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Rick Hoffman joined Becht Engineering in June, 2009 as a Senior Engineering Advisor. He has more than 39 years experience in engineering, reliability management and maintenance in the refining, petrochemical and synthetic fuels industries.Prior to joining Becht Engineering he was the Director, Specialty Engineering for LyondellBasell Industries. In... this role he had worldwide responsibility for corporate technical support, mechanical engineering and maintenance for more than 40 chemical plants and two refineries. He was also responsible for capital project support, setting the strategic direction for Lyondell maintenance More

Negotiating Plant Access for Due Diligence

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Just the Facts Ma’am The famous phrase, “Just the facts, Ma’am,” was often linked to Los Angeles Police Department Sargent Joe Friday who wore badge 714 on the TV show Dragnet. However, according to several sources, the facts are Joe Friday never said this exact phrase on the long running TV show.  The statement “Just the facts, Ma’am” was in a parody of Dragnet by Stan Freberg. Facts can be surprising. When we perform due diligence studies we want to be sure we get “Just the facts” as quickly and accurately as possible. This is only possible if the facility that is the subject of the study is prepared, open and honest and we are able to visit the site. We need to physically walk down the plant, review records and talk to personnel up and down the organization. This blog is a request to our clients who are interested in...
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Due Diligence - Making Rapid, Accurate Judgements

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or  " Kidnapped By My Own Business Team" A number of years ago I worked closely with an Operating Company Business Team and Mergers and Acquisitions group performing due diligence assessments. I often led these assessments and my input on reliability, maintenance, mechanical integrity and inspection was incorporated into a multi discipline team of legal, environmental, finance and operational experts. These assessments could be as long as six weeks to thoroughly evaluate an asset. The adventure I am about to describe was a lot different. My boss called me and asked me to come to his office right away. This was quite unusual for him unless my number came up for a random drug test. I went to his office immediately, closed the door and we started our meeting. He said, “ I need you to be in front of the corporate office at 6 AM tomorrow. Hopefully you will return...
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All That Glitters Is Not Gold - Due Diligence Can Define The True Value

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A few years ago I conducted what might be the world's cheapest, fastest and most cost effective due diligence study ever done. This study took one hour and cost the client about $500.  I was approached by two new members of a well-recognized financial institution. They were assigned to evaluate opportunities to capture low cost natural gas. They had discovered an ammonia plant for sale in an intensely agricultural region in the Midwest-US. Considering feedstock cost, proximity to market and asking price for the plant, they thought this was a gold mine.  Their superiors had some concern about the enormous enthusiasm of these new employees and asked them to evaluate the condition of the asset to determine if it would perform at reasonable rates with acceptable mechanical availability. That is when they reached out to me. A call was scheduled and they explained the situation and “golden” opportunity. They we indeed...
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Normalization of Deviance – The Pathway to Disaster

columbia_explosio_20181004-195440_1 Space Shuttle Columbia Explodes Upon Re-Entry
On February 1, 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia, while entering the earth’s atmosphere at 10,000 miles per hour, disintegrated killing all 7 astronauts. A $4 billion spacecraft was destroyed, spreading debris over 2000 square miles and grounding the Space Shuttle program for 2-1/2 years. The cause, normalization of deviance. Insulating foam strikes which had been unacceptable were tolerated and ignored. The NASA specification stated “No debris will emanate from the critical zone of the external tank on the launch pad or during ascent.” However, after 113 shuttle missions, foam shedding, debris impacts and TPS tile damage came to be regarded as only a routine maintenance concern. Each successful mission reinforced the belief that foam shedding was unavoidable and unlikely to jeopardize safety. On January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing all astronauts on board and destroying the spacecraft. The cause, normalization of deviance. Increasing problems with o-ring damage were...
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