Who We Are

  • Who We Are: Network Engineers

    by Ryan Rogers | Sep 10, 2018

    It's a small, but oh-so-vital group of professionals that assure Colonial Pipeline's communications are functioning properly across every portion of the system, enabling the pipeline to run safely and efficiently.  

    Meet the Network Engineering team; a highly-experienced and dedicated group of less than a half-dozen professionals who, collectively, have decades of experience. They are the people with responsibility for Colonial's vast communications network that touches about 200 locations along the 2,500 mile-long pipeline system.

    "We design, manage and implement all of the digital communications systems for the pipeline," said Network Engineering Manager Chris Moss. "We do everything from the telephones on people's desks to satellite communications for the control system to internet connectivity and associated security. Our work touches every person, every system, every computer … every piece of equipment that moves data through the Colonial system."

    Moss points out that when he began working at Colonial in 2003, the company had fewer than 50 sites connected on the network with zero active control systems. Since then, the Network Engineering team has expanded and enhanced functionality of the communications system exponentially with multiple forms of communications infrastructure now installed and serving every location.

    "The entirety of our control system is now online," Moss added. "We have transitioned from a pen and paper, dial-up company to an 'always-on,' digitally-connected, highly-networked organization very rapidly."

    This connectivity underpins a sophisticated control system that allows effective management of product shipments and constant, system-wide monitoring to insure the integrity of pipelines and storage facilities.

    Aside from their day-to-day responsibilities, the Network Engineering team is on call 24/7 in the event of an emergency, and its staff are among the first to respond. Their skill and determination were never more apparent than during the 2016 incidents in Alabama.

    "Establishing data communications through multiple command center relocations was an enormous challenge," Moss said. "We were basically building and then rebuilding a small office complex – multiple times – and working with whatever communications capabilities were available at the sites, whether it was a hotel, arena or elsewhere. Wherever we were located, and no matter how many people were responding, we had to integrate all of that into Colonial's secure network and assure the connections were reliable."

    More routinely, and with a network as vast as Colonial's, communications issues arise on a daily basis that aren't nearly as daunting as incident responses, but still require their immediate attention. Moss says these are often carrier-driven or satellite-related problems.

    A stated goal of the company is to Develop the Workforce. Our new People Organization is working very hard to improve our abilities to recruit, develop and retain the people with the skills we need now and in the future, like our network engineers.

  • Schedulers a critical role in operating a pipeline

    by Ryan Rogers | May 18, 2018

    Schedulers are a critical part of operating a pipeline because they coordinate with various groups including customers, controllers, maintenance personnel and more. By gathering information from various departments, schedulers are able to develop detailed product origination and delivery plans so that customers receive their shipments at the appropriate time and location. Schedulers must be familiar with the quantity and quality of the product, origin, destination, expected arrival time and optimal route.

    The scheduling process begins when customers enter product nominations in a web-based interface between pipeline companies and their customers called Transport4 (T4). This information tells Colonial how much product will be shipped and where it should be delivered.  Schedulers then use a rules-based scheduling program that aggregates information from T4 to help them build a graphic schedule for the control center to follow. The schedule is a printed, color-coded representation of product that displays its volume, rate, estimated delivery time and final destination.  This information is then digitally transmitted to the field and our customers.

    Colonial's scheduling team consists of more than 14 people: ten desk/system schedulers and four relief schedulers.  Each desk scheduler is responsible for a different line section and its various markets.  The Relief Schedulers are required to know all desks in order to back-fill as needed. In total, 60 lines and 15 tanks farms are scheduled from Alpharetta. Additionally, the scheduling group administers leased storage movements, Atlanta butane injections, Griffin bio injections, and product transfer orders (PTOs).  Twice a year the schedulers handle an occurrence that impacts us all, Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) transition.  Spring time is particularly challenging because that is when RVP transitions from winter grade to summer gas (high to low RVP).  To remain in compliance with regulatory standards, schedulers must deliver all winter grade product stored in Colonial tank farms before the transition date.  In the fall the transition is from summer back to winter grade.

    Similar to an on-call doctor, schedulers must be reachable 24/7/365 in the event a new schedule needs to be re-drawn due to maintenance issues or revised customer needs. This can have a cascading effect on all other planned deliveries. When unexpected changes occur, such as a customer who requests to increase a shipment, the entire day's schedule is impacted.

  • The Multi-Faceted Role of Colonial's Operators

    by Ryan Rogers | May 18, 2018

    Colonial's operators work at our tank farm facilities and play an important part in ensuring the pipeline runs smoothly and safely. They have responsibilities that range from operating pumps and monitoring temperature levels to documenting facility processes and procedures. 

    At Colonial, we have three distinct operator positions: B Operator, A Operator and Lead Operator. Each one has daily, weekly and monthly responsibilities, and B and A Operators are supervised by the Lead Operator. To be successful in these roles, constant teamwork and communication within this group are crucial.

    B Operators
    B Operators are responsible for all outside activities at tank farms. Their daily checklist of activities includes at least six perimeter security checks; opening and closing dike drains to release water around tanks if there's a storm; gathering readings from equipment to ensure safe operations and quality assurance; and testing/documenting batch changes. The latter is important because Colonial's Control Center needs to know whether to monitor or anticipate batch changes downstream.

    On a monthly basis, the B Operator inspects and inventories tanks and, when necessary, conducts tank-to-tank transfers. Transfers are more common during the transition from winter to summer grade gasoline. Other responsibilities include assisting technicians with maintenance, draining pumps, loading and launching smart pigs and inspecting fire extinguishers.

    Another crucial monthly responsibility of B Operators is documenting leak detection and conducting repairs. Checking for leaks occurs daily, but is documented once a month to stay in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. During this check, the top of each access well is removed and inspected, as well as any equipment that touches gasoline.

    B Operators are also trained to fill in for A Operators.

    A Operators
    A Operators typically work in the office at the tank farm and are responsible for day-to-day operations. They closely monitor the interaction between tank farm lines and main lines. If a product batch is being wiped out, this individual opens and closes the take-off and block valves. Any time product flows into a facility, the A Operator is controlling the take-off valve. The A Operator also swaps units on stub lines under the direction of the Control Center.

    Other responsibilities include managing the stock book, by entering upcoming batches from the E-Batch Queue, Colonial's electronic system that manages the Main line and Stub line batches into the stockbook, which is their way of verifying that the tank has the capacity or volume for the scheduled batches.  A Operators fill in for B Operators.

    Lead Operators
    Lead Operators oversee all day-to-day operations at tank farms and outlining stations and are the eyes and ears of the Area Operations Manager (OM). Their job is to assist the OM by checking A, B and Sr. Operator documentation for completion and accuracy. Leads have a number of administrative duties, such as approving invoices and timesheets, writing purchase orders and conducting employee assessments.

    Lead Operators schedule training classes, conduct monthly safety meetings and participate in PHMSA audits. They also check line and booster stations for inconsistencies and manage the hazardous waste pad, where hazardous drums are stored for pickup.

    All operators -- whether A, B or Lead – have excellent problem solving and communication skills, in addition to the technical and safety expertise required of their particular job role. All of these skills are essential for preventing accidents and ensuring the safe operation of the pipeline.