as HAZIDs, HAZOPs and PDMS model reviews. In all technical issues
the client representatives demonstrated a strong willingness to contribute to a solution without taking a hard
contractual position.

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Change Management
Variations, which are often major stumbling blocks on projects, were dealt with in an open and honest manner.
The contractor identified potential variations on a potential VO register that was discussed in the weekly meeting.
The details of the variations were discussed in separate meetings, often with engineering and production
operations representatives involved. From the start of the project, the client was reasonable in agreeing on
variation orders which created a give and take attitude where the contractor might drop some issues and the
client agreed to pay on others. In this way, the impact of changes on the schedule was practically eliminated.
It is important to note that the way the project dealt with variation orders was critical to the projects success. On
many oil & gas projects, the client takes a hard contractual stance on variation orders, which leads to a trench
war, where the contractor starts looking for variation orders as a way to get back at the client. This undoubtedly
leads to schedule delays and may end up in the need for arbitration. The project managers on both sides are
responsible for developing this relationship.
To put things in perspective, this project was not executed without some major changes. Early in the project, a
misunderstanding in the required gas compression capacity lead to an increase in compression power, leading to
a change in the power generation configuration from 4x33% to 3x50%. Another major change was the addition of
a third LP steam boiler in the vessels engine room. All these challenges were successfully dealt with without an
impact on the overall schedule.
There is a famous saying in the oil & gas industry that if you control the piping, you control the job. The thinking
behind this phrase is that changes resulting in changes to piping design, e.g. rerouting pipes, increases in line
size, addition of valves, etc. often have a significant impact due to the redesign effort required, delivery times of
piping components, the fabrication and erection time and the testing requirements. It is relatively easy to weld in a
stiffener or beam, pull some additional cables or make programming changes to the control system. However,
delays or changes in piping design often have a significant impact on a project schedule.
The two major piping deliverables are isometrics and pipe support drawings. The chain of events leading up to
issuance of these drawings are basically development of PFDs, followed by P&IDs, followed by PDMS modeling
and then issue of isometrics and pipe support drawings. The importance of good P&IDs was already addressed in
a previous section. Two other major factors in controlling the piping are PDMS model design reviews and vendor
The contractors design review process allows for 30%, 60% and 90% PDMS model reviews for all areas that are
modeled, i.e. the topsides, the turret, the upper deck and the cargo tanks. Note that the engine room was not
modeled in PDMS. The level of completion at each review stage is defined in the contractors working procedures.
Involvement in the design reviews includes all relevant engineering disciplines, the client, production operations
representatives and HSE. Access and egress and mechanical handling were always major focus points during the
In addition to the group format PDMS design reviews the process group and the production operations
representatives did a full PDMS model based line walk, addressing operability and making sure that all P&ID
requirements such as slope, no pockets, etc. were incorporated into the design. Figure 3 shows a snapshot of
the PDMS model of the FPSO.

