Maximizing Efficiency: VEC Inc.

Industrial October 2018
Published On
Oct 17, 2018

VEC Inc. worked on the early construction at a 780-acre petrochemical project owned by Shell Chemical Appalachia. Once completed, the facility—located 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh on the Ohio River—will convert ethane into approximately 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year.

The “cracking” process will produce various products, including linear low-density polyethylene used to make food packaging, film, trash bags, and other products as well as high-density polyethylene used to make crates, bottles, food containers and other housewares. Byproducts are used to make fuels and other chemicals.

The scope of work for VEC, based in Girard, Ohio, included temporary power, site lighting and security systems.

“We brought in power from two substations and ran parallel underground feeds throughout the entire facility,” said Henry Hall, project manager. “Our civil team performed trenching and concrete work while our electrical crew ran the conduit and cable to 14-S&C underground distribution switches across the site. We installed 58 transformers, 56 electrical panels and seven lighting racks for 4,160V of temporary power at the site.”

VEC used prefabrication to increase efficiency. Transformer racks were assembled at VEC’s Hubbard, Ohio, fabrication facility. Transformers and panels were mounted on the racks, and shipped to the job site. Terminations were completed in the field.

“We had an on-site designated staging area and distributed prefabricated panel racks, transformers and switches throughout the site,” Hall said. “VEC also prefabricated lighting racks with panels, junction boxes and photo eyes.”

Seventy-five high-mast light poles for the site also were installed, and they required drilling 21-foot-deep caissons to support the 100-foot light poles, which arrived on-site in pieces and were assembled and set in place with a crane. Lifting devices were used to install lights and LED fixtures.

“While temporary power for the site was being installed, we also were responsible for the CCTV camera system and network,” Hall said.

VEC installed 108 poles for the 192 Axis security cameras. The cameras monitored the 8.4 miles of perimeter fence line and various areas within the site. Getting the system up and running involved downgrading firmware in the cameras to integrate them into the Honeywell system used for monitoring. Five zone cabinets were installed throughout the site to control the cameras.

Cameras were set and organized into salvos—certain views of the site that each camera would make. Pan-tilt-zoom guard zones were established for the cameras to track motion through restricted areas.

“In these zones, cameras were able to specify different sizes of and different alarm states were created to correlate to the size of the object that had broken the field,” Hall said. “For example, a wind-blown trash can would emit a different alarm than a larger object such as an animal or person.”

VEC installed the network for the cameras that included a redundant fiber loop. The system incorporated “never fail” capability—if one portion of the system failed, the backup would seamlessly pick up the feed.

VEC also had to coordinate with trades on-site, such as other electrical contractors, civil and mechanical contractors and welders.

“At peak construction, VEC had 75 tradesmen on-site comprised of electricians from IBEW Local 712, operators from [International Union of Operating Engineers] Local 66, and, laborers from [Laborers’ International Union of North America] Local 1058,” he said. “Many of the other trades relied on the temporary power that we were installing. As construction progressed, we had to move job trailers and lay-down areas to different sections of the site. We ended up moving our trailers and lay-down areas four times during the project.”

While on-site, tradesmen encountered large pieces of machinery that were opening trenches and moving excavated soil, which presented hazards, and these were additional hazards to consider.

“Safety is the No. 1 concern on any project,” Hall said. “From new-hire orientation safety training to toolbox talks to safety audits to quarterly safety meetings, safety is constantly emphasized. Shell and Jacobs, the general contractor for the Early Works segment of construction, put safety as the most important part of this project.”

In addition to the quarterly safety stand-downs, VEC completed daily job safety analyses (JSAs). If the task for the day changed, another JSA would be completed. The VEC team held weekly safety meetings with the on-site safety manager. During VEC’s time on-site, it was awarded: Crew of the Quarter and Contractor of the Quarter for quality work practices.

VEC’s part of the project was completed in 19 months. Hall cited use of prefabrication components and coordination as keys to the success of the project.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at

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