Brownfield vs Greenfield: Differences between a brownfield and greenfield project

The term “Brownfield vs Greenfield” is frequently heard while project execution. This is a very meaningful term for the oil & gas industry. But, the term greenfield vs brownfield is not only related to oil & gas industries but is widely used in many industries like IT, Construction, Manufacturing, Building Services, etc. Overall, both these terms are related to any kind of project. In this article, we will find out more about Brownfield and Greenfield and their differences.

What is a Brownfield Project?

Brownfield projects are projects where some work has already been made. The site is already partly developed with the required infrastructure. From that point onwards new development will be started. Considering Oil & Gas, new expansion projects, revamp projects, yield improvement projects, etc. comes under brownfield projects.

What is a Greenfield Project?

Greenfield project starts from scratch. The site is not developed and the required infrastructure for the project is normally not present. So a greenfield project starts afresh from scratch. For oil and gas, completely new projects in undeveloped places, like a new refinery construction, setting up of a chemical or petrochemical plant, etc. falls under greenfield project.

Examples of Brownfield and Greenfield Project Concepts

The above concept can be clearly understood from the following examples:

  • For the Software industry, updating an existing application to add some new capabilities can be considered a brownfield. But creating a completely new application is considered greenfield.
  • For the Real estate sector, constructing a new tower in an already developed society complex is considered a brownfield whereas constructing a completely new society complex is a greenfield project.
  • For a chemical plant, modification of the plant to increase productivity is considered a brownfield whereas constructing a new chemical plant is a greenfield project.
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From the above definitions and examples, it is clear that both brownfield and greenfield is a completely different concepts. The major differences subject to a few basic parameters are listed below:

Brownfield vs Greenfield
Fig. 1: Brownfield vs Greenfield

Brownfield vs Greenfield: Economic Consideration

From the economic point of view, as brownfield projects are normally small-sized, total money involvement is comparatively smaller.

On the other hand, greenfield projects are large projects, and as starting from scratch, the project cost is larger than brownfield projects even though property cost is substantially lower than brownfield projects.

Brownfield vs Greenfield: Space Constraint

Considering refinery projects, in brownfield projects space is limited so each element, piping, equipment, and structure need to be minutely checked and placed. Also, because of limited space pipe routing becomes critical as the designer has to use the available space only considering all construction activities as larger construction equipment may not be accessible. Also, there is limited storage space and parking space for project requirements.

On the other hand for new projects, there is much flexibility in design as the initial complete area is empty. So locating equipment and pipe routing becomes much easier. Also, better planning and optimization are possible in greenfield projects.

Brownfield vs Greenfield: Infrastructure Requirement

As brownfield projects are normally expansions or improvements of existing projects, the required infrastructure is available. It’s easy to arrange labor in already-developed places. Places are easily accessible for deliveries. Earlier design data, soil reports, etc are easily available.

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Greenfield projects are new projects and most of the time in undeveloped places, required infrastructure needs to be created during the project run which will impact the project schedule and deliveries.

Greenfield vs Brownfield: Other differences

Other major differences between brownfield and greenfield are tabulated below:

Brownfield ProjectGreenfield Project
Limited space, difficulty in further future development. Even finding the required plot size could be difficult.Ample Space, Future Expansion Possible
Easy Accommodation for crew membersAccommodation could be difficult so, must be built beforehand.
Easy access to local suppliersLimited local suppliers in undeveloped locations.
Demolition requirements can increase the project cost.Completely new, so no demolition
Normally no governmental restrictionsThere could be governmental restrictions if deforestation or similar environmental issue arises.
Local interference can delay projectsNo chance of local interference
Brownfield development localizes communities in a limited congested region.Developing greenfield sites reduce traffic and congestion with a more pleasant environment.
Table: Brownfield vs Greenfield Projects

Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

6 thoughts on “Brownfield vs Greenfield: Differences between a brownfield and greenfield project

  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I was looking for some clear explanation about it until I found it here.

  2. As I am a fresher there is more difficult to get job every company wants a experience candidate so share something that can help fresher

  3. Articulation defined so well that a lay man can understand the difference between both the term.


  4. I would like to say the same wording as per Osvaldo Romero. Thank you very much Mr. Anup Kumar Dey.

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