Figure 3. PDMS model snapshot of the FPSO

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But most importantly, much attention was paid to the management of vendor data. Where the P&IDs are the
starting basis for the piping design, the design cannot be finished without detailed vendor information. For
example, equipment general arrangements and weight info are critical for the structural design, nozzle locations,
size and ratings are essential to complete the piping design and E&I details are essential to complete cable block
diagrams, termination diagrams and cable routings. Many of late changes in engineering drawings can actually be
traced back to changes in vendor data.
In order to manage vendor data better on this project, a stepwise approach was used;
1. Create awareness with the vendor.
2. Make expectations clear and define these expectations in the purchase order.
3. Closely track status.
Firstly, the position of Vendor Data Engineer (VDE) was created, reporting directly to the overall EPM. The VDE
attended most bid clarification meetings and got some time to make the importance of timely and accurate vendor
data clear to the respective vendors. Delivery dates for critical vendor data were than negotiated and made an
integral part of the purchase order (PO) with payment milestones connected to it. After that, the VDE was
responsible for tracking the status of vendor data delivery, addressing major delays to the procurement group for
Another initiative taken was to make sure that the entire piping design team was aware of the importance of their
tasks. The entire team was addressed by the EPM and the criticality of everyones personal input to the process
was stressed. Posters were prepared to remind people of the upcoming due dates and the time left to complete
their design. The team responded well, meeting all the target dates with great teamwork and limited changes in
design after final drawing issues. Three piping designers were mobilized to assist during the construction phase,
but were all demobilized early due to lack of issues to be addressed. Most of their efforts were regarding
construction issues.
The importance of having productions operations incorporated in the team early on is stressed again here. They
were a continuous source of reference for the engineering team and an asset in all discussions with the client.
Obviously all other disciplines need to be closely managed as well, but because this paper focuses on critical
success factors, the piping design aspect of the engineering is specifically highlighted.
Procurement unfolded particularly well in the course of the execution of the project, as the contractor was able to
roll over the preparatory work carried-out in the proposal phase for critical long lead items into the earliest stage of
project execution. The team established a suppliers' base in Asia, where proximity to contractor's offices in Kuala
Lumpur facilitated the dealings with and the management of the vendors. The contractor also ensured that the
highest level of commitment from the PMT stakeholders was fed into the procurement function, resulting in a
thorough driving of the Procurement Package Managers in charge of delivering critical and/or long lead supplies
in accordance with project schedule, budgets and in compliance with prescribed safety and quality requirements.
The process worked particularly well as quite some unprecedented focus on package delivery was to be shown
within the organization. Overall, the contractor did not experience any delay in the delivery of the procured
packages that could not be mitigated at the construction site. Procurement never adversely impacted the project
schedule critical paths.
Local supplies were a key success factor for the procurement activities as they ensured the highest level of
reactivity necessary to support the various phases of the project construction schedule. More than on any other
project executed by the contractor, suppliers in Malaysia, Singapore and other countries in Asia were extensively
used on the Aseng FPSO project.
No major surprises from suppliers hampered the progress of the procurement, with the exception of one
defaulting valves supplier who went into financial distress. The contractor managed to mitigate the whole package
supply by implementing a recovery plan with another supplier, with in the end no impact to the project schedule.
The contractor paid particular attention to performing vendor credit checking for the most substantial packages,
an initiative dictated by the credit crunch crisis that the world experienced in 2008.
Another success factor was the focus on meeting the PO placement dates as defined in the project schedule.
Contractors often make the mistake of spending additional time on negotiations or consideration of new bidders in
order to find the best commercial deal. Especially when the delivery quoted gives some buffer compared to the

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required on site date, this buffer time is often used for that purpose. What is often overlooked is that late PO
placement leads to late supply of vendor data which delays the completion of the associated engineering.
Construction and Commissioning
The selection of construction sub-contractors was the result of a commercial tendering process, coupled with a
risk assessment based on using new sub-contractors vs. long standing construction partners. During this process
it became increasingly obvious that any commercial gains that could be achieved by utilizing new sub-contractors
would not be balanced by the associated risks of the same. This is something that is often overlooked during any
kind of bid evaluation. It is not unique to construction but can be equally applicable to procurement and even
major EPC projects. Eventually this process resulted in the major construction sub-contracts being awarded to
long standing construction partners in South East Asia.
The sub-contracts were awarded to three separate yards all within close proximity.
Yard 1 Vessel and Turret
Yard 2 Topsides (8 modules)
Yard 3 Topsides (4 Modules)
Construction of the FPSO conversion started in March 2010 with the arrival of the tanker to the shipyard. This
date was nearly three months later than the contractual milestone date. This was a conscious decision and was
driven by the contractors planning, rather than the more arbitrary dates in the EPC contract. The delaying of the
tankers arrival in the yard (and effective shortening of the available construction window) allowed the contractor
to present the shipyard with a large amount of key engineering deliverables before the tanker arrived. This in turn
meant that the yard could sub-contract and plan in advance thereby allowing them to hit the ground running
when the tanker arrived.
Module fabrication started in June 2010. Again, many critical documents were in place and already Approved For
Construction (AFC) at this time. During the construction phase, schedule adherence was vital in order to achieve
the module delivery dates. To enhance the chances of success, the construction teams were supported by on site
engineering staff, mainly piping and instrumentation, to resolve issues on the spot.
Similarly the proactive management of the procurement deliverables by continuous and aggressive expediting
allowed the contractor to keep feeding the yards with materials in line with their own schedule requirements.
Some slight delays in load out dates for some modules were sanctioned in order to maximize the time the
modules spent on the ground and increase the levels of completeness at load out, thereby reducing the amount
of less efficient works on board the FPSO later. All modules were loaded out in a 5 week window between late
March and end April 2011.

