It has been more than 12 years since I built one of my first major capital projects. I was 24 at the time. I hunkered down to do everything that needed to be done to build a major piece of critical infrastructure in a multi-billion dollar refining operation. And I did it all within 12 months.

My project was only AUD 2 million, but it was fun. It was 12 months from literally cornering the lead process engineer in his office to size the capacity required (16 meters in diameter) [Pro tip: emails don’t work], specialised steel selection and shell plate manufacture, a QRA with Det Norske Veritas of Norway, Hazops, contractor selection – from the best in the world and a specialised ultra low NPSH vertical multi stage high pressure transfer pump. It was the largest and most sophisticated butane storage facility of it’s type in the Southern Hemisphere.

You know what my biggest lesson was? The payback. During the summer time, this storage sphere could store 1000 tonnes of “waste” butane coming from the main refinery process over summer. It would be burnt in a huge flare stake previously. The butane could then be injected into the gasoline fuel mix during winter when the Reid Vapour pressure was lower. The payback for this AUD 2,000,000 investment: 3 months. Yes, only three. I did the calculation several times to validate it. Just to check I was seeing it right. Over the past decade this assembly of concrete and steel has paid back something like AUD 100 million. With minimal costs. Now that’s an investment.

There’s me. The fireproofing is being applied to the legs behind me. You can see where it is here.