Detroit Case Study



A major natural gas utility set out to build a new natural gas storage station capable of holding 2 Billion Cubic Feet of natural gas and all of the functionality that goes along with a facility like that.

The start of the project was going great – so they thought. The drawings were coming together and being produced very quickly. Bids to subcontractors were going out and they were getting better than expected quotes back. The EPC(m) that was awarded the project was also awarded the task of developing the plant (BoP) control system.

Soon enough, construction on the site was underway. Major assets like the dehydration system (reboilers, vapor recovery unit, contactor towers), the compression system (5x Cat 3616 driven reciprocating compressors and a state of the art building to house them), countless valves (up to 42”), piping, and support systems (Fire & Gas, Instrument Air, etc..) were on site and being installed. 

A small team from Oklahoma (that’s us!) was a subcontractor to a subcontractor tasked with developing the automation for the dehydration portion of the plant. They came out and commissioned said dehydration process and everything went great (less some mechanical stuff that was found along the way).

However, the rest of the plant (Compressor, transmission, BoP, etc..) was falling behind schedule. Worse, the plant owner had lost confidence in the EPCm. Schedule was slipping significantly and the budget was blown through. They had all of these assets installed but nothing worked. They had an idea. 

The project managers brought in a third party to salvage the project. They were desperate. The third party came in and quickly gave their assessment of the situation. It’s what they feared – all bad. The two teams put their heads together to come up with solutions to minimize the damage. As a utility that is regulated the schedule is of massive importance and missing it means multi-faceted consequences. 

In their review, the third party realized there was a group out of Oklahoma that was very successful on the project. Everything “just worked.” The end-user agreed they were very impressed. They called said group into a meeting and asked if they’d be interested in helping with the completion of the project. By the end of the meeting, our team had been awarded the tall task of completing the Compression, transmission lines, the BoP, Fire & Gas systems, and the Instrument Air systems. We got to work. 

We flew up several of our specialists and setup. We poured through documentation and software. We talked with all the stakeholders and we went through every inch of the site to figure out where things were and define a finish line.  We faced a monumental effort. 

We won’t bore you with the details (maybe over dinner someday) but we got the project done. We ended up developing a massive amount of PLC, HMI, and SCADA changes and additions. We had to loop-check/correct the entire BoP system and design new systems on the fly.  Our guys spent long days every day. It was truly a sight to see.  We exceeded everybody’s expectations. Not only did we get the project done on the original schedule (yeah, for real) but we also added a ton of additional functionality that was missed in the original design. 

Side note – the plant owner was asked why they chose this particular EPC(m) to do this project. He responded “their bid was a third of the cost of the next lowest bid. We figured they could do it wrong 3 times and we’d still be ok.” 

Do you have a similar story? Let’s hear it. We think there are a bunch of valuable lessons to be learned when talking about previous projects. Sometimes, the projects of the past are telling us the stories of projects in the future.

Drop us a note below and let’s catch up with your world or let us tell you what’s going on with ours. We look forward to it.