Hatch Mott MacDonald has employed a client-focused approach since its founding and strives to be the consultant of choice across the North American infrastructure market. That dedication to meeting and exceeding a client’s needs is not lost on the company’s Pipelines, Oil & Gas practice.
Led by Eric Kleinhenz, managing director, and Jon Barbalich, practice leader, Pipelines, Oil & Gas — like other Hatch Mott MacDonald practice areas — operates as a team, not as individual offices. The practice now reaches from Texas to Alberta and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts via strategically located regional hub offices to meet its clients’ needs.
Known for its tunneling, transportation, water and wastewater engineering skill sets, Hatch Mott MacDonald began working in the oil and gas sector on a dedicated basis in 1997, the same year Barbalich started with the company. The team continued its methodical growth and the next milestone — where the Pipelines, Oil & Gas practice began to position itself for long-term growth — involved Kleinhenz joining the team and opening its first Houston office in 2001.
As the practice’s name implies, the firm works on more than just pipelines, though that is what it is best known for. Its reach extends to the upstream and downstream sectors and includes, among other things, metering and regulation, compression stations, pump stations and treatment facilities.
Services started out in the form of engineering, surveying and drafting. As the team grew and projects dictated, the Pipelines, Oil & Gas practice expanded to cover program and project management and controls, risk characterization, geohazard evaluations, environmental analysis and permitting, right-of-way and land work, material procurement, construction management and inspection and GIS and document management.
“Our mantra has always been quality and responsiveness. When we were smaller we always felt, and we feel to this day, even though we are a lot bigger, that to grow our business we couldn’t just meet our clients’ expectations. We needed to exceed them,” Barbalich says. “We always want to improve. No matter where we are, we always want to get better.”
Barbalich points out that although the practice started with him and about five people, the growth is truly a team effort. That team now includes about 800 employees in the United States and Canada. That number does not include Hatch Mott MacDonald employees from other practice areas who provide project support in various disciplines. This ability to draw from other practice areas is a key to the company’s overall success.
“All of our [Pipelines, Oil & Gas] growth is strictly organic, through strategic hires and without acquisitions,” Barbalich says. “It is all through hiring talented people, which allows us to take on more work and maintain a culture of continuous improvement.”
As the team grew, so too did the practice’s offices.
“We have grown by adding good people and opened a lot of new offices based on where these key, core people were located,” Barbalich says. The hub offices include the three Houston offices; Holyoke, Massachusetts; Monroe, New Iberia and Shreveport, Louisiana; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lexington, Kentucky; and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. In addition, the Pipelines, Oil & Gas practice has expanded at other Hatch Mott MacDonald offices, including Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Pensacola, Florida; Woodbridge, New Jersey; Morgantown and Charleston, West Virginia; Calgary, Alberta; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Barbalich adds, “This provides an advantage for our clients, because we bring in-depth local and geographic expertise to projects in these regions.”
Kleinhenz attributes the practice’s growth to maintaining the team culture and learning how to function cohesively across multiple offices. Instead of one office focusing on a project, because of its proximity to the office, the entire team looks at who will be the best fit for the project. This means that the client has the best Hatch Mott MacDonald employees on the job providing the best service. The client is pleased and the practice grows as more work comes its way.
“You could put a list of pros and cons for a big centralized office versus diversified regional offices. It always comes down to the needs of the client,” he says. “If you have a client who likes local support and you have an office there, it comes into play.”
Barbalich and Kleinhenz agree that clients prefer the project team approach because it ensures the best personnel are on the job to serve their needs. It also helps that the practice can draw from more than 25,000 staff from its affiliated companies worldwide.
Barbalich offered this example: If the practice is working on a project in Calgary and a technical requirement is best addressed by a Houston office employee, that employee will be put on the project to handle that technical aspect while employees at the Calgary office will handle the project issues that are unique to that region.
At what point does Hatch Mott MacDonald get involved in a project, and is there a particular service most requested? The short answer is that it varies by client.
“Some clients have us enter early, at what we would call the pre-feasibility stage. Those are usually the bigger projects and the client is looking for an overall assessment of not just cost, schedule and feasibility but the major pitfalls,” Kleinhenz says. “Then there are those where we get involved when the client proceeds with the actual project. The services vary as well for each client.”
The practice has increased its market share through the addition of service offerings and its regional growth, both of which are a direct response to client growth.
Of the service area offerings, Barbalich is noticing an uptick in engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM), trenchless, right-of-way and environmental work. Other growth areas include oil and gas facility projects (e.g., compressor, pump and meter stations).
