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Before Emergency Strikes: How To Prepare A Plant For Mobile Equipment Services

By Evoqua

 An interview with Water Online and Rod McNelly, the vice president and general manager of the company’s general industry segment, and Douglas Gillen, the director of strategic marketing.

Nobody wants to think about the worst case scenario but if you’re responsible for water treatment at an industrial plant, you can’t avoid it. There are any number of things that can force a plant to go offline and it’s imperative that a contingency plan is in place for such an event.

Luckily, there are mobile equipment suppliers that can keep things running during an outage, planned or otherwise. Water Online spoke with one provider of such a service, Evoqua Water Technologies, about how it keeps plants running no matter what. Rod McNelly, the vice president and general manager of the company’s general industry segment, and Douglas Gillen, the director of strategic marketing, outlined the scenarios that lead to an outage, the costs of going offline, and the steps a plant should take to prepare itself for mobile equipment.

What are the most common scenarios that lead a utility to call in a mobile equipment supplier?

You tend to use mobile or temporary equipment either when you’re planning a scheduled utility outage at your facility or if something bad happened to your utility system.

If you’re planning an outage you’ve got plenty of time, perhaps 12 or 18 months, especially if it’s a major plant turnaround, to make decisions and layout alternate water treatment operations.

But if it’s an emergency, you may only have hours. Most times what happens is this: You’re operating with a near full storage tank of high-quality water, perhaps for a process or boiler feed water. The tank is, say it’s at 95 percent, the volume of that tank represents maybe 12 hours of plant operation. Well, there is a critical equipment failure in the treatment system that fills the tank and suddenly, the plant manager has 12 hours before his plant operations are curtailed or perhaps shut down. That becomes the emergency situation.

What should a treatment plant do to be as prepared as possible to switch to mobile in the case of an emergency?

First, create an emergency preparedness plan and a site audit to determine what types of mobile equipment you would need and what flow rates are required.

Also determine where the mobile equipment will enter the plant, the road to the utility area, where the system tie-ins will be for supply water, treated water, and plant air and electrical drops if they will be needed. You also need to measure the length of hose from the water source, often a utility water fire hydrant, as well as the treated water hose to the storage tank, and any waste hoses. Most vendors provide this type of site audit.

Knowing where the water ties are is critical. You want to avoid hot tapping lines under pressure in an emergency. Also you want to ensure that the vendor has enough space to store the mobile units, that the storage area is out of the way of your normal operations, and that the ground is appropriate for the storage of trailers. All these items are covered in a typical emergency preparedness site audit. You can also get contracts in place that say, "If we ever have an emergency, you’re number one on our list to respond." Then you’d want to measure the response time from the vendor. Are you on their priority dispatch list and do you have the right dispatch geographic coverage?

I think the last thing there would be, because it’s nearly impossible to identify all the potential risks or failures of an industrial water plant, you want to make sure you get somebody that’s aligned with a wide breadth of mobile treatment technologies.

If you have a clarifier that goes down, they should have clarifiers. If you only have reverse osmosis (RO) or wastewater recycle reuse needs, they should have a broad range of technologies that are mobile, obviously, and accessible to address as many of those failures that you’d try to predict.

It’s nearly impossible to do that, but the larger breadth of mobile treatment equipment technologies you can get, the better off and better prepared you are for the emergency.

If a plant were to prepare as fully as you’ve outlined, how confident could the staff be that everything will stay online during an emergency?

Well, candidly, they could be 100 percent confident if they’ve done their audit and if they have the storage capability that’s been done through the audit, and then the response time. But you’d need to do all of that homework beforehand. But you could have guaranteed contract response and uptime.

What are all the costs associated with going offline?

You pay for, in essence, water by the gallon or per 1,000 gallons, which can include delivery or not. At times, depending upon the market, there are some surcharges to pay attention to or ask about, and that’d be around the chemical that you might have on regenerating or if they needed to do a number of exchanges of trailers.

Otherwise, those would be the costs. Lastly, depending upon the technology being applied, the costs might be on a monthly charge but most vendors can break out pricing to meet your individual plant’s needs.

How quickly can a mobile equipment supplier be mobilized?

There are two factors that would have an impact: the technology needed and the location. For an example, mobile deionization, that includes tanks with DI resin, can be deployed very rapidly, sometimes immediately. Also mobile deionization has the least plant set up time since it doesn’t require 480V power drops for pumps. Most of the vendors have them ready. However, mobile reverse osmosis might take some staging time, since there is a wastewater stream and you’ll need one or more power drops, so it’s a little longer.

But it can be dispatched as fast as 30 minutes to an hour, up to a couple weeks, depending upon the technology that’s needed under those conditions.

What is the most important thing to do to prepare for an emergency before calling a mobile equipment supplier?

It seems obvious and straightforward, but that audit with your supplier ahead of time is really important. And you don’t want to have an audit with the salesperson coming out or the company’s vice president.

You want to have an audit with the guys or gals from the service team that are actually going to come out to the plant with the equipment and set it up. You literally want to walk the whole process with them at the plant. "Okay, you’re going to come in this gate. You’re going to fill out this document. You’re going to park all these units here. This is where the tie-ins are going to be. This is the hose we’re going to use."

You want to walk that all out, because it’s really easy to do on Wednesday afternoon, when it’s bright and sunny and there’s no hurry. But it’s not as easy on that Sunday morning at 2:00 a.m., when you’ve got four hours to keep that plant online before it shuts down and the company loses $2 million a day in production. We can’t emphasize that enough with our clients.

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