The Alpha technology journey has been one of continuous advancement and improvement in MMA production since its beginnings in the 1990s in Wilton, UK. After the successful start-up of the first Alpha production facility in Singapore in 2008, the decision was made to construct Alpha 2 in Saudi Arabia. Commercial operation of Alpha 2 began last year.

The Alpha 2 project was supported by employees assigned to Saudi Arabia from Lucite International Singapore (LISPL). Now back at LISPL, we caught up with five employees – Amit Kishor Shukla, Bhat Govind Keshav Uppinangady, Ibrahim Bin Hussein, Khamis Bin Zam and Lip Hwee Tan – and talked to them about their time supporting Alpha 2.

Pictured: The team assigned from Singapore to the Alpha 2 project.

Amit Kishor Shukla

What was your role during the project and what was the schedule of a typical day?

My role evolved as the project progressed. It involved generating graphics for some areas, writing standard operating procedures (SOPs), reviewing plant models, preparing area commissioning plans and training Operation Technicians in Singapore. In Saudi Arabia, further training was followed by pre-commissioning, safe fluid testing, chemical commissioning and start-up.

Up to the pre-commissioning stage, it was normal to work six days a week from 07:30hrs to 17:30hrs. At times, continuous night shifts were required.

What skills did you use or learn?

The most important skills I learnt and used were patience, tolerance and empathy.

How did you feel about moving to Saudi Arabia for the project?

Initially I was quite sceptical, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to see how things are done in another part of the world.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting to the new environment?

Adapting to a different working  style and different methods of decision making.

What were the main challenges during the construction/testing phases?

Harsh weather! Differences in communication also posed challenges.

What did you do to relax?

It was good that the whole LISPL team lived in the same compound. When all of us were on day shift, we would go out for dinner on Thursday evening, similar to a Friday evening in Singapore. The rest of the time was spent catching up on sleep missed after some of the longer hours.

Now the plants are operational, how does it make you feel to have been part of this historic project?

Proud and satisfied – well worth it and great to be part of the success!

 

Bhat Govind Keshav Uppinangady

What was your role during the project and what was the schedule of a typical day?

My role during the project was to support Plant Engineering & Project Management activities, ensure timely technical support and provide technical site supervision to our partners as required to ensure the scheduled tasks were carried out safely and compliant with various standards.

A typical day started at 05:15hrs with some light stretching exercises. A bus or car would get us to site at 07:00hrs in time for a small breakfast. After a quick check of my inbox I used to start on site at 08:00hrs. Most of my time was spent on site with regular coordination meetings at the office. Lunch at the cafeteria was a commonplace where many colleagues from different areas met together. Back on site after lunch, we would occasionally return to the office for a short break to hydrate enough to continue! This was six days per week, typically ending at 17:30hrs but during peak times it could be closer to 19:00hrs.

What skills did you use or learn?

I used effective communication, adaptability, flexibility and team working.

How did you feel about moving to Saudi Arabia for the project?

I felt it was an opportunity I shouldn’t miss – a once in life time chance to be part of the world’s largest Alpha MMA plant.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting to the new environment?

I had to adapt to a new culture and  work systems, which meant there were sometimes conflicts of priorities.

What were the main challenges during the construction/testing phases?

I think ensuring workplace safety in a large construction site with lots of activities adjacent to the live plant was the key challenge during construction. The harsh weather, from too hot to too cold was a key challenge during testing phase, as was getting timely external resource support.

What did you do to relax?

Weekly shopping and dining out with colleagues; it was also good to sleep in, do bit of exercise, wash clothes, watch TV and catch-up with family on video calls.

Now the plants are operational, how does it make you feel to have been part of this historic project?

Satisfying, rewarding, and great to be recognized. I started in 2007 as part of the team that worked on the Alpha 1 MMA plant, which became the jewel in the crown of Lucite International. I’m very happy to be part of another prestigious Alpha MMA project.

