Stick-Built vs Modular Oil and Gas: A Comparison

April 26, 2024
Safety & Quality
Fabrication & Construction
Detail Engineering & Design
Front-end Planning

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Our stick-built vs modular oil and gas comparison will help you consider essential project requirements and can help stakeholders make more informed decisions. Learn more

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Modularization has emerged as a compelling alternative in the construction sector in national and global markets. Despite the oil and gas industry's traditional inclination towards stick-built methods, many projects are now gravitating towards modularization. 

This shift is primarily driven by factors such as labor costs, the availability of skilled labor, and the necessity to undertake projects in remote locations where traditional construction methods are impractical. Modularization is not just a choice but necessary in scenarios when geographical and economic constraints require it.

This article will discuss the differences between stick-built and modular construction methods and provide a comparative analysis to help stakeholders make informed decisions.

Stick-Built Construction Vs Modular Oil and Gas Compared

Traditional, stick-built construction builds structures from the ground up on the construction site. This method can provide several advantages for larger construction projects requiring on-site construction crews. It also, however, can face certain challenges, including potential delays due to weather or labor issues, higher labor costs, and elevated safety risks due to the extended duration of construction. 

Modularization involves prefabricating components in steel-reinforced skids in a controlled factory setting before transporting them to the site for final assembly. This alternative approach to construction can provide certain advantages in some cases, such as reduced costs, improved safety and quality, and faster project timelines.

Despite these potential benefits, modular construction requires extensive front-end planning to yield the best results.

Stick-built Vs Modular Oil and Gas Comparison


Stick-Built Construction

Modular Construction


Potentially higher due to labor and onsite work.

Potentially lower due to efficiencies in production and assembly.  Cost assessment is necessary due to potentially increased steel and transport costs.


Longer construction periods due to onsite work.

Potentially shorter timelines through prefabrication and planning.


Requires skilled labor on site, which can increase costs.

Less onsite labor is required, reducing costs.


Higher risk due to prolonged onsite activities.

Enhanced safety due to controlled shop conditions.


Requires more quality personnel onsite and material control processes.

Easier to manage with quality control in shop settings.


High, allowing for adjustments during construction.

Limited, with designs needing to be finalized early.

The Best Approach for Oil and Gas Projects 

The decision between stick-built and modular methods requires an upfront assessment of project requirements, including challenges, modularization drivers, and critical key considerations. Factors such as project location, scale, and complexity must be carefully considered. 

Modular construction may be required, in fact, for some projects in remote or harsh environments. Other projects, especially those requiring a higher degree of customization, might benefit from traditional or hybrid approaches. 

During modular project planning, understanding the transportation capabilities of modules is critical. The size and design of modular units will be influenced by available infrastructure for transport, such as roads or rails for landlocked sites and waterways for sites with water access.

The front-end planning phase will require thoroughly analyzing the module’s dimensions and weight limits. Modular projects typically require much more intensive front-end planning, including detailed engineering and design, and procurement of long-lead items much earlier than traditional projects. Modularization requires balancing engineering and fabrication efforts to ensure project efficiency and reduce the potential for change requests later on. 

Modularization Key Considerations

Site Characteristics

Location, access, and environmental constraints.

Labor Dynamics

Local labor requirements and availability.

Project Experience

Previous experience with modular projects.

Investment & Funding

Pre-funding decisions and investment in modularization.

Design Repeatability

Potential for repeating design elements in future projects.

Standards & Specifications

Compliance with modular construction standards.

What should be clear is that the decision between traditional and modularization will be based on each project's specific needs and challenges. There is no universally applicable "one versus the other" approach to capital projects in the oil and gas industry. The only key to success is evaluating each project's goals, requirements, modular drivers, and challenges, ensuring that your chosen construction method aligns with critical objectives. 

Partner with H+M for Custom Fabricated Equipment, Modules, and Skids

In the oil and gas industry, the decision between stick-built and modular construction comes down to which construction technique best suits the particular needs of your project, not which is a "more superior" option. Our current methods of construction, which are influenced by developing technology and the constant quest for efficiency, quality, and safety, will continue to change along with the industry.

H+M’s modular group specializes in designing and fabricating truckable modules providing exceptional capital project execution from concept to start-up for clients across the United States. From our engineering and fabrication headquarters in Houston, Texas, we can transport your project to wherever you are. For over three decades, we have provided end-to-end solutions for a wide range of project sizes within the energy, chemical, terminals, and logistics industries.

We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction through our proven strategic EPC approach. Our comprehensive services, including front-end planning, detail engineering and design, procurement, fabrication, and construction allow us to take your modular process plant project from conception to completion, tailoring engineering and design solutions to meet your unique needs.

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To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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