Scott Hastings helps refineries across the Mid-Continent squeeze more product from the equipment.
Hastings, founder and president of Tulsa-based Select Engineering Inc., helps stretch gasoline output to meet the nation’s ever-increasing demand.
Work has been good, as high crude oil prices have driven company success.
In 2005, Select started working with ICM, a leading designer of ethanol plants.
The Kansas-based company needed design and drafting services, which enabled Select to add four employees to keep up with a steadily increasing workload, Hastings said.
Then, along with the ongoing projects for ICM, Select started performing design and drafting for Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing LLC.
The past two years has seen a consistent increase in the number and size of projects from clients like Samson, Duke Energy Field Services and Newfield.
Today, Select Engineering employs 31 people and plans to add 10 more by the end of March. Select expects to hire another 10 through the remainder of the year, Hastings said. That is a 33 percent increase in employment over the 2006 total and a nearly five-fold increase since 2004.
For every job refiners perform to increase capacity, there are a dozen little projects that have to be done in support of that,” Hastings said.
Some of the improvements are simple physical changes — an increased “cracking” tower size or higher capacity pipes or pumps. Other projects might include increasing air system capacity, adding electrical sub-stations to create additional power or increasing pump capacity.
For example, CRRM, owner of the Coffeyville, Kan., refinery, sought to boost plant capacity.
Production output can also be expanded through technical improvements that allow refineries to operate more efficiently and reliably, stretching out shutdowns for maintenance or repair.
“Those types of projects are our bread and butter,” Hastings said.
Fixing refinery bottlenecks is important as ever-growing demand in the U.S. gasoline market pushes the limits of the nation’s refining capacity. Tight inventories and fears of supply interruptions can send prices soaring at a moment’s notice.
No refinery has been constructed in the U.S. since 1976 — the result of extreme environmental restrictions, a “not-in-my-back-yard” opposition and the high cost of new construction.
Instead, refineries are being tweaked incrementally, Hastings said. It’s cheaper to upgrade and squeeze a little more gasoline out of existing refineries, he said.
“Every refinery in the U.S. should be looking at ways to increase its capacity,” he said. “A number of them are.”
Nationwide, refiners have stepped on the gas pedal.
Select Engineering’s niche is the project costing $5 million or less.
“There are a lot of supporting projects that we are in a great position to take,” he said. “Because we are smaller, more nimble, can get in there, get them done and get out.”
When It Started
Hastings founded Select Engineering in January 1999.
“It was never my goal to be on my own,” he said. “I wanted to build a multi-disciplined engineering company to serve the energy industry.”
In the early years, Select had consistent work, but really experienced growth with the addition of Jim Floyd in 2003.
With nearly 30 years of petroleum industry experience, combined with extensive business ownership, Floyd took the lead in sales and marketing. Today, he serves as vice president of Select Engineering.
Last year, Select added 22 employees as sales grew by 175 percent and office space expanded 50 percent.
At the end of 2004, Select employed nine people.
“Up to that point, we had grown 75 percent a year,” Hastings said. Employment at Select went from three to five to nine workers in the years leading up to 2004.
As Select marks its eighth anniversary, the company continues providing consulting, engineering, design and drafting services to energy companies. ?