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Managing a Decaying Industrial Utility System
Todd Green, PE, SI, CFPS,
Associate Director, Mechanical and Facilities Design

Manufacturing, refining and specialty chemical facilities across North America are facing utility infrastructure challenges. Large campus sites and facilities have utility networks that are comparable to small municipalities, complete with sewer, water distribution, power, communications, natural gas and water/wastewater treatment systems.

On top of the basic utilities, most manufacturers have advanced utility systems, including high-pressure firewater, steam, process cooling, industrial waste, nitrogen, compressed air and air handling systems. Each system is unique and requires an in‑depth knowledge to properly design, construct, maintain and repair.

Many sites have been in operation for over 50 years and have an aging infrastructure that is nearing or exceeding its service life. These manufacturers can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on repairs, which does not include the cost of lost production. Furthermore, these sites incur a higher risk for property damage and personnel injuries while these systems are out of service and repairs are being made under emergency conditions.

Facilities with newer systems can also experience operational issues, inefficiencies or premature failures if not planned or designed properly. This can range from not designing for water hammer prevention in a cooling water system to not considering soil corrosivity when specifying metallic pipe for buried services, for example. All of these considerations may seem trivial early in a project but can be costly over the life of the system.

If you are responsible for managing a decaying utility system, it is difficult to know where to start and how to approach a major infrastructure rehabilitation program. Matrix Technologies has completed numerous infrastructure studies and master planning programs for our industrial clients over our 40-year history. We start by working with facility stakeholders to understand their goals and develop a custom approach tailored to their needs. In general, our infrastructure evaluation, rehabilitation and replacement strategy consists of the following phases:

  • Presenting a business case and justification
  • Data gathering and condition assessment
  • Identifying options for rehabilitation or replacement
  • Master planning and capital forecasting
  • Detailed design and construction
  • Documentation and maintenance

As an independent partner for our clients, Matrix Technologies can guide and manage a program from start to finish, while providing recommendations on selecting vendors and contractors. These services often include initial studies, master planning, preliminary design, total project cost estimating, detailed design, procurement support, construction management, and even full engineer-procure-construct (EPC) services, depending on what level of service you need. Here at Matrix, we lean on our in-house experts to ensure you have the best team and a cohesive approach with no gaps in knowledge between each phase or between owner, engineer, vendor and contractor. Our goal is to provide the right level of service to fit the needs of each project.

Future articles in this series, “Managing a Decaying Utility System,” will guide you along each phase of the process and provide considerations for designing and building specific utility systems.

Part 2 of a multi-part series “How to Justify a Utility Replacement Program”.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our utility system design and master planning services, contact Todd Green, PE, SI, CFPS, Senior Manager in the Mechanical and Facilities Design Department.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

Todd Green, PE, SI, CFPS
Associate Director