Developing the infrastructure for megaprojects

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Megaprojects, as the name suggests, are extremely complex undertakings. The sums of money involved are vast, the suppliers numerous and the challenges plentiful.

In the South West, on the north Somerset coast, one of the biggest megaprojects in the country’s history is taking place; the construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. When completed, this facility will be the first new nuclear power station in the UK for a generation and will generate enough low carbon electricity for six million homes.

The numbers involved in the project are huge. 230,000 tonnes of steel will be used, along with three million tonnes of concrete, on a site covering 432 acres that will have 5,600 people working at any one time during the peak of the construction phase. These are some of the headline figures, but if you delve below the surface to look at the rest of the materials and parts needed, the complexity really hits home.

With such a vast supply chain, the project needed a robust logistics plan to schedule the arrival of materials to site from UK-based and international suppliers. Further to this, the project’s commitment to boosting business in the South West means that many smaller, regional companies are involved, adding further complexities to the supply chain.

Wincanton, the largest British Third Party Logistics (3PL) company, was selected by EDF Energy to provide warehouse and transport services across the ten-year construction phase. Wincanton will control storage, handling, asset tracking and transportation for incoming materials from warehouse locations both on and off-site.

As an extension to this agreement, Wincanton is working with EDF Energy and Tier 1 contractor Socea Denys to manage the storage and transportation of circulating water system (CRF) concrete piping sections. These will eventually form the 1.8km underground water cooling system for the plant. Imported from Belgium, these concrete sections weigh between 3.8 and 23.2 tonnes apiece. Due to the time it takes to install each section, the project needed a storage facility close to the site to reduce lead times and ensure ‘just-in-time’ deliveries.

This is where Wincanton came in and Chris Fenton, Managing Director of Industrial and Transport at Wincanton, says that all-round expertise has made the project a success so far: “This was a new piece of work for us as a business. Aside from the crane operation, we had experience as a company of performing the individual aspects involved across other projects. Combining our areas of expertise for a project like Hinkley Point C has been a brilliant opportunity.

“We set up a 100,000sq ft secure storage facility on Avonmouth Docks within three weeks of being invited to take on the work. From this facility we manage the receipt, unloading, storage and core maintenance of the piping sections ahead of transport to the site, with each part photographed and logged into our system upon arrival. We undertake regular checks to ensure the inventory is ready for installation when needed.

“It’s this just-in-time offering that’s so important, because it can take several hours on-site to join two sections of the CRF pipe. Delays to parts arriving would cause significant interruption to a vital part of the project.”

With the nature of parts being handled, safety is a priority. The project has a ‘Zero Harm’ policy, and to date, there have been no major incidents or lost time injuries (LTIs).

“There are high risks with what we’re doing, so everything we do needs to meet strict safety standards first time, every time.” Chris Fenton continued. “We’ve delivered on this and have really invested in what we’re doing here.

“We have put our Site Operations Lead and Contract Compliance Manager through the CPCS Appointed Person course, so they now have their red cards. This means we can create lifting plans on-site, which is really important as we handle 16 different types of piping sections, with each needing specialised plans around lifting to and from vehicles.

“Full risk assessments are completed ahead of every lift, and Point of Work Risk Assessments (POWRAs) during each lift, with every member of staff adhering to our comprehensive requirements. We have a responsibility to protect our people and everyone we work with across the site to create a Zero Harm environment.”

During the next phases of the Hinkley Point C construction process, Wincanton will operate a bespoke Asset Warehouse facility. This site will handle free issue stock for partner companies within the MEH Alliance; sorting, storing and dispatching to the site in time for assembly.

Speaking about this next stage, Chris Fenton said: “We have a key role to play in the delivery of Hinkley Point C. With the overall project working with lots of suppliers from around the South West and further afield, the consolidation work we’ll manage will be essential in supporting the successful construction of the site.

“Using our Warehouse Management System, we’ll receive, inspect, log, store and maintain incoming goods, and ready them to be dispatched to site at the right time. A further responsibility will be routing vehicles from the Asset Warehouse to Hinkley and ensuring we’re getting items to where they need to be, when they’re needed whilst complying with the Development Consent Order (DCO).

“The whole operation will be traceable to give full visibility to everyone involved, which is essential for the build and lifetime operation of such a complex facility.”

Hinkley Point C is scheduled to start operating in 2025 and with more megaprojects across the UK being talked about, the operation in Somerset could provide the blueprint for those in the future.

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