If asked to describe Matrix Service Company, one might point to the company’s position as a top-tier contractor whose divisions design, build and maintain the infrastructure that is critical to North America’s energy, power and industrial markets.
Dig deeper, though, and there is another story to be told — one about a company whose growth and diversification has come by listening to its customers, understanding their
business issues and partnering with them to develop better solutions.
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If asked to describe Matrix Service Co. (NASDAQ: MTRX), one might point to the company’s position as a top-tier contractor whose subsidiaries design, build and maintain the infrastructure that is critical to North America’s energy, power and industrial markets.
Dig deeper, though, and there is another story to be told — one about a company whose growth and diversification has come by listening to its customers, understanding their business issues and partnering with them to develop better solutions.
It is a story that can be told about any of the markets in which the company works, but perhaps nowhere is that story more evident than in the oil and gas industry where customers look to Matrix for solutions upstream, midstream and downstream.
There, Matrix employees are hard at work in the major oil and gas fields across the country. They are performing front-end engineering design (FEED) studies, designing, engineering, fabricating and constructing crude and product terminals as well as LNG and NGL terminals for export, storage and transportation fuel, process plants and more.
The company provides decontamination, inspection, maintenance and repair, capital construction and complex turnaround services, including fluid catalytic cracking and coker units, for refineries coast to coast.
And across the entire value chain, the company’s industrial cleaning division provides advanced chemical cleaning, tank cleaning, waste characterization, waste minimization, pre-commissioning, decommissioning, hydroexcavation for construction and hands-free hydro-blasting.
Seeking better solutions
“It’s important to us that we truly understand our customers’ business objectives as well as any issues they’re trying to resolve,” said President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John R. Hewitt. “By taking the time to understand their strategy and operating challenges, we can develop solutions that consistently meet or exceed their expectations. More importantly, we can build long-term relationships.”
It is a partnership approach that has led the company to apply its core expertise to new market segments, make strategic acquisitions to enhance or add to its service offerings and expand its footprint to meet the needs of customers whose operations cross multiple geographic markets.
Above all, it is an approach that has resulted in a book of business where more than 75 percent of the company’s customers consistently count on Matrix as their contractor of choice for new projects or to take the lead in ongoing work.
Case in point: British Petroleum’s (BP) Cherry Point Refinery in Blaine, Washington, where, since 1992, Matrix Service has been the refinery’s primary on-site contractor with employees who constitute nearly one-third the total workforce. There, Matrix Service employees perform
all aspects of maintenance and repair including tank, piping, civil and structural work, mechanical, electrical and instrumentation, insulation and asbestos abatement, and fleet maintenance. They also provide professional services including planning, scheduling, estimating, project controls and document control, warehouse support and logistics.
Cross-training has allowed Matrix Service’s teams to provide support when there are higher demands for capital construction work and vice versa. Doing so minimizes the time delays that would otherwise result from bringing in new crews and having to first educate them about BP’s
processes and procedures. It also allows Matrix Service to maintain a competent and capable workforce that can deliver safe, predictable and dependable results — evidenced by the team’s recent achievement of two years and 1.7 million man-hours without an OSHA-recordable incident.
“This achievement is a reflection of the shared culture and commitment to safety that exists at both BP and Matrix,” said Hewitt. “Through teamwork and partnership, the employees at BP’s Cherry Point Refinery consistently exemplify world-class safety performance.”
Sharing that common safety culture and knowledge is even more critical during planned outages where the company’s employee count can quickly swell to nearly 1,000, as was the case during the recently completed cycle ending turnaround this past spring. During major events such as this, the refinery’s management team relies on the expertise of Matrix across the refinery.
Finally, because Matrix Service’s employees know the refinery and BP’s processes and procedures so well, refinery management also relies on Matrix when they need onboarding support and step-up foremen or coordinators to provide direction to other contractors.
“As we have matured as a site, Matrix has helped us hone the services they provide to areas that make the best sense for us,” said Brian Barclay, maintenance and reliability manager at BP’s Cherry Point Refinery. “The number of people at the site, the type of backlog and the services they offer are all in complete alignment with our strategy for the refinery.”
BP’s Cherry Point Refinery is the largest in the state of Washington and third largest on the West Coast, producing approximately 3.5 million gallons of gasoline, 2.5 million gallons of jet fuel and 2.2 million gallons of diesel every day.
