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Learning to work as a team: An interview with David Amesty, Mechanical Engineer

A common challenge in the industrial sector is finding a solution that works for not only the application, but also the engineering teams. Learning how to recognize when to be a leader and when to be part of a team has been a lifelong lesson for David Amesty, Lead Mechanical Engineer, P. Eng.
 
Stainless Steel World Americas was happy to speak with David about his dedication to continuing education, his vast experience in the oil and gas industry, and the many projects he has worked on that have furthered his knowledge of various equipment and systems.

By Brittani Schroeder and Angelica Pajkovic

David began his journey into an engineering career at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. When he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, he ranked top three in his class. “I spent over 15 years in the oil and gas industry in Venezuela, mostly doing projects in heavy oil,” he says. He also spent one year in Ecuador working on EPC projects and taking on roles in the Mechanical Lead and Project Management teams.

In 2006, David moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and began a new role as a Principal Mechanical Engineer. “Since moving to Canada, I have attended a Continuing Education program in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Calgary, and I am pursuing a Masters in Engineering and Management at Ohio University. I will never stop trying to improve myself and my knowledge base.” When he first moved to Canada, David was primarily working in the Alberta oil sands. “After awhile, I moved to working in pipeline operations before opening my own consultancy business,” he continues.

David now acts as the founder and Lead Mechanical Engineer of Ingenusterra Consultancy. “I do a lot of smaller projects, mostly building the systems such as: heating and ventilation, air conditioning systems, and more. I have experience with a variety of mechanical heavy equipment, heat transfer process and utility systems, pipelines and a range of design software to solve highly detailed and technical problems,” he relays.

The biggest challenge David faces in his work is facing differences of opinion. “Every different stakeholder in a project is going to have a slightly different opinion. You may propose a solution to a problem, and though it may be a good solution, it is possible that not everyone will agree with you. You need to be open-minded and find alternatives in these situations,” says David. “To reach an agreement between everyone, you need to know the people you are working with, and understand where they are coming from; the internal people, the external people, the clients, the big boss, the site leads, the operators, the maintenance crew, the fabricators, etc. I would say 50% of my job is just dealing with people and being able to communicate effectively with them.”


Working with valves

With over 25 years in the industry, David has earned a lot of experience with a variety of equipment and systems. “I have worked with valves quite a bit, most commonly safety valves, control valves, and block valves,” he says. “Safety valves are needed to open or close, in emergency situations. The control valves are more specific to the process and typically more expensive because they control the process and give a precise flow. Block valves have the capability to set flow, but are not as accurate, since the main purpose of these valves is to isolate, not to control. So, depending on the type of service, the tides change, and you need to select the right type of valve, and there are so many to choose from! Ball valves, butterfly valves, gate valves, and more.”

David has come across his fair share of problems while working with the valves in his career. “I especially see problems when working with special relief valves. Since these are usually found in pressure vessels, the type of safety valve is a bigger deal,” he explains. The valves used in pressure vessels must be certified by a third party to ensure they meet all standards required. “Pressure vessels are bound by certain laws and need to keep up a CRN (Canadian Registration Number) in Canada. The requirements for these vessels are very hard and need frequent inspections, especially during the designing process. Therefore, the pressure safety valves usually have very strict requirements as well – they need to be certified to the correct set pressures, and they need a stamp of approval, such as ASME. Other kinds of valves for other applications do not need as much paperwork as these valves do,” says David. 

Pumps and specialty alloys

David has also had the opportunity to work with pumps during the many projects he has been a part of. “A little later on in my career, I was asked to specify the pumps for a project I was working on. These pumps were very interesting to me; one train of pumps was being used for oil dispatch, and the second train of pumps was used for water injection. The problem we ran into with the water injection pumps was that the water had a lot of chlorides in it, and that can really affect stainless steel,” says David. “Working with chlorides, we realized we needed a more specialty alloy, rather than standard stainless steel, so we ended up using duplex instead. Duplex works very well with water and chlorides, and so it worked well with the pumps as well.” The water injection pump was very large, reaching up to 1,500 PSI. “Fifteen years ago, this large pump cost us close to USD $2.5 million. Nowadays, I would say it is closer to USD $3.5 million. The pump was so large that we had to build platforms around it to be able to perform any kind of maintenance.”

Since then, David has worked with a wide range of pumps: centrifugal pumps, positive displacement pumps, diaphragm pumps, and pumps fabricated to API, ASTM, and vendor standards. “Centrifugal pumps are pretty standard in the market and are present when you are working with scotch or free particle fluids. Centrifugal and screw pumps are what I have worked with most." 

While working with pipelines and pipeline terminals, David has gained experience with specialty materials as well. “I cannot consider myself a metallurgist, and I still need to work with a properly certified metallurgist on most projects, but I do know a fair share about different materials,” explained David. “Stainless steel is very different from carbon steel, and stainless has its strengths and weaknesses. When you are looking at a large concentration of hydrochloride, no metal can withstand that. But when you are working in cryogenic applications, stainless steel is very well matched. Stainless might be expensive, but it has a lot of great capabilities too.”


A variety of projects

To solve problems that may arise in a project, you need to be able to work in a team – this is what David believes completely. “You have to share your knowledge with others, and they will share their knowledge with you, and maybe you will find a brand new solution to a problem that you had not considered before. It is impossible to work in this industry and not work in a team,” says David. “Sure, sometimes you want to be the winner and come up with the solution all on your own—we would all like that. But that is not how it works. There are times when you need to be a leader, but a lot of the time you also need to be a team member. There have been a lot of projects and problems that I could not have found success on if it were not for my team beside me.” 

“In a recent large project, I was working on pipelines for a gas processing facility. I was working with a lot of different  process systems, primarily steam and acid gas. Here, the key for success was strong leadership and teamwork.”

He continues, “Working in the heavy oil industry, I gained experience in operations, design, and construction of upstream and downstream facilities; facilities that produce almost 200,000 barrels of heavy oil per day. We had to work in a special type of refinery, (upgraders), for the processing of heavy oil, because it produces synthetic oil and has sulfur and coke as by-products.”

Looking ahead

David believes that this world is a coin with two faces. On one face is the marketing industry, which encourages massive consumption. On the other face, there is a need to mind energy sources, diminish waste, and help Mother Nature.

“The fact is, we cannot be greener if we do not reduce consumption. The more we consume, the more energy is required and more eventually ends up in a landfill,” David states. “I encourage a smooth transition to more sustainable energy sources. While oil and gas will still be deemed necessary, to maintain consumption needs, I believe that if we follow the four Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover) we will be able to collectively help Mother Nature by minimizing our waste.”

“As an engineer, I am committed to thinking of ways to both save energy and use it more efficiently. By doing so I am able to live life with no more then what is necessary,” David concludes.

 

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