MACT Scenario Planning Workshop Participants Explore
Opportunities for Addressing Regulatory Uncertainty
On November 9th and 10th, a group of utility and industrial plant managers, engineers and environmental supervisors gathered at Neundorfer's headquarters in Willoughby, Ohio, for a 1 1/2-day brainstorming event to explore possibilities for compliance with proposed MACT regulations. The event was structured around scenario planning, a process that's used to address long-term uncertainty by creating several alternative "stories" about what might happen in the future and the most appropriate responses in each case.
Scenario planning stories about possible futures are built around a specific decision or topic that needs to be addressed. In this case, the focal issue was, "What proactive actions can we take now to get ready for MACT?" Led by facilitators from Neundorfer, Storm Technologies, UDC and Paragon Airheater Technologies, participants developed four scenarios and uncovered actions to take that will be beneficial no matter what happens with regulations.
"We designed the MACT Scenario Planning Workshop to be a forum about opportunities, rather than a seminar focused on solutions," explained Steve Ostanek, President at Neundorfer and one of the event's facilitators.
Right from the start, participants dived into a series of small group breakout sessions to identify MACT-related key factors and driving forces before coming back together to rank those factors and forces according to importance and uncertainty, using charts hung on a wall. In-between these interactions were presentations about optimizing various plant systems.
The first of the presentations was led by Mike Neundorfer, founder and CEO of Neundorfer, Inc., who explained the benefits of taking a holistic approach to plant improvements. Mike quickly got the participants involved in a lively discussion about how inputs in one area impact operations elsewhere.
"Mike's holistic approach presentation was the highpoint of the workshop for me," said Dick Storm. "He served as a moderator at the whiteboard, listing factors related to each major component from the fuel pile to the stack. It was a memorable session because the fundamentals were brought out by the engineers involved in the process, not by experts."
Other presentations included Dick Storm's insights about optimizing combustion by getting the inputs right; tips from John Cavote, founder of UDC, on finding and repairing sources of penthouse air in-leakage; and an overview from Stephen Storm, Director of Business Development at Paragon Airheater Technologies, about the impact of airheater performance on upstream and downstream equipment.
"For me, the most memorable aspect of the MACT workshop was the realization that as an industry and as a nation, we historically have not done a very good job of being the best of the best," said workshop participant Dean Kallenborn, Plant Superintendant at City of Orrville Utilities in Ohio. "Fuel has been inexpensive, and therefore we have neglected efficiency."
By afternoon of the first day, participants were ready to begin fleshing out four different scenarios. Based on quadrant axes labeled "impact of regulations" and "economic viability," these stories were dubbed Six Feet Under, We're Still Here, Business As Usual, and Pot of Gold.
Another lively round of small-group sessions ensued, during which participants explored how each possible future might come to pass. Everyone then got back together to wrap up the day with a look at implications of the different scenarios and what signposts might indicate that history is heading in the direction of a specific story.
“Scenario planning gives everyone at least a glance at what could happen, and some possible solutions for an unclear MACT future," said workshop participant Duane Fritz, Process Performance Coordinator at Alliant Energy's Nelson Dewey plant in Wisconsin.
Following a private, catered dinner at the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum in Cleveland, participants retired to mull over the possibilities explored throughout the workshop's first day. Wednesday morning, everyone reconvened for several hours of applying insights uncovered the day before to MACT planning at their facilities. The morning's highlights included a full-group brainstorming session about what baseline tests need to be done throughout a plant to establish current operating conditions.
Here's how Duane Fritz summed up takeaways from the workshop's focus on holistic planning: “Using this high-level, asset-to-asset approach for improving overall performance and reducing expenses is an excellent idea for aging facilities that may not be able to spend the huge capital dollars otherwise needed to keep up with ever-changing environmental and political winds.”
Participants in the workshop are already applying insights gained during the forum to positively impact the approach to regulatory compliance at their facilities.
"After returning from the workshop, I held a staff meeting to reinforce the 13 Essentials of Good Combustion from Storm, and also to review the four scenarios developed during the workshop," said Dean Kallenborn. "I also shared the conclusion that, regardless of what happens with MACT, we need to be operating at or as near as possible to performance limits--if for no other reason than to be good stewards of our resources."