What We Do

PreProcess is a project leadership, process development, and process engineering firm that delivers customized technical solutions to new entrepreneurial efforts as well as established industrial operating companies. We have experience with projects ranging in size from hundreds of thousands of dollars to billions of dollars in the mining, refining, food, pharma, consumer product, water, wastewater, energy, and renewables markets. We have received recognition from a variety of sources; one of the highlights was winning the 2010 Technology Pioneering award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

We build, participate in, and lead multi-disciplinary high performance teams through the evolving project needs. We excel at taking complex concepts and reducing them down to the simple executable tasks to get the job done. We are able to quickly analyze and identify interdependencies make the team successful as a whole. We create clarity from chaos and we work together to win.

A project needs a team to create, adapt, and drive toward solutions. We do this through clearly defined deliverables and data based decisions. Our team works quickly and efficiently. We have planned and executed turnarounds that required a precise and fast paced schedule. We have been able to develop new ideas from test tube to commercialization at a rapid pace. In one example we scaled a supercritical biodiesel reactor from the lab bench to the world’s first commercial scale system in fourteen months.

For more on our capabilities:

High Performance Teams

High performance team members have specific roles and complementary talents.  The team is committed to a common purpose, and works with a high level of collaboration.  They are innovative, tight-knit, and built on trust.  The team has the collective confidence to surmount any barrier.  Leadership is more orchestration bringing out and blending the subtleties of the common purpose of the team.  As with all organizational structures, there is “the” leader shouldering the ultimate responsibility, however, everyone on the team is “a” leader.  “Leadership” is rotated according to the need at that moment in time.  Decisions are made on the analysis of the facts.  Egos are checked at the door and there is efficient conflict resolution if it is ever needed.  High performing teams could take over the world if that was the common goal to which everyone was committed.

For more on High Performance Teams:
High Performing Teams

Front End Loading

To execute any project and organized and progressive development of detail is essential to making decisions based upon factual and accurate information.  The “Total Quality” and “Six Sigma” suite of guidance concepts apply to projects as much as operations and development.  A common embodiment of these principles is the method of Front End Loading (FEL).  Simply, it is an organized progression of staged gates that allow for metric evaluation against each sage’s criteria delivering actionable information to the expected level of accuracy as the decision-makers evaluate the on-going approval of the project. 

Usually the FEL work flow is divided into three stages.  FEL1 is the business planning stage where the opportunity is defined and options are presented and analyzed for setting a framework of possibilities to meet the business need.   In FEL2 scope is developed.  From the opportunities in FEL1, FEL2 effort pulls together the technical and commercial options for evaluation to define a path forward.  The final stage, FEL3, results in an appropriation grade cost estimate, a project plan and critical path schedule that allows for a funding decision for detail design, construction and start-up of the enterprise.

For more on Front End Loading:
Front End Loading Definitions

Multi-Phase Project Execution

In every effort from fuzzy front end concept development to basic engineering packages, a series of iterative investigative learning events must occur.  This is where the kernel or the idea for the technology and the project first emerges.  These interactive learning opportunities better craft not only the technology but also the commercial opportunity.

To develop basic engineering packages including commitment grade cost estimates and the owner’s level project schedule for the detailed engineering, construction management, and operations commissioning we first engage in detailed learning and refinement of scope.  This is commonly known as Phase 0 where activities include idea exploration, concept investigation, experimental data generation, proof of principle runs, and both individual equipment scale up and integrated system scale up.

In our experience, major inputs, outputs and conversion operations need to be characterized to insure success.  Many times we have found that early project developments base financial and expected technical performance on claims that may or may not have valid data associated with the claim.  We will present an analysis of the current state of the expected conversion parameter characterization then present a process development proof of principle plan to validate the claims or shore up the sections of run data that may need to be created to insure success of later phases of the project.  This process development effort requires a separate proposal as many times the equipment trial runs and proof of principle experiments involve other not yet identified resources.

