Gut Rumbles

March 31, 2004


When I was in charge of the Energy and Services Department at the plant where I once worked, we upgraded the Acid Plant from an 800 TPD design to a 1000+ TPD operation. The boilers could handle the change and I saw no problem with the temperature control or the adsorption system.

But I saw a big problem with the water softeners. At the rates we intended to run, two softeners wouldn't be enough. At 800 TPD, we could run off one softener while the other regenerated, as long as we pushed every gallon of water we could through that one remaining softener. Even then, keeping the plant on line was a nip-and-tuck affair, and you had to stagger softener operation to ensure that you didn't deplete both at the same time.

I recommended the installation of a third water softener.

My brilliant idea was greeted with cheers from all around, the capital money was approved right away, and I had an engineer assigned to the job. He was some oriental character named Shit-In-Soup, or some such crap, and I thought I gave him a simple job.

I took him down to the Steam Plant, where I had a set of FIVE water softeners, plus a demineralizing system. I told him, "See THIS? Imagine just picking up one of these softeners and carting it down to the Acid Plant. Set the vessel in place, have all the piping prefabricated, and then hook it up on the run. I'll get the resin added, and it'll be ready to go as soon as the piping is complete. Can you do that in eight hours?"

He assured me that he could. I didn't want to take a shutdown for that job.

Two weeks later, I saw the drawings for his project. I almost shit my pants and I pitched one hell of a hissy-fit about what I saw. It was NOTHING like what I had asked the bastard to do. It was an abortion.

What is it about engineers? You take them by the hand, show them something that works, and tell them, "Build me another one just like this one." They can't do it. They want to make it "better," complete with all the bells and whistles sold by the last vendor who bought them a free lunch. Forget the fact that the bells and whistles cost a lot of money, accomplish nothing and cause production people headaches. Engineers like that shit. Buncha egotistical whores.

"So what if you've been operating this stuff for 20 years? I'm an engineer and you're not! I know better than you do!"

I ended up doing the work through a contractor. I had a defunct softener in the field, and the contractor said that he could rehabilitate it and get it pressure certified. I drew what I wanted done on a paper towel for him. Those were the plans for that job.

Two weeks later, I had a third softener at the Acid Plant, I didn't have to shut down to install it and we upped the rates to 1000+ tons per day. The contractor billed me for $40,000 to do the job. I thought that the sum was fair. Shit-In-Soup's estimate for the work was $150,000, PLUS a shutdown to get it done.

That's an engineer for you.