As the Coronavirus continues to upend most aspects of our daily lives, organizations are constantly searching how to navigate these disruptions. For most, daily operations were limited to remote work and online conferencing, but the task of powering our nation’s vital infrastructure is an essential service that could not be suspended or video conferenced.

In early May, amid the pandemic, Pond’s energy group had the opportunity to serve the US Army Corp of Engineers as they resumed operations. Our team traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to help with commissioning a new Type III Hydrant Fueling System at the Air Force Reserve Command Base. This base is home to the 911th Airlift Wing, which provides tactical airlift support for equipment, aeromedical evacuation, and agile combat support.

Pond did not take the responsibility of serving the US Army Corps of Engineers through the pandemic lightly. Our fueling team has performed countless commissions in our decades of service, but none quite like this one. Donning face coverings and extensive safety equipment, the team resembled a guerrilla militia as they gathered to tackle the task. Despite travel restrictions, evolving protocol, and social distancing guidelines, we strengthened our customer-centered approach and demonstrated why Pond is truly a trusted partner to our clients.

Keeping the Military Moving

Pond’s lasting relationship with the US Army Corps of Engineers has enabled us to help serve our nation by providing clean, dry fuel to power the military. The Air Force Reserve’s mission change from a C-130 airframe to the more versatile C-17 cargo aircraft required expansions and upgrades to the existing apron, maintenance facilities, and fueling systems to adhere to the new standards. This transition will dramatically enhance the Reserve’s capacity to deliver troops and essential equipment.

To make the necessary changes, the project demanded the installation of a new pumphouse, the integration of the updates within the existing system, an overhaul of the current controls system, and an assessment of the 5MBBL tank. Delaying this commissioning until COVID conditions lifted was not an option due to the immediacy of the mission. Along with the USACE Omaha District, the USACE Louisville District, and the construction contractor (Nova Construction), Pond navigated strict safety protocols to travel to Pittsburgh to complete this objective. With our presence on-site to demonstrate the full functionality of the system and the associated infrastructure, the project would remain on schedule.

Adjusting Conditions

During the week of commissioning, fueling system tests were performed concurrently to the new system and the existing system to ensure optimal performance. Testing these complex systems is critical to overall endurance, longevity, and reliability. Limited space inside the control rooms of each pumphouse made performing the tests increasingly difficult, only to be intensified by the need to maintain social distancing. The testing was performed on modifications to the existing offload positions by installing a new Type III pump house in place of the existing pumps. An aboveground storage tank was installed adjacent to the existing system. By tying these systems together, modifications were made inside the existing pumphouse and the Hydrant Hose truck (HHT) checkout station was installed outside of the upgraded pumphouse. A hydrant loop with five hydrant pits and an isolation valve pit were added to supply fuel to the C-17 aircraft on the apron. Fuel was supplied to the base from commercial trucks to perform system testing. Flow tests were performed at all areas to confirm equipment was functioning properly as well as safety measures installed in case of emergencies.

The tests consisted of offloading commercial tanker trucks, loading refueler trucks, testing all pumps, filtering jet fuel on issue and receipt, checking level alarms of existing and new Aboveground Storage Tanks (AST’s) and aboveground product recovery tanks, verifying high level control valve closures, pipeline leak detection using Hansa System, loading C-17 aircraft through a hydrant pit with an R-12 hydrant servicing vehicle, and defueling of an aircraft. The system was fully exercised and verified for operational use.

Beyond the project scope, risks associated with travel and dining brought challenges unlike any other site commissioning. Maintaining social distancing in vehicles and airplanes required patience and conscientiousness from everyone on the team. Eating accommodations had to be made since the exchange on the base was closed. Offsite restaurants only offered takeout, limiting our team to eating in vehicles or on the adjacent sidewalk. Even at the hotel, the team was not allowed to gather on the site premises. As a result, coordinating with coworkers was restricted to phone calls and texts.

After a week of external challenges, the team still managed to fulfil the task at hand. With  a short punch list remaining, the Air Force Reserve Command was ready to take acceptance of the system.

“This team is the best in the business.  If they had identified anything of significance, they would have brought it to the attention of Nova, Omaha, Corps, and base personnel before they left the site.  Also, Kris Allegood from Pond would have been involved and made everyone aware of any major issues,” said Tim Greene, Design/Construction Program Mgr, AFRC.

The successful acceptance testing ensured the performance of the system moving forward. The 911th Airlift Wing will now be able to support the refueling needs of the C-17 aircraft, which will help the Reserve’s enhanced mission operation. The Pond team appreciated the continued opportunity to support the operators, the USACE, and other stakeholders responsible for the Project, along with their joint venture partner Tetratech. Pond is proud to continue our relationship with the Louisville Corps District, where we hold an IDIQ AE Design Contract with Tetratech.

Without the team’s strategic planning, effective management of health and safety guidelines, and capable leadership, this project would have been delayed by the circumstances. Adapting to an abnormal reality is no easy feat, but it is important that we pivot when a situation like this demands it.

“We will continue to serve our clients during these challenging and uncertain times and feel confident that as a company and community, we can get through this together,” said Kris Allegood, Vice President of Fueling.

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