The dynamic role of an Equipment Engineer for Magellan Midstream Partners

Pump Engineer got in contact with Brian McBroom, an Equipment Engineer for Magellan Midstream Partners, where he discussed his role within the company, his dealings with pumps and why he thinks his profession is an ideal one in the current oil & gas downturn.

PE: Can you tell me a little about your educational background and how you got into this line of work?

Brian: I went to Oklahoma State University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. The reason I ended up working specifically with rotating equipment is due to the fact that once I finished university I started working in a power plant and was surrounded by rotating equipment. I had always had an affinity for rotating equipment and therefore I started paying a little more attention to pumps and turbines, and the rest is history. I have been working with rotating equipment in some capacity ever since then.

PE: Did you find it difficult to get work when you left university?

Brian: I actually was quite lucky because it was around 2008 when I graduated, which was during the big recession. I think a lot of people had a tough time breaking into the industry at that time but, for whatever reason, I was able to find a job without any real issues. I think part of that was based on the fact that prior to being in university I had spent 5 years working as a mechanic. In that sense, I had hands-on practical experience to go along with my education, which I think gave me an advantage over other applicants.

PE: Can you describe your typical working day and what responsibilities you have?

Brian: I am working for a company called Magellan Midstream Partners. They own and operate a pipeline network that transports / stores crude oil and refined products, and right now I have a variety of responsibilities. I specify pumps, review hydraulic models and I also review pump proposals. Although my day varies, from a high-level perspective most of it is spent discussing upcoming projects or if we are in the engineering and design phase of a project I’ll get involved with that. I’ll help out with conceptual ideas on what kind of pump we can use and what our limitations are. I think I am lucky as I also participate in some field work, such as being involved with pump installations, troubleshooting and maintenance.

PE: Do you find that you are behind a desk more than you are onsite?

Brian: I think that it’s about 50-50. I don’t have a preference but rather like it just the way it is. I get to be involved on the front end of things and also implement in the field and see how things work. That completes the full cycle of projects in my mind. For example, if we have a problem on the install, start-up or during operation I know what the problem is and how to avoid it on our next opportunity. This is the core of continuous improvement in my mind and makes the operation as a whole more reliable.

PE: Are there any particular aspects that you find enjoyable or challenging?

Brian: I think the biggest challenge is finding equipment that can perform under all the conditions that my company desires. For example, we might be seeking a proposal on a pump and our anticipated flow/head must handle conditions anywhere from 50 per cent of BEP (Best Efficiency Point) all the way up to 120 per cent BEP. To find a good fit for that and to try and make that work without running into reliability issues can prove to be a challenge. However, I do enjoy a challenge and enjoy when we come up with solutions that are reliable and cost effective.

PE: What type of pumps do you most commonly work with and for what applications are they used?

Brian: I deal with everything from small positive displacement pumps for injection all the way up to 6000 horsepower API mainline pumps, and everything in between. I deal with smaller ANSI pumps also, but the majority of what I deal with is 300 horsepower and larger. In terms of the types of applications I most commonly see, storage and tank booster pumps, pipeline and mainline are the majority of applications that I would deal with most often.

PE: Are you involved with pump selection and do you use an AVL (Approved Vendor List)?

Brian: When we identify what kind of hydraulic conditions we require we either have someone put together an RFQ (Request for Quotation) package or we do it ourselves. We use the vendors on the AVL for quotes and when the proposals come in I collect those, review all the proposals and make my recommendations to the project management team. In order for a vendor to be on our AVL, we look at how many pumps they’ve sold in our industry; their equipment design; machine performance; we also evaluate their delivery track record as this will indicate whether or not they can meet the lead time; customer service; peer reviews; and pricing, which does come into the equation. Those are the major criteria.

PE: Can you discuss any particular projects that you are working on right now?

Brian: From a generic standpoint I am working on a lot of expansion projects at the moment. I don’t know how long that will go on for, but for the foreseeable future that’s what we’re going to be dealing with. I’ve also dealt with maintenance projects, pump rerates and troubleshooting. I deal with several projects all at once and I find I can manage that up to a point. I can’t say I have a certain number for when it becomes a problem but it can become an issue at some point. The key to keeping up when you have many projects at once is clear communication, staying focused and being organized.

To read the full interview with Brian, please contact the Editor of Pump Engineer magazine, Deirdre Morgan

About the Expert

Brian McBroom is an Equipment Engineer
for Magellan Midstream Partners. Brian
has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical
Engineering and is a registered Professional
Engineer in the state of Oklahoma.

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