Figure 4. Lift of Main Separation Module 1

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The proximity of the construction yards to each other avoided the need for barging and sea transportation of
modules as all the modules were loaded out on a pick and run basis using a heavy lift shear-leg crane. The
average percentage of mechanical completion of each module was 98% with the lowest being 97.07% and the
highest being 99.12%
Once on board the FPSO, the modules were integrated utilizing teams from the module fabricators rather than
teams from the shipyard. In this way, the contractor avoided diluting the available shipyard labor at a critical
phase in the construction cycle. From this point until sailaway, regular sessions were held with the yards to focus
on a broad range of construction Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in order to allow the yards to
utilize/redistribute their resources in the most efficient manner to maintain the completion dates.
Commissioning activities had already begun to ramp up on the FPSO and once the modules were lifted on board
a fully resourced commissioning team was deployed to execute the B and C scopes on board the unit. The
execution of B and C scope was internally managed using technicians employed directly by the contractor rather
than using fabrication yard personnel. Again, this avoided the dilution of yard labor at a critical time. Coupled with
this, construction personnel moved across into the commissioning team thereby bringing continuity to the overall
process. Again, commissioning KPIs were continuously reported and resources shifted and utilized accordingly in
order to maintain the schedule.
The FPSO departed from Singapore on September 12th, 2011 with 99.9% of A ITRs (Inspection and Test
Records) completed and high levels of completeness on B and C scope.
Sail to Site, Installation and Start-Up
The FPSO arrived in Equatorial Guinea on October 16th, 2011 after the 34 day voyage using its own propulsion,
averaging 10 knots for the entire transit to site. The main engine and associated systems had been extensively
refurbished during the conversion just for this single voyage to site. The unit was then imported into Equatorial
Guinea (EG) and was handed over to the installation team.

Figure 5. FPSO Aseng leaving Singapore

Even though the installation of the FPSO was a separate contract outside the EPC, it was awarded to the
contractors services division which facilitated seamless interface management between all parties throughout the
various phases of the project.
The installation scope consisted of the installation of 9 anchor chains (the anchoring system had been preinstalled 8 months prior to the FPSOs arrival), assembly and installation of both the deep suction and offloading
hoses and the installation of 8 risers and umbilicals. This was accomplished in 19 days and on November 6th,
2011 the contractor received the necessary client approvals to start production.

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First oil was achieved on November 7th, 2011. In terms of schedule this was 21 days after the FPSO arrived in the
field and 55 days earlier than the contractual first oil date. Since then, the unit has been consistently producing at
50,000 bpd and the first offload was carried out on December 3rd, 2011.
No Good without some Bad and Ugly
If the above gives the impression that everything went perfectly on this project it shouldnt. The project faced the
comparable number and magnitude of problems that most projects face such as changes in design, late deliveries
by vendors accompanied by outstanding work, shortages of resources in fabrication yards, etc.
However, the focus on planning and the flexibility and cooperation of an experienced PMT allowed these issues to
be successfully managed without compromise.
Schedule Adherence
To illustrate the compliance with the schedule, Table 1 below summarizes the baseline schedule dates and the
actual completion dates.
Table 1. Actual versus baseline schedule dates



- Award of FPSO contract



- Vessel delivered to conversion yard



- First cut module steel



- Mooring system delivered to EG



- Final module lifted on board



- Complete turret integration



- Quayside departure



- Sail Away



- Target arrival date



- First oil



Summary and Conclusions

In summary, the Aseng FPSO is a large size lease FPSO, with relatively complex process facilities and crude
properties. It faced a set of challenges that is typical for these types of projects. It was executed successfully due
to the following critical success factors:
- Extensive schedule development work pre-award, with involvement and buy-in of all internal stakeholders.
- Development of P&IDs pre-award allowing the design activities to hit the ground running.
- A well-resourced and experienced contractor PMT with delegated responsibilities and focus on ownership.
- Involvement of production operations, construction and commissioning personnel early in the design phase.
- The contractual set-up, based on a lease and the contractors Corporate Engineering Standards.
- Open communication between client and contractor with a here to help attitude from the client.
- Successful change management based on a relationship of mutual respect between client and contractor.
- Focus on critical deliverable processes during the engineering phase, specifically on piping design and
management of vendor information.
- A procurement strategy focused on meeting schedule PO dates and local sourcing.
- A proven construction strategy with long time construction partners.


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Attachment 1 List of Acronyms




Approved For Construction


Bare Boat Charter


Barrels Per Day


Capital Expenditure


Corporate Engineering Standards


Electrical & Instrumentation


Equatorial Guinea


Engineering, Procurement and Construction


Engineering Project Management


Floating Production, Storage And Offloading (Unit)


Hazard Identification (Study)


Hazard and Operability (Study)


High Pressure


Inspection and Testing Record


Kuala Lumpur


Key Performance Indicator


Low Pressure


Million Standard Cubic Feet per Day


Mega Watt


Offshore Installation Manager


Piping & Instrumentation Diagram


Plant Design Management System


Process Flow Diagram


Project Management Institute


Project Management Team


Purchase Order


Personnel On Board


Quality, Health, Safety and Environment


Vendor Data Engineer


Very Large Crude Carrier


Variation Order


Wax Appearance Temperature


Work Breakdown Structure