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Specialisation and teamwork are the keys to success on an EPC project

2019.07.09     From: acciona-industrial

The Industrial business of ACCIONA has projects in progress and recently completed in countries as diverse as Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and Morocco.The key to success in managing EPC projects with a high technological component is specialisation, experience, excellence and the right team.

In Kathu (South Africa), 250 parabolic-trough collector loops are distributed across a 400 hectare solar field.Its total solar-thermal capacity of 100 MW will be capable of supplying 179,000 households and prevent the emission of six million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the next 20 years.  

The commune of María Elena in the heart of the Atacama Desert, Chile.More than 106,000 heliostats make up the solar field covering 700 hectares, which will be the first solar-thermal tower plant in Latin America.A 110 MW project with 17.5 hours of storage to ensure renewable power generation 24-hours a day.

Managing projects on this scale inevitably demands significant management and coordination resources and an ability to adapt, all of which are part of ACCIONA’s DNA.These are challenges that the Industrial business of ACCIONA tackles with a well-defined project management methodology called the ACCIONA Way of Doing.


“The Industrial business primarily carries out projects with a high technological component under an EPC format”, explains Carlos Ledesma, Execution and Operations Manager of the Industrial business of ACCIONA.The Operations Department manages the different key processes, in other words project management, contract management, the management of risks and opportunities, and lastly project control, including scope, costs and planning.

In each of these phases, it is important to establish the tasks to be carried out and to follow a method.“We have a highly effective management tool, the ACCIONA Way of Doing – a flexible working system that can be adapted to specific needs, which systematises and standardises the processes that Industrial carries out on each of its projects”.

Thanks to the ACCIONA Way of Doing, every person that joins a specific project already knows exactly how ACCIONA works and does not have to learn from scratch.

Everything revolves around the Project Management Procedure, which provides the structure for carrying out the Project Execution Plan (PEP), a master document that includes the strategy that the project manager and his entire team have laid out to execute the project, from how it is broken down and distributed in terms of scope, through to the way that the engineering will be managed, how the teams will be put together, or the way in which any auxiliary resources will be allocated.  

This plan incorporates the other management plans for the specific processes of each project. The plan for the engineering, procurement (purchasing, manufacture and logistics), construction and commissioning of the plant, and other support processes such as the management plans for quality, sustainability and the environment, health and safety, documentation and communications, interested parties and stakeholders, the financial plan, the human resources management plan, etc.

“The PEP is vital to the success of the project and must outlive any changes in personnel. Put more graphically, it is a project route map, laid out to achieve its objectives.Another tool that has already proved its effectiveness is our 100-day Plan”, comments Carlos Ledesma.

The 100-day Plan for the Industrial business was created to optimise the transition between the proposal and execution phases.This is a period that involves both the business development team and the operations team and it enables them to work together on planning and launching the project, even before it has been awarded.

“One advantage of the plan is that it can solve problems around lengthy start-up periods.For example, we have had situations in which the NTP was signed but we had still not put the project team together.These issues are resolved with the 100-day Plan, because we begin work on the planning and launch phase of the project before it is even awarded.For example, we can begin to identify and analyse the early works to be carried out, the different management plans, how we are going to design the strategy for the construction engineering, the procurement and purchasing, etc.”.

The Kwinana Waste-to-Energy plant, which ACCIONA is constructing in Australia, is a good example of the 100-day Plan in action. “Although the NTP was signed in mid-October 2018, the 100-day Plan was launched a long time before.We already had a project manager in place, who then took over the management in the post-award phase.This facilitated the transition enormously”.


The Industrial business of ACCIONA is present in more than 20 countries.  The process management plans included in the Project Execution Plan must therefore be adapted to the specific needs and characteristics of each site.

“We carry out our projects in remote locations, with difficult access and living conditions, and in places where there can be issues around our social impact and relations with local stakeholders can be difficult on occasion.We therefore work hard on these aspects because our projects have a positive impact on communities”.

Examples of these difficulties are illustrated by the solar-thermal projects in Bokpoort (South Africa) and Noor I (Morocco).“In both cases managing the local content and the level of industrial development in the country, and in the project area specifically, was extremely important, and specific measures and plans needed to be put in place”, explains Carlos Ledesma.  

At Noor I, a factory was set up in the country to manufacture the torque tubes for the parabolic-trough collectors, something that had never been manufactured before in Morocco, and which significantly helped to develop the industrial sector in the local area. In the case of Bokpoort, huge effort was placed on fulfilling and even exceeding the requirements involved, promoting job creation in the region.

Meanwhile in Chile, at the Cerro Dominador solar-thermal complex, owned by the EIG Global Energy Partners and that ACCIONA is constructing with Abengoa in the Atacama Desert, the emphasis is on local job creation, knowledge transfer and training. The heliostats are manufactured by directly hiring local personnel and more than 200 people from the nearby commune of María Elena have been employed.


Every technology requires experts and specific procedures when it comes to managing production activities (engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning). However, the same procedures, standards and methods are applied to the management of all operations.  

“At ACCIONA we have a culture of standardisation and we operate so that our project managers and the way we work are compatible with all of the technologies we use.They will be applied in a variety of different ways depending on the project, but always based on the standards of the Industrial division”.

Each contract inevitably brings its own challenges and situations that put this model to the test.In crisis situations, the Project Execution Plan includes a stakeholder management plan that identifies the risks and opportunities.Based on this document, a specific action plan is drawn up to mitigate potential negative impacts.

This analysis is carried out in the proposals phase and again after the contract has been awarded, once the project team is in place.Once the plan has been defined, regular analysis and reviews are performed thereafter.

“Alongside this is the need for good contract management that allows us to uphold our contractual rights with our client, and which in turn will be able to uphold them with the end client (off-taker) in the event of any incident, such as a labour dispute, which could be considered as a force majeure event”, adds Carlos Ledesma.

“The key is to convert changes into opportunities, and that these are subsequently translated into positive results for the project”


Other challenges associated with executing EPC projects include compliance with the deadlines set by the market, which are normally very tight, and having qualified personnel.

“For a typical 500 million project, the organisation chart for a project management team usually has 100 to 150 people.Of these, a high percentage could be expatriates”.

“We have the best professionals in each area. We have created an environment of work, dedication and sacrifice in which we all lend a hand and work as a seamless team.This is a differentiating factor for us and our clients notice and recognise it”.

The ACCIONA keys to success:People and method, expert and committed professionals, who operate in line with systematised procedures that have proven to be effective.So simple, yet so difficult to achieve.

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