The Success Factors Behind the Dos Bocas Refinery’s Construction
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The Success Factors Behind the Dos Bocas Refinery’s Construction

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Miriam Bello By Miriam Bello | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 18:34

The Olmeca refinery in Dos Bocas has long been promoted as the answer to Mexico’s economic woes and stands as the centerpiece of López Obrador’s plan to restore PEMEX as the lever for national development. Once fully completed, the refinery in the port of Dos Bocas will join the country’s six other refineries that are undergoing renovation. This will increase oil-processing capacity by 20 percent with a target of 340Mb/d of heavy crude oil to be processed by the end of López Obrador’s six-year term in 2024.

The Noatum Project Cargo team in Mexico is currently working at Olmeca, managing the shipment of oversized cargo needed for the development of the project. Therefore, Noatum has a four-year contract, with which it provides more than 4,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), over 1,000 customs processes, six points of entry and three delivery locations. Carlos Pérez, Dos Bocas Project Manager, Noatum Logistics, explained that the project will have required three years for the stage of site preparation and construction. “For the operation and maintenance stage, a useful life of 20 years is estimated,” he said. 

Noatum currently has five plants under construction for Dos Bocas. This comprises the Diesel Hydro-Treatment Plant the Naphtha Reforming Plant, the Diesel Hydro-Desulfurization Plant, the Nafta Hydro-Desulfurization Plant and the Catalytic Disintegration Plant. “The process from the tender to the actual execution has presented many challenges that we have learned to overcome through teamwork, trust and intensive training,” Pérez explained. 

Noatum had the previous advantage of working on other projects like the refining projects Al Zour and GT5 in Kuwait, TouatFaz in Algeria, La Rabida in Spain and others in Qatar and South Korea. “We are experts in all maritime, land and air issues at a global level and have an extensive knowledge of the oil and gas upstream and downstream environments, as we provide assistance in several countries,” said Pérez. 

Through its experience, Noatum has reached the milestone of US$1.5 billion in merchandise handled, which according to Pérez, reflects the trust clients have in the company. “From May 2021 to May 2022 we have moved 3,300,000m³, moving 161,000 tons by sea and land, which is highly complex. We have received 358 ships with loose cargo. This still requires a lot of complicated logistics,” he added. 

These numbers, Pérez said, are achieved through close communication with clients, timely follow-ups on each one of the shipments, daily reports, direct communication with those assigned by contract, constant training in the field and office and seeking out improvement and time reduction in all processes, as well as looking for the best, qualified personnel in projects. Supplier development, due diligence and process reviews add to the company’s value proposition. 

Along the challenges of Olmeca are the environmental, community and security issues of the area. Dos Bocas has a population 94,741 inhabitants. The lacking housing, expensive offices, insufficient local transportation, little skilled labor, limited roads for heavy transportation, grid blackouts, a failing telephone network and few parking opportunities proved to be difficult, but not impossible, to overcome.

“We had to be smart, so we decided to have more efficient preoperative meetings between each shipment. We arranged greater cooperation with ASIPONA regarding port operations as well as greater coordination between all unloading operators to make maneuvers more efficient,” said Pérez, adding that it was in close contact with PEMEX  for operations and customs authorities for inspections of the merchandise it had already imported.

Customs was indeed a fundamental part of the success that Noatum has had so far with Dos Bocas. Pérez explains that Puerto Dos Bocas, without an inspection area, made it difficult to carry out visual inspections of merchandise: “The port does not have an area for unloading or storing containers, inspections were difficult due to lack of space, few personnel, limited working shifts and no activity on weekends,” he said.

“Therefore, Noatum Project cargo developed on-site inspection schemes within the refinery with the support and mutual agreement of ASIPONA, PTI and customs authorities, obtaining the relevant authorizations for the free transit of imported goods through a pre-built bridge directly to the refinery without the need for further steps,” Pérez shared. 

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