 

Ibrahim Bin Hussein

What was your role during the project and what was the schedule of a typical day?

My role during the project was Operations Specialist. The schedule of a typical day depended on shift rotation but the days were longer than the days in Singapore.

What skills did you use to learn?

Experience and skills learnt during work on Alpha 1 had to be implemented during work on the  Alpha 2 project for it to be commissioned safely.

How did you feel about moving to Saudi Arabia for the project?

I felt it was going to be a big change in environment from Singapore.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting to the new environment?

The differences in communication between people were sometimes challenging, but everybody adapted well.

What were the main challenges during the construction/testing phases?

Keeping aligned when working with other teams of vendors to complete tasks or testing of equipment.

What did you do to relax?

Resting, eating, going to the gym and swimming.

Now the plants are operational, how does it make you feel to have been part of this historic project?

I feel happy and excited to have been selected to be part of the team. I was well supported by colleagues to successfully complete commissioning of the plant.

Pictured: the colleagues enjoyed dining together.

Khamis Bin Zam

What was your role during the project and what was the schedule of a typical day?

My role was to manage the Operation Team in the pre-commissioning, commissioning and start-up phases. I also ensured that the preparation of pre-commissioning activities was completed daily so as to be ready for the start-up.

What skills did you use or learn?

I tried my best to utilize and apply the 25 years of experience working in the petrochemical manufacturing industry and, in particular, the Alpha 1 process. Mostly, I used management skills in interacting with my colleagues to communicate effectively, and leadership skills for the team supervision in ensuring coherence. Above all, I learnt so much during my time on the project. One lesson would be to display mutual cooperation, patience and technical skills to transcend communication barriers and complete tasks successfully.

How did you feel about moving to Saudi Arabia for the project?

I was very excited to go to Saudi Arabia as I have always wanted to be involved in an overseas project. At the same time, I was sad to leave my family behind in Singapore.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting to the new environment?

At first, it was a case of adapting to an environment with colleagues from many diverse backgrounds. However, after understanding the different ways people do things, I learnt how to get along with my new colleagues and how to engage in meaningful work with them. It was sometimes very hard to adapt to the weather there. At high temperatures, it can be hard to breathe, especially during the summer with high humidity.

What were the main challenges during the construction/testing phases?

Faulty equipment! It can cause delays on the pre-commissioning work and during start-up.

What did you do to relax?

I would go to the gym at the residential compound, do grocery shopping and have dinner with the LISPL team living at the same site.

Now the plants are operational, how does it make you feel to have been part of this historic project?

I am very proud to have been involved in this project. One of the best parts of the project was when product was ‘on spec’ and successfully delivered to the product tank. I am very grateful and consider it as a career milestone.

 

Lip Hwee Tan

What was your role during the project and what was the schedule of a typical day?

A typical day consists of a morning meeting to discuss the commissioning activities, followed by a check on commissioning progress and resolving any issues that might have surfaced.

What skills did you use or learn?

Communication, technical and leadership skills were widely used during my time on the project. I have also learned to be more tolerant and patient.

How did you feel about moving to Saudi Arabia for the project?

I felt nervous about moving to Saudi Arabia as it is such a different place to many other countries. However, the experience showed me that it’s also similar in some ways and I quickly adapted to the location.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting to the new environment?

The lack of flexibility to go anywhere other than work due to the limitations in transportation and nearby facilities. Luckily, we stayed in a compound that provided facilities like the minimart, gym and swimming pool, which helped.

What were the main challenges during the construction/testing phases?

The biggest challenge was the difference in working style. Therefore communication and leadership skills are essential for a number of diverse teams to work together towards the same goal.

What did you do to relax?

I would read, swim, enjoy a cup of coffee or have dinner with the team.

Now the plants are operational, how does it make you feel to have been part of this historic project?

I feel very proud to have played such an important role in the history of Alpha technology.