For a printable version of the Multi-Phase Project Execution Model:
Multi-Phase Project Execution
Multi-Phase Project Execution

Cost Estimates

PreProcess follows the American Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering principles and practices for developing cost estimates.  Usually the development of both the capital expenditure required (Capex) and the operating costs anticipated (Opex) ae one of the most debated issues in the early stages of a project.  Many times numbers are forced to fit a certain expectation from past experience that may of may not be accurate depending upon the source and skill of the champion of the position.  Using industry definitions and the tools available in an organized and structured manner with clear definition in the accuracy and contingencies accounted for in the cost models leads to stronger financial understanding and more successful delivery of the project objectives.   A cost estimate is also wrought with political positioning of the organization that may be presenting the results.  PreProcess is agnostic in the support of various positions and bases the understanding of the cost in range and accuracy definitions with clear presentation upon which the numbers are based.

For more on Cost Estimates:
Cost Estimating  

Permit Pursuit

We have found over the years that permitting is one of the most intense and onerous areas of concern in any new chemical venture.  It is common for the permitting to be on the critical path of many projects.  Meeting the regulatory requirements on a chemical processing project can often be the largest driver of many aspects of many of the cost elements in the estimate.

In general, we view the permitting process as having three major groupings each with a different level of information exchange, review and strategic approach.  The ultimate goal is to receive the various “Permit to Operate” documentation from the various Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). 

Preprocess delivers project information of a general nature in the first two groupings of the permit pursuit.  We recommend that we partner with an environmental firm that is local to the site and would have expert experience in the local “personality” of the permitting process of the area.  Many times the details that are written in codes or promulgated in regulations are contradictory and require local relationships to be built as many are left up to interpretation.  As the owner’s representative, Preprocess leads the effort, but brings in these local to site resources to insure that permitting does not become a roadblock in meeting the needed operational start up schedule.

As the project progresses to the construction phase, the third grouping of permits become the primary driver of permit efforts and application for the building permits have to be submitted.   Preprocess, Inc. then delivers from the contracted specific discipline Engineers of Record (EORs) the sealed and professional engineer stamped drawings required as part of those submittals.   Usually these drawings, specifications, and calculations are not made available until well into the detailed engineering phase, Phase 2, just prior to commencement of the major construction leadership activities in Phase 3 of the overall project organization.

Project Design, Construct, and Process Safety

All projects have many stakeholders.  The timely review, analysis and action taken keeps the design, construction and start-up efforts on track  A road map is needed and leadership must be strong, decisive and clear on the expected progress against commitments.  Open communication, factual data and a trust bond amongst the team members insures the most successful project.

Design reviews and the Process Hazard Analysis must be an iterative sequence.  Started too soon, and the PHA will become ineffective.  Begun too late, and the design costs and procurement process will incur change order costs.  In the design work flow, the analysis of the constructability of a system is critical to keeping construction costs under control and the project on schedule.  Many times constructability analysis can identify ways to reduce costs and drive the schedule to meet and beat the commitments need to keep the enterprise on track.

Each review needs to be scheduled on a pace to drive the iterative interactions required as information is derived from the sessions.  Clear action deliverables with responsible parties hitting the needed dates is the project manager’s best tools from the team, kind of like a double play for a pitcher in baseball, a well-run design, construct and safety review work flow drives home the needed targets to meet the overall objectives of the effort.

For more on the Project Design, Construct, and Process Safety Work Flow:
BOD to IFC Work Flow

Process Hazard Analysis and Process Safety Information

A Process Hazard Analysis is a gathering of various design, construction, and operations stakeholders to objectively analyze a proposed design for the system.  It is imperative that the participant s are well prepared for the PHA.  Much effort is wasted when the pre-requisite information is not presented to participants with enough time to become familiar the system prior to the PHA.  In many projects, PHAs are an afterthought or a burdensome necessity.  Preprocess uses the PHA to insure the system has the highest level of safety and by using streamlining techniques and keeping the group on track with strong leadership, the effort is value adding and appreciated.  Many times participants use the PHA to grind some ax or re-hash something that has already been established, the leadership of the PHA must keep ahead of the group and insure that no one person derails or hijacks the very important analysis for their own agenda.  One technique to insuring a well-structured meeting is to insure that all required Process Safety Information is delivered and reviewed as a ticket to admission to the event.

