Aug 05
Delivering India’s Heaviest Hydrocracker Reactor - A Moment of Pride
Delivering India’s Heaviest Hydrocracker Reactor - A Moment of Pride
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) is currently implementing the Visakh Refinery Modernisation Project (VRMP) as part of a brownfield expansion of the Visakhapatnam-based refinery. Its objective is simple - modernize and enhance the capacity of the said refinery from its current capacity of 8.33 MMTPA to 15 MMTPA and produce and distribute Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) compliant fuels.
A critical unit in the project which will help meet this objective is a Full Conversion Hydrocracker Unit (FCHCU) which when commissioned will become India’s largest in terms of capacity. HPCL recently completed successful erection of two Hydrocracker Reactors which form the heart of the FCHCU. These reactors, both designed and manufactured by L&T, include a 1,858 Metric Ton (MT) behemoth which claims the mantle of being the country’s heaviest Hydrocracker Reactor.
Awarded in September 2017, the 18-month-long project was as much a test of L&T’s engineering proficiency as the resolve of the team that worked on it, especially when it came to manufacturing the country’s heaviest Reactor.
According to Mr. V.V. Risbud, VP & Head - Reactor Pressure Vessel PBU, L&T Heavy Engineering, manufacturing the 1,858 MT Reactor against a short deadline necessitated work at a furious pace with focused initiatives for process optimization to compress cycle time, balancing the feeder lines and ensuring availability of necessary plant and machinery for handling the Reactor.
It all began with design for which the team employed special design methodologies including carrying out Finite Element Analysis and developing 3D models to finalize an equipment design that met all the technical requirements. L&T Heavy Engineering worked closely with Engineering Consultant EIL (Engineers India Limited), Process Licensor UOP (Universal Oil Products) and Authorized Inspector Lloyd’s to finalize the technical specifications, metallurgy, vendor selection, and interfaces.
Designing a high-pressure Reactor this heavy and thick was extremely challenging. Yet the project team managed to complete the task in roughly five months. A major milestone in itself, this period witnessed 182 documents approval from EIL, UOP and Lloyd’s. Not an easy task by any means.
Even as design teams sought to get a fix on the various design-related tasks, a detailed strategy was chalked out for procuring the raw materials. The sourcing team went to extraordinary lengths to not only identify key critical materials but also worked overtime to ensure timely and accurate supply of special material such as Cr-Mo-V steel.
Manufacturing the mammoth reactor in 10 months was a daunting task. The high thickness Cr-Mo-V, a critical material, was welded using narrow groove automatic welding technique involving 63 MT of weld deposit. The same technique was employed for welding the massive nozzle which had 1480mm diameter. The process was optimized to significantly reduce the handling of components, sub-assemblies and final product weighing between 80 to 1858MT inside the workshop using overhead cranes.
For improving the speed, de-constraining the material flow and improving time on task for the operators, dedicated Smart Stations were deployed. These Smart Stations not only reduced the setup time but also improved the ergonomics and safety during operations.
“All these initiatives coupled with team-work and active Project Management enabled the team to deliver the project two weeks ahead of schedule with first-time-right quality, zero defect, and compliance to the desired safety standards,” informs Mr. Risbud.
The Heavy Engineering team succeeded in optimizing the delivery time by meticulously devising and implementing digitalization across welding and fabrication processes using the latest smart welding stations under “doubling the speed initiative”.
According to the team, thorough detailing and planning helped save 30% of handling time by using special fixture and successful implementation of precise alignment & synchronization of multiple turning rollers for single piece rotation. Furthermore, sophisticated software tools were deployed for floor capacity analysis, load distribution for hydraulic-test (2734MT) and lifting of the single piece Reactor with 2000MT jacking system. A heady mix of innovation and technology along with rigorous monitoring resulted in best quality product with zero defect and early delivery.
The FCHCU Reactor (55m L x 8.7m W x 7.8m H) was transported from L&T’s Hazira jetty to Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Vizag, by barge on March 22, 2019. After reaching Vizag, the Reactor continued its onward journey to HPCL, Vizag, on two parallel Multi-Axle Hydraulic Trailers – setting yet another record for being the heaviest equipment ever transported on Indian roads –  and reached Visakh Refinery project site on April 28, 2019. The equipment had to traverse the last 4 kilometers on public road surrounded by residence and business complexes, leaving onlookers dumbstruck with its sheer size. This herculean task was accomplished by deft maneuvering of the equipment through the available space after blocking the road for 6 hours which involved obtaining permission and extensive coordination with the Police, RTO, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC), and the Fire Department.
The logistics team worked tirelessly through it all. From deciding the barging period factoring in different fair-weather period between the east and west coast, to obtaining permissions for modification of existing infrastructure from HSL jetty to HPCL site from various agencies like HSL, GVMC and Electric Board, it didn’t leave anything to chance.
Upon receiving the reactor ahead of schedule, Mr. S. Raja, Executive Director - Visakh Refinery Modernization Project, HPCL congratulated the team and said that L&T had set a new benchmark in manufacturing India’s heaviest Hydrocracker Reactor meeting the quality and safety requirements, with first time right and zero defect.
The successful delivery of the country’s heaviest Hydrocracker Reactor ahead of schedule is yet another example of L&T Heavy Engineering’s unparalleled manufacturing excellence and its unrelenting commitment to customer satisfaction. The promise it made to HPCL has been honoured.
One mountain summited… on to the next!

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Blog Tools