“Whether we’re performing routine maintenance or a planned outage, we understand that time gained or lost can have a direct impact on BP’s customers and on BP’s bottom line. Given the refinery’s daily production volume, any extended downtime could also disrupt fuel supplies across the country,” said Matrix Service Site Manager Frank Capristo.
“Cherry Point is a well-oiled machine that’s kept running through precision planning of daily maintenance and repair, capital construction and major turnaround work. It’s a big job — one that takes teamwork and one we’re proud to be a part of.”
Barclay agreed, saying another sign of partnership can be found in the fact Matrix doesn’t automatically take on new tasks BP might ask them to perform.
“They look for what’s best for BP even if it means giving up work,” he said. “In fact, we’ve taken work to Matrix where they’ve recommended and then helped find an alternate contractor or offered alternative ideas if they think there’s a better way.”
In doing so, Barclay said Matrix knows the end result may be a short-term impact to its own bottom line, but the company’s view isn’t short-term; it is on building a lifelong relationship with the customer.
“They’re not afraid to put challenge back into the conversation, especially if it’s about making sure a decision is the best one for BP,” he said. “That’s partnership. And in my experience having managed thousands of contracts, it’s a powerful approach you don’t often see.”
It’s all about listening, understanding and partnering to find better solutions. “We didn’t hire Matrix to just do tactical work. We invited them in to help us with our business,” said Barclay. “We view Matrix as an extension of BP: It’s very much a cooperative effort.” Capristo agreed. “Our relationship with BP is more collaborative than transactional,” he said. “We consider ourselves stewards of this refinery.”
Crossing the value chain
Seventeen hundred miles north you’ll hear the same story at BP’s operations in Alaska. There, for the past five years, Matrix Service employees have been providing mechanical turnaround services to support BP’s upstream operations across the entire North Slope.
Matrix is currently finishing turnaround work on Flow Station 1 at Prudhoe Bay, one of the separation facilities that process crude oil to pipeline specification before it enters the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline. The company also recently completed the turnaround on the crude oil topping unit (COTU), which produces arctic heating and Jet-A fuels to support BP’s North Slope operations.
In addition to the mechanical turnaround, Matrix Service also performed decontamination and hydro-blasting on the COTU exchangers and diesel reboilers, both of which had experienced significant fouling from several years of operation. Work on the North Slope comes with complexities not found at most other refineries. Among them are temperatures that frequently dip to -30 F with extreme winds and severe chill factors.
“In order to survive the climate, processing equipment has to be housed inside buildings,” said Matrix Service Project Manager Newt Balew. “That can complicate work like chemical cleaning and hydro-blasting and takes specialized planning and expertise in order to protect other equipment and instrumentation and collect the hydro-blast water and waste solids.”
In instances where work extends outside of the building, additional review and approvals are required to ensure adherence to environmental and other regulations. Additionally, while the turnaround season — June to August — takes advantage of more favorable weather and 24-hour
sunlight, its short timeframe also leads to schedule compression for much of the work that must be done.
According to BP COTU Turnaround Single Point of Contact Riad Jammal, the reality of a short turnaround season made having a sole source provider for both the chemical cleaning and mechanical turnaround even more beneficial.
“This unit — the COTU — is very critical to our operations. It provides the fuel we use for flights back and forth to Anchorage and the diesel we use for heat protection on wells, in heaters, generators and more,” he said. “Having a single point of contact and not having to manage two or three different contractors made the turnaround a lot easier.”
Originally planned for 30 days, the team completed the COTU turnaround in half that time.
“Matrix did an incredible job, and did so safely,” said Jammal. “It was obvious that they care for each other and the job they’re doing, and that’s what we look for. Making sure everyone stays safe is our primary focus, and it was clear that was Matrix’s focus, too.”
The value of partnership
Whether Matrix Service Co.’s subsidiaries are providing single service or sole-source solutions, when customers are asked to describe the company’s approach, one word consistently rises to
the top: partnership.
“Long-term relationships are central to the values that drive us at Matrix Service Co.,” said Hewitt. “Our goal is to provide safe, quality service that leads to lifetime relationships with every customer we serve. Doing so begins and ends with listening to and understanding their needs
and then working diligently to provide the best solutions.”