“We have seen a steady increase in right-of-way and environmental work over the past few years,” Kleinhenz says. “We saw opportunities in the industry to do it, and we felt we could do it better than many others. We have always tried to take a very systematic approach in the sense of not biting off more than we could chew and achieving gradual growth. We want to be known for quality.”
As for the trenchless side of the business, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and auger boring are the cornerstones of oil and gas construction when a crossing comes into play. Direct Pipe and to some extent tunnels are both gaining momentum within the industry as well, according to Glenn Duyvestyn, vice president of trenchless engineering for Pipelines, Oil & Gas.
It falls on Hatch Mott MacDonald to determine which trenchless method is best suited and most cost effective for a specific waterbody, railroad and/or highway crossing. In some instances, it is a combination of multiple methods.
“One attribute of Hatch Mott MacDonald is that we have the trenchless expertise in-house to change from one trenchless method to another. We don’t need to go outside, we just pick up the phone and call another office,” Duyvestyn says. “We have it all in one shop. That is how our clients view us as well.”
One such case was the Empire Connector Extension project in New York for National Fuel Gas. Stretching between Tioga County, Pennsylvania and Steuben County, New York, installation of the 24-in. natural gas pipeline involved Direct Pipe, HDD, auger boring and microtunneling to install the pipe. Ground conditions included soils consisting of sand, gravel, cobble, boulders and shale bedrock. North American Oil & Gas Pipelines’ sister publication
Trenchless Technology awarded this project its award for Project of the Year — New Installation in 2013.
Duyvestyn sees the trenchless realm growing as more and more companies look to install pipelines in areas where it has never gone before.
“There have been quite a few 30-in. pipelines installed by the HDD method at the 6,000 to 8,000 ft range and 48-in. pipelines at 3,000 to 4,000 ft,” he says. “Today we are looking at longer lengths for larger-diameter pipes and in areas with greater site constraints and installation risks. This is a function of requiring pipelines in locations where they have not normally been completed before, relying on industry advances in tooling and design. Most of these larger-diameter and longer installations are occurring throughout the United States and in Canada. We have several long HDDs where we are trying to combine wetland/waterbody/environmentally sensitive crossings with other crossing features such as interstate highways and railroad crossings to accommodate site constraints, regulatory requirements, and landowner concerns. Each of these is pushing us to design longer drills.”
As the service offerings grow, the common question asked is, which service does the practice excel? Barbalich replies that Hatch Mott MacDonald adds value in all its service offerings.
“People often ask what we are best at, and I answer it like this. We do more pipeline projects than compressor, pump and meter stations. This does not mean we are not good at the facilities work,” Barbalich says. “Our facilities team has grown consistently, especially in the past couple years. Right now, we are doing a large number of pipeline projects that are more than 100 miles in length. On some we are doing EPCM and on some we are doing just engineering, survey and mapping. On others we are also performing procurement, right-of-way and/or environmental services. We try to position ourselves to provide the services that our client needs on any project.”
Pipelines, Oil & Gas has about 80 clients. Through the first half of 2015, it has already worked with 50 of them.
“I think we have a very strong reputation for handling major FERC projects, but we are equally good on the gathering, midstream and minor capital-type projects,” Kleinhenz says. “Sometimes there is a perception that we only take on FERC projects. That’s not the case, though those sometimes get the most notoriety.”
Kleinhenz and Barbalich emphasized that Hatch Mott MacDonald has been involved in numerous successful FERC pipeline and facilities projects over the years. One recent project involved over 150 miles of large diameter pipeline in the southern United States.
From the beginning to end of Hatch Mott MacDonald’s role, the project was on a fast track schedule. Kleinhenz says this gave the company very little breathing room. It required the team to come to work every day committed to completing the project, which came in on time and under budget. The team handled engineering, survey, drafting, design, and construction phase support services for the entire project, which had many constructability challenges.
This included trenchless crossings of the Mississippi River, levee bores and challenging terrain, from rocky and hilly Arkansas to the flat plains of Mississippi.
“The great result was that this FERC project only took about two years from the beginning of pipeline route selection to the completion of construction,” Kleinhenz says. “You would be hard-pressed to find another recent major FERC pipeline project of this size that was completed within this type of timeline.”
The successful completion, Kleinhenz adds, was a result of matching the right people to the project needs. The team’s understanding of the client and project requirements was instrumental in the overall success.
“The client focus is critical to us. We want to be a team that continues to advance our strong culture of quality and safety. We want to continue to grow and provide opportunities and challenges for our staff and add substantial value for our clients. That is our goal,” Barbalich says. “The two things that give me the most joy are exceeding our clients’
expectations and seeing our employees develop and take on new challenges to help build our team.”
Mike Kezdi is an assistant editor at Benjamin Media Inc. and a contributing staff editor of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines. Contact him at email@example.com.