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Structural Steel Optimization

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Universal structural materials for modules could save steel, cut costs, and reduce emissions.


Large metal modules hold together enormous volumes of pipes and equipment in the oil & gas gathering and process facilities. Design companies use different methods to build module frames at lowest possible cost for a particular project. Structural material designed for a one-time application without much consideration of material recycling.

The life cycle of oil & gas facilities is about 30 -50 years followed by demolition and land reclamation. In contrast, treated and properly maintained structural steel could last hundreds of years similar to old bridges.

This document reviews, in general terms, potential benefits of designing universal structural Components for reuse of steel from project to project. Why should quality steel go to scrap just because of its unique form?

Module Steel

Steel is made from iron ore and scrap mostly overseas. Production of metal and related transport arrangements require lots of work and energy. Ocean vessels with the material bulk from China and other countries returning with scrap metal for reprocessing. The volume of metal in this cycle increases every year with growing demand.

Complex projects employ several steel fabricators that are often far away from a construction site. Combined with different locations of module yards custom steel creates many logistics challenges. Misplaced or late delivered custom build material usually has no other use and goes to scrap or waste.

The use of universal structural components could reduce material transfers and allow steel fabrication in large volumes for multiple projects without having to ship materials from place to place several times. Monies saved on logistics could allow better material selection for improved quality and longer service.

Standardization of structural members to common sizes and shapes for reuse from project to project would allow desired flexibility, extended material service, and fewer emissions. Subject to further research and agreement by the industry.

Alberta heavy haul shipping envelope of 24 ft wide x 24 ft high x 120 ft long is a good starting point for steel length and shape selection.

The benefits of a successful implementation would include:

  • Extending useful life of structural members

  • Reducing risks of schedule delays due to lost or misplaced materials

  • Planning to lower scrap volumes in the future

  • Outsourcing fabrication of standard items overseas

  • Reusing structural steel from project to project

  • Better control of materials

  • Lesser environmental impact


Universal structural components for modules, pipe racks, and skids could provide better material and schedule flexibility at lower overall cost. Reuse of materials means extending metal service while minimizing scrap, waste, and associated emissions.


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