For more on PHAs and the Process Safety Information:
Process Hazard Analysis
Process Safety Information Requirements


A megaproject is a high value, complex, interdependent, multi-organizational undertaking that creates a game changing difference in the landscape of chemical processing.  The bonds that are formed, the lessons that are learned and the impact that is felt spans careers, industries and businesses.  There is nothing more exciting.

Game changing mega projects are usually based upon some new process development that enables the cost optimization, capacity increase, or yield improvement on some needed chemical product.  Feedstock changes, energy efficiency or new production routes are usually the chemical engineering technology behind a mega project. 

A high performing megaproject team is built on excellence, confidence and passion.  All team members must be comfortable with knowing that all members know how to execute as a team and not just as a group of people.  Like a great shortstop and second baseman effortlessly turning double plays, each member of a high performance team knows that when they toss the ball their teammate will be there or as the member on the receiving end of the toss, they can make the play.

It is critical on a megaproject that the team dynamics are of support and continual improvement.  Tasks are organized and decisions are made with the data that is available.  Everyone can be everywhere.  No single force of will can overcome the size of a megaproject.  There is always a positive build of solutions from the ever present “can do” attitude.  Needs are anticipated.  Plans are built, but the act of planning is the important effort, not the plan itself.  Goals are clear and the pathway forward may have multiple choices.  The team is continually adjusting upward to become more effective, efficient and enjoyable.

Megaprojects require leadership to be embodied in every leader.  Leadership comes from the team, but there is a clear single point of accountability on “the” leader.  The agenda is transparent and the good of the effort and success of the team is the focus.  The individual success is measured more in how many “assists” versus how many “goals”.  Megaprojects are made for high performance teams.  Many complex interdependencies are required to be executed with the excellence that a high performance team demands.

For more on Megaprojects:

Issue For Construction

The Issue for Construction document set is the product of detail design.  These are the contractual documents that define all field effort.  The IFC set must have rigorous control and distribution procedures to insure that the engineered design is what is actually built.  The more simple and reduced the set of needed drawings to fully describe the system, the higher the probability of the project staying on budget.  Over design and overlapping “turf” between disciplines creates confusion and complexity that is not needed on projects that are run with an expectation of efficient schedule and cost containment.  Preprocess has come into many projects, simplified many of the needed documents and applied the “less is more” principle to streamline understanding and effectiveness of the effort.

Testing and Balancing, Commissioning, Start Up

The Testing and Balancing (TAB), Start Up and Commissioning Team, or simply the “TAB Team” focus is to remain nimble and responsive to the complex interdependent needs of the units during the testing, balancing, start up, commissioning and operationalization effort.  The sequenced start up will be executed by the TAB Team.  Performance metrics will be clearly defined and the effort is not complete until the TAB is no longer needed such that operations is fully trained and functional to maintain the defined performance. 

The TAB effort begins with the Yellow Line Turn Over from construction which confirms that the equipment is installed and prepared for operations as defined by the engineering design.  Motors are bumped and gear boxes are loaded with lubricants.  A Pre-Start Up Safety Review is completed prior to any dry runs or loading shake down fluids.  Daily planning meetings reviewing the detail of the day, and daily data review meetings use the facts from the process to determine any adjustments needed to the predetermined plan.

The effort uses a series of shakedown runs that will then evolve into designed experiments to develop the needed correlations and performance metric targets that enable the long term reliability in the performance overall system. The team uses Obvious At A Glance (OAG) information dashboards to keep communications simple and straightforward.  

The ultimate operations philosophy is to use a “lights out” type of control room and allow most of the routine operations to be automated by locking the various algorithms and correlations in the process control system to keep a tight steady state operation enabling repeatable, reproducible reliability in product and operations.  

For more on TAB, Commissioning and Start Up:
Testing and Balancing